Random Brain Dumping

Musings and observations about life

What’s in a name?

This post is dedicated to the unflappable, those of you who prefer (read, insist on) to be called by your name. Whatever that name is, but mostly for those who don’t prefer nicknames.

This is for the Katherines (all variant spellings), Eugenes, Jennifers, Jeffreys, Jacquelines, Williams, Elizabeths, and even the Leahs, Cynthias, Roberts, Lawrences, Henrys and Edwards.

This is for me.

A few years ago, I found out my name – and its derivations (Gwyneth, Genevieve, Geneva, Guinevere) – means “pure at heart.” While I’m flawed, I basically am pure at heart. I generally do what I say I’m going to do, and I make commitments and speak with sincerity.

Thus, I prefer all nine letters of my name be used when I’m addressed: G-W-E-N-D-O-L-Y-N.

John F. "Jack" Kennedy, right, grandfather John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, left, and father Joseph P. "Joe" Kennedy.

A family of nicknames: John F. “Jack” Kennedy, right, father Joseph P. “Joe” Kennedy, center, and grandfather John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald.

I wasn’t always that way. Before I found out what my name meant, I actually hated having such a long name. I recall being jealous of classmates with short names, as we all learned to write ours.

Suzy. Joey. Mary. Debra.


Geeeeee … dou-ble-U … E … en … dee … oh … el … Y … en.

By the time Suzy wrote her Y, I was still writing my W. I always was the last one to finish writing my name, and I decided as I got older to never use the full name.

Few people called me Gwendolyn, my grandmother among them.

Surely, there’s some logic as to why we insist on shortening names, and recently I learned there are even words for that, depending on what we choose to cut.

Apocope is the word for dropping the ending of words, so that’s when Gwendolyn becomes Gwen. When Eugene becomes Gene, that’s called aphaeresis. Clipping the beginning and end of words, such as when Elizabeth becomes Liz, is called middle clipping, but I’m sure a more convoluted word exists to define it.

The bottom like of this is we’re a nickname society. We somehow feel OK in calling people by names of our choosing or not taking care to pronounce someone’s name. Some people are OK with it, but others may be offended, so be careful.

And it’s not just long names like mine.

I understand how Maurice can become Mo or Reese and how Daniel can become Danny or Dan. But, how does John become Jack, or Henry Hank?

Then, there are just downright mispronunciations. How many syllables in Leah? Actually, that one depends on the person. I know at least three women who have that name. Two pronounce it with two syllables (as in LEE-Uh), and one pronounces it with one syllable (as in Lee).

Since I’ve been using all three syllables of my first name, it’s amazing how many strangers want to shorten the name, something that bothers me, as I tend to call people by the name they use when introduced. I’m also amazed at how many ways my last name can be mispronounced.

If a guy introduces himself as Michael, I’m going to call him Michael, not Mike.

So, if I introduce myself as Gwendolyn, I expect the same.

Once, a student called me unprofessional because I corrected her when she clipped my name. Hmm. Shouldn’t I have the right to correct the use of my name, as long as I’m tactful?

Nowadays, I can tell how long someone has known me just by what they call me. I don’t correct those who have known be since before I could speak. I don’t correct folks who have known me since before I discovered what my name means.

I’ve learned that the best way not to call someone by the wrong name is to ask what they prefer to be called … and then call them that.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Random Brain Dumping | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Love’s all that makes sense

Recently I went to my first book signing, invited by my brother Jeffery, who designed the book cover. The event was not what I expected; it was more.

Book cover of "Love's All That Makes Sense," with cover designed by Jeffery Miller.

Anika Francis exuded so much energy and positivity I wanted to read more about her and share her story with my friends.

The only examples of a book signing I had seen had come from TV, where the author sits at a table, literally signing books. Thus, I felt no sense of urgency to arrive at 3 p.m., when the event was to start, as long as I got there before 6, when it was to end.

I arrived around 4:30 to find one of the authors, Anika Francis, standing before the group, engaged in a question-and-answer session. I had missed her discussion about the memoir itself, and I was upset that I had.

This woman oozed energy and positivity, appropriate since the book signing was in a yoga studio.

She was saying those with mental illness need love, that they are still human beings.

The book, called “Love’s All That Makes Sense,” is Anika’s story growing up with a mother diagnosed with schizophrenia. Actually, it’s Anika’s and mother Sakeenah’s stories woven into one.

As I listened to Anika, I wondered, though, if the book’s target audience was those dealing with family with mental illness or if it targeted everyone, even me. She was talking more about her journey through the struggle and how it had shaped her than about her mother’s schizophrenia. (Maybe I just missed that part of the discussion, but I think I came at the right time to hear the part most relevant to me.)

She challenged each of us to clean out our emotional junk closet. And we all have emotional junk closets.

“You have to be bold enough to look into the mirror of self,” Anika said. “When you don’t deal with your stuff, you just keep lugging it around, and it gets heavy.”

The work is hard, she said, and we must be willing to do the work, to go deep, to do the real work.

“Open the door, and get rid of it,” Anika said. “Don’t just look at the mess.”

That space, the space created after you do the work, after you clean out the baggage, can be a beautiful place, she said.

Writing the book took years, including a leave of absence from work, all time well-spent, she said, thankful for the childhood experiences, as they have helped her become the person she is today.

Writing the book, she said, helped her learn the importance of taking the lessons from the past without staying in the past.

That’s tough. We tend to dwell on the past rather than learn from it and let it go.

Then, she related that message to yoga, a concept I found fascinating. Yoga, she said, has helped her see her story but from a distance, to be with the things that come up without staying in them.

I’ve done yoga and find it therapeutic, but I really had not considered how yoga could help heal the soul.

This is my interpretation of what Anika said: When we do a yoga pose, we’re encouraged relax into the pose, rather than force ourselves to do a pose. We can stretch our limits slowly and without pain by relaxing and focusing on breathing, by being in the moment.

Just as yoga helps us work through all levels – physical, emotional, psychological – cleaning our emotional junk closets can do the same, she said.

“We all have stuff, and we can all heal from that stuff,” Anika said. “It’s not what happens to you in life; it’s how you deal with it afterward.”

She encouraged each of us to peel back the layers of our complex selves to clearly see who we are, and to be honest about what we see.

And, we have to have the courage and strength to love ourselves as we delve into our emotional closet, as love’s all that makes sense.

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Random Brain Dumping | , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: