Sunday, April 1, 2007

What's In A Name? or A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet... Or Sweeter

People call me names... nicknames that is. I answer to a lot of different ones. Some are a variation of my English or my Hebrew name, and some of them I have no clue about how they came to be. It all started with my mom. She calls me at least 10 different names. Usually it depends on what I've done recently or who we are with. When she uses my nickname coupled with my middle name everything is fine but when I hear my full first name followed by my middle name I know I've done something wrong. It's not to often I hear that one anymore. Most of the time I'm Shain short for Shaina Punim. My dad usually calls me by my nickname and sometimes Froggy. Yes, I'm a grown woman, but I'm still his little girl.

My brother no longer goes by his English name so my mother calls him Yosef Aryeh* his Hebrew name instead of Max Joseph*. So what if he's six feet tall, has a beard, is married and father to six boys, he'll always be my little brother Maxy*. And he doesn't mind me calling him that. Trust me... he would tell me if he did. But I have DB call him Uncle Yosef* or Uncle Yo*.

Most of my family members have middle names. I think it's a southern thing, and both names are almost always used. My aunt goes by Esther Ruth* and my uncle is Mark Isaac*. Everyone who knows my mom calls her by both her names Merril Sue*, almost as if they're one. First and middle names combined must have at least three syllables preferably four.

Charm goes by a one syllable name shortened from his first. He doesn't have an English name. The thing is he has a great name, with four syllables but he really dislikes being called by it. I would hear his name in my head, but then I could only say the one syllable. Ugh! It made me feel so restricted. So I used his full first name and last name together. I really need at least three syllables when I talk to someone. Charm doesn't really understand this. In fact, he doesn't/didn't even call me by my name. He didn't call me anything. I mentioned it to him because I find it so different and funny. Not even a term of endearment like honey or baby. I can count on 1 hand the amount of times he's called me by my name without any prompting by me. In two, no, three instances he called me baby. Once in writing and twice on the phone.

I associate nicknames with affection, love and different moods, and different people. Here are some that I am called.... Chicki Mama, Chaya Gittel*, Chayala, Shane, Shaina Punim, Julietta*, Julius*, Julie*, JuleEllen*, Froggy, Superchicken, Spaz, Pearl, Smiley, Giggles.

Of course DB has his own set of names... Cutie Pie, Doll, Munch, Munchie, Simcha Ber*, darlin' boy, babe shortened from baby doll, doll shortened from doll baby, bun short for honey bun, little one, honey bunch, bunch , Simcha* boy, ashaboo, banana, little one, buckaroo.

Gretel, Git, Mamasita, Shmellen, SuzyJo, Roberta, Shprintza Genendel, Matza, Sharona are some names that I call my friends.

Even our cat has nicknames. Frankie* is what DB named her, but we call her Frankie Cat, Fat Cat (for obvious reasons), Frank-Frank, Frankie-girl.

Temima Sora Bracha Maidela, Meema, Meems, Tuvia Yosef, Tuvy, Moishy, Mordy, Kusie, WMD, (one of my nephews who has climbed up onto the counters and dumped out all, and I mean all of the spices from their containers), Mr. Charles, Moonie, Tanzie, Tie-Tie are some of the nicknames for family members.

So you see, I really do like names. The one time when I heard Charm say my name naturally was when I was breaking up with him. I didn't even notice until he pointed it out to me. My theory is that names give you an attachment to a person especially if you create a name to call them. There were times when I heard Charm speaking with his daughter and calling her by name and nicknames. But for all the time that we spoke on the phone (and in person) he had a difficult time with using mine. I heard him use his ex's name more than mine. Whoa!!!

In Charm's most recent comment on a post of mine, he jokes that he's called me by name. Don't think that's ever really gonna happen with him... even if we stay friends. I think it's his way of not letting people get too close to him. Just think about your friends and family and the different names your loved ones call you.....

*names have been changed but the breakdown of the syllables has remained the same


smoo said...

We have a ‘person-file system’ that creates a database on people we know. Information like face recognition, voice, gait, and other cues allow us to quickly identify them. We, of course, store pertinent information like name, SS# (jj), funny stories, how much is owed etc.

I must digress for a moment to make a point, the reason much of our rituals surrounding death involve handling of the corpse, its cleaning, burial, rites etc might have something to do with a mismatch between information supplied by the person-file system and the ‘animacy system’. Pascal Boyer says we obtain ‘incompatible intuitions and inferences from the different systems’. The animacy system tells us that this body is now inanimate (lacks life), lacks goals (sentience), and lacks personal identity (upon death). Yet, we can’t just delete the person-file system that brings up a whole host of information about this ‘person.’ We speak of the dead as if they still have thoughts, feelings, and much more. We use phrases like, “She would have liked it that way” or “That was her favorite,” yet she ISN’T anymore. Maybe that’s why we have so much grief at a funeral. Aside from the obvious loss of the person, there is guilt that we are disposing of ‘someone’ by burying the body.

I thought your statement ‘that names give you an attachment to a person especially if you create a name to call them’ was very insightful. The more you personalize the person-file system, the closer you become to that person. If you don’t afford a person recognition, in a sense you delegitimize them or perhaps devalue them (although I don’t believe this to be the case with Charm).

(Passing thought: Arabs refuse to recognize Israel and use alternate name on their maps).

As you noted, this was a protective barrier set up to create distance or limit attachment. Subconsciously, this may allow for an easier parting of ways and minimizing the grief of loss.

I think every relationship we are in gives us new insights into our personalities, strengths and flaws, and allows us to assess our progress in personal growth. I know Charm does this kind of personal reflection and assessment. Even though you two didn’t work out, your shared good times and found new direction.

come running said...


I really enjoyed reading your comment. Does Charm/Bud call you by your name? Just curious because he called me by mine yesterday. Could be just because of this post though.