Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: the Power of Names Or How I Might Become A Tree

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare

As usual, Bill has something to say on any topic that might come up. Like the word press weekly challenge about the power of names.

jack pine - Copy

I have two names, supposedly my father’s former girlfriends (one of which I was able to confirm via old school year books). There is a tradition in my mother’s family that a person has two names, but the name to be used is the second one. She was lucky – her first name was her public name. Her sister and father went by their second name. And, apparently they liked the sound of putting the name I would be known by in 2nd place!

Perhaps before bureaucracy took over everything, having your 2nd name your public name wasn’t such a big issue. Boy, it is every now! For my SSN, SIN, health insurance, passport, state ID and any other official, bureaucratic reason, I am my first name (and if I’m lucky, my middle initial is included). The DMV accused me of fraud because my bills and bank statements came to my public, 2nd name!

I’ve given up explaining to doctors that I go by my middle name. I sign 99% of documents with my first initial and my middle name. On those occasions I am signing something really official (like my green card and my citizenship papers), I have difficulty writing my first name as I so rarely do so.

When my mother died, I looked into officially changing my name – costs way too much! So, I continue to sign my name with my first initial and my 2nd name and warn everyone having a child, to put the name by which the child will be called first, no matter how many other names the child will have.

A friend from Kenya explained that she had kept her family name because her husband, in her culture, could easily divorce her. But, it was much more difficult for her family to do the same.

When we got married, I contacted the government department in charge of such changes in status, and asked for the form so I could keep my family name. To my surprise, the response was I only needed to fill out a form if I wanted to take my husband’s family name!

I wish I could get my aunt to understand that. Since 1995, everything she sends comes to Mrs. my name, husband’s last name. It’s a lost cause. I am not Mrs. so and so, I am Ms. me.

And, in terms of the meanings of my names: first name: foliage because a woman spurned in love killed herself and was transformed into a tree (or alternatively was the ideal pastoral maiden, lol ), public, 2nd name: full of sorrow or named for a particular geographic region.

I wonder if I am a product of my names. I certainly am full of sorrow, and when I die (by my own hand or some other way) to be reborn as a tree is a wonderful concept. If I had a choice of tree – a redwood/sequoia.

@ phylor 2014 


13 thoughts on “Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: the Power of Names Or How I Might Become A Tree

  1. Colline March 17, 2014 / 6:44 pm

    My dad was always called by his second name. All documents, though, always included both his names so it made his life easier than yours.


    • phylor March 17, 2014 / 7:22 pm

      It’s good that your dad had the two name conundrum solved by documentation. What happens with me is that my second name is discounted, and my first name is automatically used. So, I become that name even when it’s not appropriate (i.e. doctor-patient relationships or first day of school). I don’t like my first name, either, which I think makes it worse!


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