Thursday, January 25, 2007

What is in a Name?

What some people know about me but others don’t is that Lynne is not my first name. My first name is Stephanie. People often ask me why I use Lynne and not Stephanie. That is because of my folks. My mother once said it was because she didnt think that Lynne Stephanie sounded as good as Stephanie Lynne It also had something to do with a church tradition of naming children after saints and apparently there is no Saint Lynne in the Russian Orthodox church. But whatever.

The interesting thing about using one’s middle name is that one notices how very geared our culture is towards using first names. At one point I tried to change my name with the Social Security people from Stephanie L Fremont to S. Lynne Fremont but their computer system at the time couldnt do a middle name. So what happened as far as they are concerned is that I changed my first name to just S. To them I am S L Fremont. No name, just initials. People often get confused when I sign my name S. Lynne even though my driver’s license says Stephanie Lynne. The Secretary of State doesnt allow one to use initials.

Anyways, I was thinking about this today because I had to go to class. School has me listed officially as Stephanie L since their system, like a lot of systems, is unable to handle S. Lynne And what that means is that every time I take a class, the teacher takes roll on the first day and I either have to correct them and say “No, please call me Lynne” or I just decide to be Stephanie for a while because it is easier. Anyways, this time I went with easier.

But it is weird because, of course, now everyone in the class calls me Stephanie and it is a lab class so I actually have to talk to people on a regular basis. Every time someone calls me Stephanie, it surprises me. And I also end up feeling kind of like some imposter or identity theif or something. I don’t think I am in danger of actually becoming friends with any of the folks in my class though and that is good because nothing is more awkward than telling someone, “Yeah, I know I told you my name was Stephanie but that was because I didnt think I would be around you long. You should start calling me Lynne now”

It does really get me thinking about names and the meanings and stereotypes our culture attaches to names. This is especially so since I don’t feel Stephanie particularly matches me. But for me to feel that way, it must mean that I have attached some stereotypes to the name. The truth is that I always think of Stephanies as being kind of perky and blond and maybe not too bright which isnt exactly me. It is funny because I know a few people named Stephanie who arent like that at all. I mean for heaven’s sake, *I* am named Stephanie and I am not like that. Oddly, I have no stereotypes about the name Lynne. Lynne is just my name and to me, it means ME.


Anonymous said...

Others always had problems with my real name.... Don't Get me wrong I have a pretty name (It's Louise... & I guess you didn't know that.) But I mostly have to correct my First & Last name in classes. It sucks... But I keep correcting it anyway cos I feel I should be ME & not someone else they call!

Dee said...

My husband actually goes by his middle name too. When we first met I didn't even know that it wasn't his first name. I think I figured it out one day when I saw one of his checks with his full name on it. I still get confused when someone calls the house and asks for Michael. I don't know who that person is.

Anonymous said...

You will always be slynne to me. ;)