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Saturday, April 7, 2018

What's in a Name? - An Examination of Naming Shibboleths

Fussy Perfume Heiress Bibi Gallini
My dad wanted to name me Babette. My mom said no. I was a little disappointed when I found that out. I have to say, I would have made a rockin' Babette. I would have made that name proud. I totally could have pulled off Babette. I could have been called Babs, Betty, Bibi. Ooh, I would have liked to be called Bibi; just like the fussy perfume heiress Bibi Gallini..

Mostly everyone calls me by my whole first name; Andrea (pronounced ANN-dree-uh). About 1/2 of the people who call me by my whole first name mispronounce it (awn-DRAY-uh, ann-DRAY-uh, AWN-dree-uh). It sometimes bugs me, but not enough to actually say anything about it. I guess it's just the territory that goes along with having my name. I also have a short name, two actually. Andi is used by my extended family; aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. And still another, Ani is used by my immediate family; parents, siblings, niece, nephew.
My partner, Captain Awesome calls me by the familiar, immediate family moniker, but my friends, even my closest ones, never made that leap; not even my ex. I've often wondered if that was a failing on my part not or just a personal preference on their part, in any case, habits are formed, damage is done. There's a guy at work who calls me by my "extended family" name. I am totally cool with it. I had a boss once who called me Ms. XXX, then when I took back my maiden name he referred to me as Ms. LLL)

My kids names are Penny, Maximilian and Gabrielle.
I'm lying, that's not their names, but for the point I want to illustrate, these names will work nicely.

Penny, my oldest.
Everyone calls her Penny. Only a few people call her Pen, but only a tiny tiny few, and not very often or consistently. I call her Pen and refer to her as Pen in texts, but not all the time. She doesn't go by Pen, she goes by Penny.
Her name is 2 syllables. Most people use both of them when addressing her. She doesn't mind being called Pen and will answer to it just fine, but nobody ever does and she's not all that bothered by it.

Maximilian, my son.
He's a bit different. He prefers Max. I call him by his whole name, but if I use his whole name in public, around his friends, he gets mad. He prefers that short version of his name. (There was this one summer where he told everyone at YMCA camp, including counselors, that his name was Nick and nobody knew who I was asking about when I picked him up until I used his "camp name.") Maximilian is for official stuff, important stuff, stuff for strangers and doctors. Stick with Max with him. I equate it to when someone used to call me Mrs. XXX, I would be confused and think "but Mrs. XXX is my mother-in-law, not me. I'm Mrs.... Oh wait, I guess I am Mrs. XXX" (note - I am no longer Mrs. XXX, thank God, but the point is still valid.) Max also has a name some kids use at school too. I like the nickname. I think it's cute, but I'm not allowed to use it, only the students in his class are.

Gabrielle is a bit different. She tells everyone her name is Gabrielle. She offers no other option. One has to earn Gabby, one is not allowed to start with Gabby. One has to work towards Gabby. She wants to be introduced as Gabrielle. She introduces herself as Gabrielle. At home we call her Gabby. I call her Pua.

It's a social shibboleth of sorts. What people call me and how they refer to me, and how they pronounce my name, put them into buckets of how I know them, what we talk about, how we interact.

I find it interesting that the path to each person's comfort level depends on the callee, not the caller.

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