Saturday, May 6

What's in a Name?

by Jack Dorsey in Flickr
I read an article in my local newspaper recently about three women who’ve founded a support group of sorts based on their shared first name. The Lois Club of Manitoba is literally just that – a club for Loises. These women are connected only by their first names. The interviewed women mentioned that they didn’t particularly like their name when they were young. Though there are a few famous Loises – Lois Lane comes to mind – it’s never been a wildly popular name. Over the years, the Manitoba Loises learned to accept the name they were given.

Names are funny things. Parents bestowing names on their children are influenced by culture, both societal and popular culture. For instance, if your name is Fatima, you’re probably of Middle Eastern descent. But if your name is Arya or Khaleesi, your parents were probably fans of “Game of Thrones”.

Names come and go in popularity. I mean, how many Jennifers do you know? Between 1970 and 1984, Jennifer was the number one girl’s name in the U.S. and Canada. When I was growing up in the sixties and seventies, I knew a plethora of Debbies, Lindas, and Pattys. Though a lot of parents say they want to give their child a unique name, or at least a unique spelling of their name, most follow trends pretty closely.

I was never a big fan of my given name. I mean my real name rather than my pen name. It was one of those popular 1950s names that was everywhere when I was growing up, but has totally dropped off the radar for new baby girls. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons I took a pen name when I started writing. I wanted something different. Unfortunately, I’ve found Jana isn’t as different as I thought. I’ve discovered an obstetrician in Chicago named Jana Richards. People often call me Jane or Jan. And there are a lot of writers with those names. Rather than standing out, I’m one of many.

I’m okay with the name I’ve chosen, but sometimes I wish I would have picked something splashier. At one time, I joked semi-seriously, that if I ever used a pen name I would name myself after the two cats we had at the time, Princess Samantha and Blackie. I would henceforth be known as Samantha Black. I still think it has a ring to it.

I wonder sometimes if I just should have stuck with my given name. But like I said, it’s not exactly unique. But it is mine.

So, how do you feel about your name? If you could change it, what would you change it to? And fellow Word Wranglers and other writers out there, do you use a pen name? Would you ever consider using one?

15 comments:

  1. The last time I did a Google search for Mark Hunter I got 1.4 MILLION hits. So I put in my middle initial for my author's name, only to find out later there are hundreds of Mark R Hunter's -- including at least one other writer. I like my name, but it's just a bit common.

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    1. Wow, that's a lot of Mark Hunters. It's a great name. That's probably why there's so many of them. I have to admit I haven't googled my pen name lately, but I know my name is pretty common, too.

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    2. When I started writing romance, I figured my publisher would give me a female pen name anyway -- much to my surprise, they didn't.

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  2. I use my own names--first and last--because I really like them. My sister suggested I use Elizabeth because there are a few Liz Flahertys around, but #1, I'm too lazy to sign it, and #2, no one calls me that unless I'm in trouble.

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    1. I think you're smart to use you real name, and use it the way you like it. I always feel a little strange when someone calls me Jana. It's me, but it's not.

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  3. My real name sounds line the punchline to a 5th-grade boy's joke, so I definitely needed a pen name. It was fun (and challenging) to reinvent myself that way :-)

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    1. Gee, now I have to know your real name! Coming up with a pen name is difficult, but I think you've done a good job because the one you chose is unique and sounds 'real', if you know what I mean.

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  4. I wouldn't now...but as a kid I hated my name. Mostly because there were 3 other girls in my class who shared my name...and none of us spelled it the same, so our teachers never spelled our names correctly...now, though, I guess I'm used to it!

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    1. There were always at least a couple of girls with my same name when I was in school, too. With every group I've belonged to over the years with women my age, same thing. Like I said, not exactly unique.

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  5. Jennifer is a feminine given name, a Cornish form of Guinevere/Gwenhwyfar adopted into the English language during the 20th century. "Jennifer" may mean "white enchantress" or "the fair one" (from Proto-Celtic *Windo-seibrā "white phantom").
    There was always 3 other girls with my name and I have never liked it. I go by Jen or Jenny.

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    1. If I could change my name I'd choose Jaime, Noel or Selah

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    2. I actually like the name Jennifer. The problem is everyone liked the name so much they named their baby girls Jennifer in droves. I like your alternative choices. Much more unique!

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    3. Thank you for liking my choices.

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  6. Growing up, I was the only Margie ever in all my classes/school. Imagine that. And that is my legal name, not Marjorie or Margaret.

    I toyed with using RG Senechal if I publish Bix so middle grade/teen boys would still read it. And RG because it rhymes with Margie so I'd still answer. Plus, my initials are M I. As in M I Senechal? I don't know, R U? Lol

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    1. I don't know. M.I.? I unconsciously chose a pen name with the same initials as my real name. I honestly hadn't planned that, but it comes in handy at times.

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