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.”


“No, Beth-Anne”

“Sorry, Beth-Anne?”

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

“So, that has a hyphen?”


“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.