Monday, April 18, 2005

what's in a name indeed!

When I worked in the pub just up the road from me there was a lounge girl called Carina. I always noted her name because, well ok, she was quite attractive, but I was also dying to ask her if she was named after the Toyota automobile. You know what I mean, how some people are named after the place where they were conceived?

She worked with us for over a year, and never shied away from joining in the fun we all had while employed there. Whenever we went to the local nightclub after work (which was often) she’d tag along, and she wasn’t averse to joining in on our plans to haze the new staff by being the one to request that they go to the other pub down the road for a bucket of steam or a can of striped paint.

Like many of the staff, indeed like my good self, Carina was only working there to earn money for socializing through university. When she eventually did hang up her tray, we had one hell of a night out to see her off. A couple of weeks later, she came in to pick up her tax documentation for she was starting a new job in a solicitor’s office downtown.

I was on duty when she collected her papers. I got them for her out of the safe, and could not help noticing they had her name spelled “Críona” (which in Irish would be pronounced “CREE-na”).

I was intrigued. As I handed the papers to her I had to ask: “How do you spell your name?”

“C – R – I – fatha (Irish word for the accent thingy) – O – N – A”.

So much for my conception theory. Thank God I never asked her.

I then took down the duty roster clipboard which was posted on the wall nearby and which had some of the older versions still attached.

“Did you not know your name has been spelled wrong on the roster all the time you were working here?” I asked in sheer disbelief.

“Ah, sure”, came the classic Irish reply, “I didn’t want to cause a fuss!”

I’ve always remembered Críona and her story because, well ok, she was quite attractive, but also because whenever my name gets spelled incorrectly by somebody I fall over myself to correct them. My full name is Jeffrey and naturally I had to shorten it to Jeff, but living here in Ireland I have had to endure seeing my name written as “Geoffrey” which apparently is the original form that originated in England.

That may be very interesting factual information to some people, but I am not Geoff. Nothing wrong with that spelling other than it’s not exactly phonetic, but either way, it’s not me. Nowadays I am so used to saying my name to people this way “My name is Jeff that’s J as in Jellyfish ee eff eff” that I fully expect to start getting junk mail addressed to that sentence.

Your name is who you are. Sure, the original form was inflicted on you when you had no comeback, but I think it’s safe to say that by the time a person reaches adulthood they can be comfortable with what they wish to be called. If you have dealings with someone new and they get your name wrong at first, it’s up to you to nip the incorrectness in the bud early.

There’s a woman in our neighbourhood called Barbara Kennedy. Well, for obvious reasons, that’s not her real name, but it’s close. She is extremely religious, and she delivers Holy Communion to elderly people in the area on a daily basis. When I moved in to be my grandmother’s carer, she asked me if I wanted her to stop coming every day. I told her under no circumstances did I want my elderly relative’s routine disrupted by my presence, and that actually she enjoyed seeing Barbara every day (I almost said “someone closer to her age” but thought better of it).

Every day, I let her in and she goes into Grandma’s room to administer the host and pray for a while. Each time she would greet her, she would refer to her as “Anna” instead of “Ann”. I thought she had heard her wrong the first time she met and, like Críona, she was too polite to correct her daily visitor.

Last Thursday, as I was seeing Barbara out the door, we were involved in a bit of small talk, and she used the name “Anna” once again, so I took the opportunity to point out that there was in fact no second “a” in her name. She looked surprised and was very convincing in her assertion that Grandma had introduced herself as Anna and that this was how she had been christened.

After she left I decided to go through once more the mountain of paperwork my grandfather had left behind and see if I could dig out her birth certificate. As I sifted through the papers, page after page would have her down as “Ann” on bank statements, correspondence and such. Eventually, I found her baptismal certificate.

Barbara was right.

I went into my grandmother straight away.

“Grandma? This is going to sound like a funny question but…”

“Oh, no, what did I do wrong now?”

“No, no, it’s nothing wrong, but I have to ask you, even though I’ve known you for the past 36 years, em, what’s your first name?”

“Well, I was christened Anna Mary Kilroy”

“So you didn’t like the name Anna that’s why you shortened it to Ann?”

“No, I always loved my name!”

“But you were married to Grandpa for 68 years and he always called you Ann?”

“Well, the person that introduced us referred to me as Ann”

“And didn’t you ever correct him?”

“No, it wasn’t really my place”

“So he never ever knew what your real name was?”

“No, I suppose he didn’t!”

I didn’t want to pry too much further as I didn’t want her to have another reason to feel bad about herself – she generally comes up with enough reasons to do that all on her own. It wasn't really that big a deal I suppose. Instead I said something like “OK, well, I was just wondering, would you like some coffee?” and said no more about it.

All that was left for me to do was dig out my own baptismal certificate and verify that I was in fact really called Jeffrey (with a J) and get on with my life.

Click here for a full list of the "Lifeslice" stories


Buffalo said...

Jeff, this is one hell of a story! Absolutely top drawer.

Anna said...

Yeah! What he said.

BlondeSense Liz said...

“And didn’t you ever correct him?”
“No, it wasn’t really my place”


Modern women don't seem to know their place anymore do they?

All the best,

Michèle said...

Another nice entry, Jeffrey!

I called myself "Michele with one L" for years. I've pretty much given up. Even after seeing my name in written form, people still instist on spelling it Michelle. Ugh! I don't dare bring up the subject of the "è" -- but that's not on my birth certificate anyway . . .

Mr. Middle America said...

“No, I suppose he didn’t!”

Wow... 68 years...

Just looks like that would have come up during one of those long nights!!

Mike Todd said...

Dude, that's a great story. I just told it to my wife Leonard.

btw -- Shandi went 404: Page not found. I think a rescue mission is in order.

JL Pagano said...

WOW you guys thanks for the feedback, it's much appreciated!

I saw that too about Shandi ... and I have no idea how to go looking for her! Her profile is still there but her blog has gone completely AWOL.

Megarita said...

This is hilarious. I feel shabby for wanting to kill people who call me Megan. Classy lady...

shandi said...

You guys are great!!! I'm back. New site "I have 2 Belly-Buttons". Starting over due to "net hell" and blog stalkers. Tell me, do you know how to block someone?

I finally found some time to read your latest posts. Damn, you're a great writer.