Guest Blogger: Lori Dyan

What’s in a Name? How about 17 letters?

I grew up with a surname that was the butt of many jokes. In fact, it was so bad that it might as well have been Butt. I yearned for a “normal” name and resented the Jennifer Browns and Tammy Smiths of the world. My friends would fantasize about their wedding day, yet all I wanted was a handle that didn’t elicit giggles.

In a classic case of “careful what you wish for,” I married a Serbian man and went from a two-syllable last name to one with six syllables that was impossible to pronounce on the first dozen tries. At the time, I considered it a lateral move.

We moved to a new city shortly after we were married and I vowed to never reveal my former name. Co-workers were driven crazy with guesses (my favourite: “Is it Lori Swallows?”) but I was a vault, refusing to give up my past identity.

Finally, someone called my previous employer, pretending to be an old high school friend looking to get in touch with me, and the receptionist gave up my maiden name. The hilarity of my surname was apparently worth all of the trouble he went through to dig it up.

When the Serb and I had kids we chose simple first names and ditched middle names altogether. In my husband’s culture middle names aren’t usually done, so he didn’t care if our kids went without. I wanted to forego the extra name for more pragmatic reasons: a lifetime of filling out forms and running out of spaces for all of the letters. I already suspect they’ll have carpal tunnel by high school.

I’m thankful for my middle name because it’s also my pen name. ‘Lori Dyan’ is memorable but not generic, sounds interesting without being ridiculous, and is easy to pronounce.

If nothing else, it’s better than the alternatives, especially Lori Swallows.

Click here to read more from Lori Dyan.

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A case for simple names

Betheny.  Becky.  Mary Beth.  Mary Anne.  Ruth Anne.

These are just a few of the names that I have repeatedly been called during my thirty years.  Who knew that two simple names hyphenated together, making one, could cause such confusion?

This name-angst has followed me since childhood.  My mother tells me that as a young girl a distant relative thought that my parents had two daughters: Beth and Anne.  They would look at my mom puzzled when she would arrive somewhere with just me in tow, being so bold as to ask, “I thought Beth and Anne were coming.”

Perhaps because my name is not that common, it can be perplexing to some.  Introducing myself to anyone hard of hearing, who has an accent or speaks English as a second language usually leaves them slightly embarrassed, and an exasperated me temporarily answering to a new name.

Or else the conversation usually goes something like this:

“Hi, I am Lauren.”

“Hi, Lauren.  I am Beth-Anne, nice to meet you.”

“Betheny?”

“No, Beth-Anne”

“Sorry, Beth-Anne?”

“Yes.  Beth-Anne.  Like Beth and Anne smooshed together.  Beth-Anne.”

“So, that has a hyphen?”

“Yes.”

“Huh.  Sort of like Mary Beth.”

Not really.

My husband, after years of witnessing this exchange, is now quick to butt-in and just finishes the script for me.  It never ceases to amaze me that my two-syllable name can cause eyebrows to furrow and foreheads to crease.

Years ago, I met someone who had a tattoo that read: Hello, My Name Is Jim on his left breast.  Obnoxiously he made a show of peeling back his plaid flannel button-down shirt when he introduced himself.  After seeing, what I can only imagine as shock on my face, he quickly sidestepped to the next group of party guests to repeat his performance.

Just pointing to my inked chest could make my life easier but ultimately there are many reasons why this wouldn’t be a suitable solution least of which, after having three kids, my “name tag” would be down around my navel.

The only other regular sounding name that I have bared witness to causing such confused looks is a woman whose name is LN.   That’s right.  LN like Ellen.  After meeting her, explaining my hybrid name to strangers seems like a cakewalk.  At least my parents don’t come off as LSD dropping illiterates.

So, when the time came to name our boys the criteria was simple:  one-syllable first names to match their one-syllable last name.

Jack, Sam and Will.

May they never have to resort to name tattoos.