#Reverb10: New Name

December 23: New name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

First I need to tell you a funny story from when I was in high school.

I used to spend many weeks out of my summer with my dad on his boat touring around Vancouver Island and parts of Washington State. One year, my dad invited me to ask a friend to join us, and so I asked my BFF Heidi to come along. We went to Saltspring Island and Heidi and I decided to go into town and make friends with the locals. We made such good friends that a group of them (as I recall, horny teenaged boys) asked us to join them on a putt around the harbour in their dinghie to a teeny little rocky outcrop they called Castle Island, so named because someone had made a little castle out of glass bottles on it. Dad said sure, and asked us to be off the water by dark because the boat we were riding in didn’t have night navigation lights. Like good little girls, we did. And then we went to a party at some dude’s house and got drunk.

But we neglected to check in with Dad, so when nightfall came, he presumed we were drowned and his entire little boating community went into search mode. One of them wondered if perhaps we’d wandered into town (we had) and if perhaps some of the locals had seen us (they had) and began asking around. Only, they were looking for Jen and Heidi, and we had introduced ourselves as Ariel and Kelsey. Eventually we were found, apologies were made, and all was forgotten.

I have no idea why we chose those names – I mean, they are probably the least appropriate names to suit either one of us. But I gave my dad a complete heart attack by pretending to be someone I am not.  When I was even younger, in grade 6 or 7, I had a friend named Galadriel. I thought her name was very cool and was completely unaware of the connection to JRR Tolkien’s books. I always wished I had a different name. Anything but boring old Jennifer.

A few fun facts about what it’s like to be named Jennifer (although my given name is actually Jennifer-Lynn):  The name itself is common as dirt and from 1970 to 1984 it was the most popular girls’ name in the US (Canada’s stats are very similar). In grade 2, there were five Jennifers in my class and we were all called Jennifer-Last-Initial. Most people want to shorten Jennifer to Jenn with two n’s rather than the way I spell it with one n. It means “white fay” or “white ghost” and is a Cornish version of “Guinevere”, as in Guinevere and Lancelot. Jen was also the name of the male Gelfling protagonist in the film The Dark Crystal. I have met a Gennifer, a Genifer, and even a Jenifyr. Everyone I know knows at least two Jennifers.  Jennifer is a pretty good name, all things considered. You know when you meet someone and you think to yourself that their name just really doesn’t suit them? I have always felt my name suited me, even if it’s common and kind of boring.

Now that I’m older, and I’ve gone through the process of naming a child, I don’t know that I wish I had a different name anymore. Jennifer is pretty simple and if anything, I love simple. When we selected Kale’s name, we chose it because it is simple to say, strong in the mouth, and means “healthy and hearty”, although Google tells me it also means “slender” “a free man” and entertainingly, “unknown”. Depending upon where you look, it is bastardized Hawaiian or possibly a Gaelic derivative. I know people may attempt to spell it Cael or perhaps Cale, similar to how many attempt to spell Jen with two n’s, but it’s unlikely they will mispronounce it upon reading it or struggle to get it out of the mouth when speaking.

If Kale had been a girl, and I’d have had my way, he’d have been Violet. So if I was going to change my name for fun for a day, I’d be Violet, Violet Smith. And of course, I’d be a spy.

8 years ago

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