“My real name is Madison, but call me Renee.”
“My real name is Alexandra, but, please, call me Lexi.”
“I’m Ross, though my real name is John.”
“Hi, I’m Libby. Don’t call me Elizabeth.”
Note: the four names above are real people from CNU. Two are alumni–Ross and Libby–as the other two–Renee and Lexi–are current students.
Names mark our identity as they influence our self-perception and how others speak to us. Been insulted based on your name? Lance the Pants, Nerdtron (Jimmy Neutron), Mandy “Manhands,” Dave the Dork, etc. Our names form a positive or negative impression on people based on how it sounds, the meaning behind it, or what or whom we associate it. My name was never the basis for ridicule, only for wearing glasses. It was my grandmother (not my mother) who gave me my name. I never disliked it. My mother did on occasion call me A.J. Our names shape our identity since we choose how we prefer to be addressed. The names above have reasons why they prefer a nickname to their birth name (for two of them, I do know the reasons). Also, a name carries a pleasant or unpleasant legacy; that is, what that person did during a lifetime determines what name a child will have in a family. (Consider the names Adolf and Saddam. What people, images, or words come to mind?) It determines we keep our given name or prefer a shortened version of it, or a better-sounding one.
Take for example, Willard Romney.
Between the name “Mitt” and “Willard,” which do you prefer? Most likely, Mitt.
Why? It’s shorter, sounds better and younger. Willard sounds like a “old man’s” name, do you agree or disagree? Mitt sounds “fresh,” and “youthful.” He was named after a family friend, J. Willard Marriot, and his father’s cousin, Milton “Mitt” Romney. He was referred to as “Billy,” until kindergarten where he indicated his preference for “Mitt.” The sound of a person’s name does influence how people view you–to an extent.
During my four years at Christopher Newport University (CNU), I wrote articles for the school newspaper, “The Captain’s Log.” Among the stories composed was one about students preferences to being called by a alternate name. Click on the link below to read it: