What’s in a name?

By Jeanne Reynolds

If you’re like most of us, you’ll probably spend more time than usual with extended family this month: aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, parents of old school friends.

Have you ever struggled with how to address them — especially as you get older and are no longer one of “the kids”?

This came up the other day when I stopped by a friend’s football tailgate and the conversation drifted to the topic of their parents — former neighbors of ours — and then on to the names by which we address our in-laws.

I became really intrigued by this, and started a sort of informal survey of other friends and family members. Turns out this is a tricky issue for most of us, and goes beyond family to pretty much anyone a generation older than us. If you’ve spent the first 20 (or more) years of your life calling someone Uncle Joe, it feels weird to start saying just Joe. And if your high school BFF’s mom was Mrs. Smith, how old do you have to be to call her Mary?

In-law nomenclature seems to bring its own set of unwritten rules. If you started out from day one calling your intended’s parents by their first names, no problem. But if they were Mr. and Mrs. Jones when you were dating, when is it OK to segue to Bob and Judy? Does it depend on how long you’ve been married, or your age, or your relationship with them? I’ve been married for almost 25 years, and am just now experimenting with first names for my in-laws. It feels a little odd but seems to be OK. It’s certainly less confusing when there are several Mrs. Reynolds in the room.

I experienced another spin on this generational name-calling last year when a friend’s daughter came to work for me as a summer intern. Like most companies, we’re all on a first-name basis from the president on down, so Mrs. Reynolds wasn’t going to cut it if she wanted to position herself as a capable professional. (Also out: “Yes, ma’am.” Not sure which was harder for her, being a good southern girl.) It was probably even more confusing for her when she went home in the evening. I imagine this:

Her mom: “How was work today?”

My intern: “I got a great new project from Jeanne … I mean Mrs. Reynolds … I mean … oh heck.”

Yes, the names we use for each other do matter. They can indicate respect, professionalism, status and intimacy. It can be annoying when someone takes the first-name liberty inappropriately (think telemarketer) and a slap when someone refuses that permission. And it’s very much a personal preference. An online search found numerous articles offering advice on when it’s appropriate to use first names, but mostly for business situations. When it comes to personal relationships, we’re kind of all on our own.

If in doubt, you could always just ask. More likely than not, most people are just happy to talk with you and really don’t care that much. So don’t be surprised if you hear some version of that old joke: “You can call me whatever you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”

 

What’s In A Name?

By: Roshanda Pratt

Today, I was called the wrong name. It happens often.  When you have a name that is not “common” people have a tendency to well make up one for you.  My name is Roshanda, which I pronounce as Ro-shon-da.  It probably should be pronounced Ro-shan-da however, I do not like that pronunciation, and I never have, it sounds pretentious to me.  My mother and father were expecting a boy; Lo and behold they got another girl! As the name story goes, my mother says she was reading “Jet” Magazine a weekly magazine targeted toward African American readers, founded in 1951 according to Wikipedia. My mom says she saw some person in the magazine with the name “Roshanda,” she thought it was different and decided to go with that one.  Hence, I was named Roshanda.  Now, for anyone who has ever read “Jet” each issue includes the beauty of the week. When I tell the story on how my name came to be, I say, I was named after the beauty of the week.

Hey there gorgeous!

Growing up I never liked my name much.  Seriously, what is a “Roshanda?” I was the only one in my class surrounded by an abundance of “Jennifer’s.”  By the way, Jennifer was a popular name in the 70’s. Matter of fact, my five imaginary friends were all named, you guessed it, Jennifer.  My uncommon name hang-ups weren’t just at school, but when I got home too.  My older sister is named Lisa. Yes, you heard correctly, Lisa. My sister, like most, would torment me with the story about being adopted since my name was not as common as hers. (Evil sister!)

Senior Year at AC Flora High School

Seriously, what’s a name anyway?  In a day when people name their children after fruit, a color in the crayon box, or even just make it up what’s the big deal?  Well, a lot.  When I decided to have my own children a lot of thought went into the name.  I thought about it all. I said the name, I screamed the name, and I imagined what it would look like on a graduation program and how the initials would look on a monogrammed tote.  I may have been a little obsessive, but I know what it is like to have an unusual name.  My husband and I really wanted names that connected with our faith in Christ.  So when it came to our daughters name we prayed and hence the name: Jael Kaelyn.  Jael is a Hebrew named pronounced (Yah-el).  I like the Hebrew pronunciation, but knew people would not get that right.  So we call her (Jah-el). Her whole name means: strength of God delivered.  And I can testify He certainly has! All of our children have significance in their name.  The reason is simply in the Bible people named their children based upon where they were going or where they left.  There is power in a name.  I believe what we name our children has a great significance on who they will later become.

So what is a “Roshanda?”  According to my years of research (online) it is a Sanskrit or Hindi name which means “shining light.”  I hope I live up to my name “shining a light” for Christ to those around me.  Now, as a thirty-something woman, I have no problem with my name, now I actually like it.  I even discovered there is a world of us, Roshanda’s out there.  We even have a Facebook group.  So when I am called “Rhonda” (insider. Lol.) or people are not sure to say my name as Ro-shan-da or Ro-shon-da, it doesn’t really matter, because I am doing exactly what my name means…shining a light.

How about you? Do you like your name? If you could change it, what would you change it to and why?