What’s In A Name?

Labels for the time and place . . .

We say we only have one name, the one we were born with, but I find we not only have many names, but each one has a different persona.

Grandpa Ohlin called me and my siblings, Svenskas, and though I didn’t know that Svenska meant Swedish, I knew it was special and nice. And, as a child, Dad called me Flicka, and it was years before I knew that I, blonde, with white straight hair, was the only ‘Swedish’ child he had, for my siblings all had dark wavy hair. It’s been a lifetime since those names were used for me, but when I see them in print, I’m a child again, and for a moment am Flicka, Svenska.

Of course, in my teens I was another ubiquitous Blondie, and later on, came the teasing name of Blizzard Head, and, though it’s utterly impossible, but if I should ever hear that name spoken, without even looking I’d know it was Jake calling out to a twenty-year-old girl with blonde, ‘permed’ hair.   Oh, the power of a name.

Then Brad entered my life and gave me the love name of Butchie. Years later an old pal, Bill Bailey, came to visit and out of the blue called me Butchie, and I was tossed back in time to another Ethel. A nice name, Butchie, nice Ethel and nice Brad. Oh, yes, those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end . . . but they did.

Then there was Mrs. Bradford and the first time someone said, “Mrs. Bradford”, meaning me, and not Gram, I nearly fell over with shock. Me???   Me? Mrs. Bradford??? Yeah, and with Gram long gone, it’s no longer a shock to know it’s me they mean.

When I first started writing for the Green Sheet Newspapers, I used the alias of Trudy, and it was good, for it was under that name that I took my first steps in becoming the Ethel whose life has been formed by writing.

And then came those glorious years when I became Mom to two sons, and that was an entirely different person than any other before or since. A most wonderful, blessed name, one I wouldn’t give up for any other in the world. That’s me and always will be, for, to me there’s no better name, than Mom.

The name of Grandmother, conjures up a different Ethel, and once I invited a guest to a family get-together, and he later said, “I saw an Ethel today that I’ve never seen before,” and when I looked surprised, he said, “I saw several Ethel’s. You were friend, Mother, Mother-in-law, and Grandmother. It was fun to watch your different responses to different names and people. All nice Ethel’s, but all different from the one you are with me.”  Oh.

Names, names, names, and the older one gets, the more names and personalities we collect. A friend Richard says he sometimes feels he’s on a pogo stick trying to be his mother’s Dickie, his father’s Richard, and Dick to high school pals. Says he’s also Mr. ‘Jones’, as well as he’s Teacher  to others. All different names and roles of the same person, and all expecting, and, instinctively getting, different responses.

And you say you don’t do this? Maybe, but step back watch yourself, and I bet you’ll see a different person with your mother, spouse, children, boss, or employees.  And yes, oh yes, how about to your Bishop? Or Minister? And what do they call you?

I caught onto this dichotomy and tried to be the same person no matter what or who called me, but it wont work. You can’t speak to your mother as you do your boss, fellow-employees, spouse or children. I’m a different person to the salesman at the door, than I am to my grandkids, and still another to the one on the phone trying to get a donation, or to the repairman I’ve called to my home.

And you still think you have but one name? And all the same personality? Well, ho ho, ho and ho. Methinks you’d better think again.

2 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?

  1. : I read your new blog post on names, and laughed so hard! It is so very true. I remember two such “incidents” in my life. I have a dear friend here, Louanna. We have been good friends for over 40 years now, been pregnant together and not, helped one another through many trials and tribulations, laughed, and cried. Her children grew up calling me Sylvia. Then I was called to teach her son, now 10 years old and a real “pill”, in Primary. At the end of the first class, he came up to me and asked what he was supposed to call me. He realized that Sylvia was not appropriate in his class. (Good – that was the first thing he had to learn about behavior, the other lessons followed and were learned.) We agreed upon Sylvia outside of church and Sister Nielsen at church. When I saw him recently, I got a big hug from this very special boy/man. Last spring, I had a similar experience. I received a phone call one night asking if I did sign language interpretation at church. I said I have in the past, am a bit rusty, but what was needed. A young womens’ leader in another ward in my stake had posted on her facebook page that she needed an interpreter for a mother/daughter YWMIA activity, because the mother of one of the girls is deaf. Mom doesn’t usually go to church, but wanted to be there for her daughter. One of the leader’s friends has known me ever since her girls camp days 25 years ago, and gave her my name. I agreed to interpret. I arrived, and found that three of the young woman in attendance were either former or current science students in my class. After, the bishop came over to thank me, and wanted to introduce me to some of the girls. The three quickly informed him that I was their science teacher also. He asked if this was weird to them. One replied, “I didn’t know what to call her at first!” How true – she walked up to me and said, “Hi, Mrs….ah…um…Sis (? in her voice) Nielsen?” Even crazier is when a grandson says, “Mom” because I am with his mother, and we both respond! Thank you so much for writing that post!

    • that’s an aspect of how many names we have, that I hadn’t even thought of. Sometimes I think, that after a lifetime of different associations, and jobs, that we end up with hundeds of names. love, ethel

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