Jello? Thanks, I'll pass.
August 27, 2020 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Recent baby name questions got me thinking: what are good strategies if you have a "noun", concept, or adjective name but don't like the actual object? Your name is Rose and you are allergic. You are an atheist named Heaven. Your name is Pearl and you would like some gold jewelry once in while. That's it
posted by jello to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One option is to switch to your middle name, which I did for another reason.
posted by NotLost at 6:29 AM on August 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

Go by initials -- PJ for Pearl Joan or similar.
posted by chiefthe at 6:32 AM on August 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

Choose a noun that can be shortened to something. e.g. 'Albatross Smith' can choose to use 'Al' rather than explain to everyone she meets that her dad was really into Coleridge.

Also, it's a good idea if the middle name is fairly conventional, and can also be shortened or modified in different ways. Katherine or William are examples of names that have a variety of nicknames or diminutives.
posted by pipeski at 6:35 AM on August 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Grin and bear it, if you are a person named Michael that is a musician who hosts open stage nights (answering for a friend).
posted by wellred at 7:15 AM on August 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think a lot of people experience names as a collection of sounds and don't so much focus on the actual meaning. Also, sometimes names have associations that don't have anything to do with the meaning, particularly if you were named after someone. So the first thing to do, I think, is to figure out whether you care about your name's meaning, or if this is mostly a matter of having to respond to other people who bring up your name's meaning.

If your name's meaning bothers you, then I agree about coming up with a nickname, using a middle name, or changing it. But if it's more that you get sick of comments and the like, then I think you just have to come up with a standard response. "Yeah, you know, it's a little funny that I'm named Patience, because I'm actually not super patient, and I kind of like that I'm someone who gets stuff done rather than waiting around passively for it to happen. But I'm named after an ancestor who has a cool story, and I really value that connection to my family's history." Or "yeah, I know about the story of Cassandra, and I don't have the gift of prophecy, but at this point I can predict that people are going to tell that joke!" And then just figure that it's a pretty petty annoyance and move on.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:19 AM on August 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

Reminds me of the Kitty Norville werewolf series. "Give me a break, the name came first."
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:55 AM on August 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

In terms of gift-giving, I think it helps to have another clear and obvious collection of things that you do like. I am not certain, but I have always suspected that one of the reasons my Aunt Rose so clearly collected Owls was so that people would stop giving her rose-themed gifts.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:58 AM on August 27, 2020 [10 favorites]

I have a noun name! I don't have a problem with the noun itself, and I think that my friends and family really associate the word with me rather than the noun. Like ArbitraryAndCapricious discussed, my friends and family seem to experience my name as a collection of sounds seperate from the noun meaning.

BUT I do often have a problem with strangers or acquaintances making jokes incorporating the noun. Usually I just try to joke back with "I haven't heard that before" or "That's an original" or "Actually, my favorite type-of-thing is thing-that-is-not-my-name." I try to say something that indicates that I don't appreciate jokes about my name (so please stop) but that also lets the speaker know that there are no hard feelings about this one joke or that they get a pass this time. I often hope that my tone and facial expression (I always smile when delivering my joke) conveys the "no hard feelings" part.

The jokes also do not happen quite as much now that I'm an adult. I'm not sure if it is because my persona is more authoritative or because society in general is more careful of the types of jokes we make with strangers or what. My guess, though, is that the adults I met as a kid were commenting on my name in an attempt to build a connection. It seems that adults often have a tough time figuring out how to interact with strangers' children and resort to teasing those kids. So even if I didn't have a noun name, the adults would have still teased my little kid self about something. I suppose the strategy here is just to age?
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Look, sometimes you are just minding your own business and your first name suddenly becomes an internet meme for describing bigoted middle-aged white women who wield their privilege like a cudgel.

Not much you can do but try to develop a sense of perspective and let it roll off your back, Karen.
posted by ewok_academy at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2020 [15 favorites]

Put up with the dumb jokes about the name until you get the occasional chance to snark at someone "Really? I'm checking in to the hospital emergency room and you're teasing me about my name? Nice." and hope that little by little, people will stop being stupid. (Spoiler: they don't.)
posted by The otter lady at 9:58 AM on August 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

 (Spoiler: they don't.)

True, sadly. For some reason, my family name makes a certain kind of person say a thing that wasn't funny when I was five and still isn't funny past fifty.

For my friend Rona, though, the world can fuck off entirely right now.
posted by scruss at 10:14 AM on August 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

You just roll your eyes and move on. Or in my case, make dad jokes about it: There are no grounds for Coffey jokes here.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:14 PM on August 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

I've seen some folks use it to their advantage when introducing themselves (especially in the context of networking). Alternatively, there can be ways of reframing the name into a different association "I'm Frank... like the singer" or "i'm Frank... like the architect." Or even "Do you know what's the best thing about roses? We have thorns."
posted by oceano at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have a name that very literally ties itself to a particular major religion and I am an atheist. Notably, my family is not religious, either, they just liked the name, so there's no baggage there. I decided long ago that the contrast makes the name more mine. So far as I know, the only way it has any effect on others at all is that they can reasonably guess right away that I'm unlikely to be a member of any other major religion.
posted by lampoil at 5:16 PM on August 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Actually, as my name is Eve, I get the occasional amusement out of waiting for someone to go "Oh like Adam and Eve?" and then deadpan saying, "No, like Christmas Eve" (or vice versa) and watching the confusion.
posted by The otter lady at 6:07 PM on August 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

Inevitably names have baggage. Mine was picking my least-favorite version of my first name since there were three of us in my class in a small rural elementary school, which I used until ninth grade. High school was liberating.
So the answer for names that start out as a problem or later evolve into a problem is to ignore it, respond to it, or change the name.

Ima Hogg (July 10, 1882 – August 19, 1975), known as "The First Lady of Texas" -- "She endeavored to downplay her unusual name by signing her first name illegibly and having her stationery printed with "I. Hogg" or "Miss Hogg". Although it was rumored that Hogg had a sister named "Ura Hogg", she had only brothers."
posted by TrishaU at 8:40 PM on August 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

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