What's in a Name?

Having a name is kind of like wearing a hat, from the day you are born until the day you die, that your parents picked out for you. There is a bit of personality, a bit of identity that you area always carrying with you, that even precedes you. And so, an introduction becomes a reaction: teasing, confusion, excitement or a reminder.


Coincidentally, both my grandfather's mother and my other grandfather's grandmother were named Selma, so I am named after two people. I can't recall having any problems with the name, except for the occasional (read: often) name calling of the Swedish pastry "semla" (it's not as funny as it sounds).

 As a child I used to despise my name. I could barely wait for my 18th birthday when I  was convinced I was going to change it, maybe to Serena or maybe to Samantha or maybe to something else that started with an S, so that I would still have a fragment of my old name left. But, these last few years I have really grown to love it. Although I, sadly, will never find it on a key chain or a bracelet, I think that it somehow matches my personality. It's who I am, and I wouldn't feel like me anymore if I were to change it.


My parent's liked the name "Beth" but wanted to make it a bit out of the ordinary, so they tacked the suffix of my mom's name, Carolyn, onto it.  I never went by this contraction, just by Beth. Introducing myself, people ask, “is that short for Bethany?” or “is you’re name Elizabeth?" No, I would hold back from rolling my eyes, and calmly explain for the thousandth time that it was Beth. Lyn. For as long as I remember, it has been a nuisance of a name, but I have met so many Bethanys or Elizabeths, it made me realize I was given something that was unique. I think its time for a change, and I should start to embrace my actual name as I enter University. My crazy patterned trousers already make me stand out enough- and now my unique name will match.


As you can tell, I’m Spanish but my first name is of hebrew origin. It means ‘’the bread house’’, which is pretty random. It’s also the name of the village where Jesus was born- ironic since I’m agnostic, but this has lead me to tons of jokes with my name. Every Christmas song in Spanish has the word "Belén" in it, so my friends spend all months of the year singing Christmas songs to me. As for the second name, Cecilia, is the name of both my mother and my grand-grand-mother and means "the patroness of music". Everyone knows me as Belén, so I always fantasize about going to a different country and a different city where nobody who I am, and call myself Cecilia. 


When I was born my cheeks were very rosy and puffy, and so collectively my parents decided on the name Rosemary. The name, despite appearances, is not a 'smoosh' name, nor does it have anything to do with my initial blushy face. It is a perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the mediterranean region. The Latin terms "Ros" means dew and "Marinus" means 'of the sea'. I imagine speckles of woodsy smelling shrubs on coastal cliffs beside a bright blue ocean. While I love the imagery behind my full name, I prefer to be coined as "Rosie" which conjures up a happier, brighter vibe of coming down from those cliffs, running around on the beach and playing in the waves, being carefree, spontaneous, and happy.


Growing up I always hated my name, teachers would butcher it and meeting new people was an excessive pronunciation explanation. Now, I have learned to love my name and wear the unique-ness with more pride than I did as a flustered fourth grader correcting my substitute teacher ("no- ASH-ling, not azling"). Aisling is gaelic and means dream or vision. I am thankful for a name that is an unheard word to most.


Dusty greys and whites, cracking twigs and rustling leaves. Tombstones, old and new ones, surrounded by colorful flowers and candle-lit lanterns left there by loved ones. And there it is. My name. I used to think that my parents naming me after a dead person was morbid, but, as I grew older, I realized it was anything but. I feel as though I am reviving a precious old soul, making it a tiny part of today. Everything I do is connected to someone who lived two hundred years ago - every little sip of coffee I take, every little doodle I make, every little canvas I paint. That thought inspires me to put more effort into all those tiny details to make them all count, to have them all mean a little something more. Maybe one day, a couple will see my name engraved in a tombstone in a mystic graveyard and decide to name their child after me, because then I will, in a way, live a tiny part of a second life. 


I love being connected to a color. I turn red super easily when I'm embarrassed or nervous, but I can brush it off by saying "I'm turning Ruby!"  I love how many songs have the name Ruby in their title, and how many people sing them to me. I love how it's short and easy to spell. I love how it's unique, but not impossible. I love how it rhymes with boobie (something I discovered in second grade and laughed for hours about). I love how my parents came up with the name together. Now they are divorced, but I carry this title that connects them. 


When my mom was in her late teens/ early twenties she was at a small vintage shop. She was thumbing through the old photographs there and found one of a cute little girl with glasses. Curious, she flipped it over and looked at the back. It read "Arlie" in faint pencil. She bought the photo, and then she named me after it. I love the story, and think it fits me so well, but without fail, every time I introduce myself, it's always repeated back to me, "Carlie?"


Mesopotamian goddess, a French television show, my aunt. All people/things that come to mind when I think of my name. I imagine my parents as a young couple sitting in the sun in early June, the flowers are full bloom and the strawberries are dangling from the vines, planning a name for their first child. My dad probably brought it up, for his sister Cybele. She passed away at thirteen, when my dad was only seven. When I go to Colorado to see my family and they bring up her name, my name, and everything that falls inbetween. My heart gets heavy and my breathing quickens. I'm named after someone who means a whole lot to a whole lot of people. When I write 'Cybelle' out in cursive with a loopy double L, or in chicken scratch that's barely legible, smell the early June flowers, or introduce myself, I am lovingly reminded of the web of things that trace me back to this one word I get to carry through my life.



When I introduce myself some people ask, “Are you named after Mariah Carey?” I am actually named after the same song Mariah Carey named after: They Call The Wind Maria. It’s from Clint Eastwood’s musical, Paint Your Wagon. My Great Uncle Charlie suggested this name to my mom; he had this passion for movies. I have two nicknames that dominate it. Maria-H and Riah. Most of the maternal side of my family has called me Riah since my earliest memories. I love it, I find that it suits me best. All of the people I know that end with an “uh” are some of the sweetest people I have encountered in my life (Kayla, Amanda, Florita, Celestina, etc). I wear this, "my name ends with uh" badge proudly.


When I was a kid I remember vividly hating my name. Teachers would look around for a boy I when they called it off a roster, my classmates would circle me in the playground giggling, “Zane the pain has no brain.”  I envied the girls with cute girly names like Brittney or Courtney; those were the girls all the boys liked. As I grew up I noticed the majority of people I introduced myself to would say “oh that’s a cool name” or question “how did your parents pick that bizarre name, is it short for something?” and I would shrug off both with either a polite “thank you” or a “my mom was watching a grape nuts commercial and the man eating the cereal was named Zane. No its not short for anything”. I always felt as if it was a dreaded conversation topic or segway into pointless small talk. I hated it less as I matured (and met 1,000 Brittneys and 1,002 Courtneys), but I still felt annoyed every time someone would compare me to the pop star from One Direction or write “Cane” on my Starbucks cup. I never really appreciated the uniqueness of the name until my senior year during a job interview. I nervously walked into my future boss’s office, shook his hand, and introduced myself. He tilted his head back, smirked oddly at me, and said “Zane? That’s a freakin’ awesome name, I’ll never be able to forget someone with a name like that” and suddenly I felt completely different about my name. It became a way for me to identify myself. It wasn’t just a name that resulted in half thought out compliments or nonchalant questioning, it was an important piece that made me, me.


At home, and by close friends, my name was "Tika". At school, teachers always got it wrong, pronouncing it as "NaKITa". I rarely got called by my actual name, so I started answering to every version; "Taneeka", "Mateeka", the list goes on. As high school was starting, my first name got ignored completely. I was now called by my middle name, Yasmin. Natika was forgotten, and I never heard it for years. I took a year off from high school and did online school, and that's where I fell in love with my name. Yeah, it may be different, but that's what makes it beautiful. I built up the courage to finally say "No, that's not my name" when called incorrectly. One thing I've learned is that a person's name does not define them, and their name doesn't always "fit" their personality, maybe that's why we come up with nick names, to get a few choices as to who we are or who we might be. I am happy standing up for my two names Natika and Tika.