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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Say My Name

by Eliana:

1. Once upon a time, I met an amazing man named Todd. We instantly clicked and spent most of our time together over the next several months. We saw awesome plays, talked on the phone when we were apart, and I even edited his 100 page honors thesis. Good stuff.

Then I met another Todd. This Todd was someone I was interested in Not as a Friend. So I would refer to Todd #1 as “Todd” and the new Todd as “Other Todd.

Then “Other Todd” and I fell in love and he became “Todd” while Todd #1 was relegated, respectfully, to “Other Todd.”

Despite the confusion, both Todds were at my wedding and I ended up getting hitched to the correct one. Years of friendship ensued and since the two Todds were so dramatically different, there was never any confusion on my part. Not so for anyone who asked about what Husband Todd and I did over a weekend and I had to explain that we went to visit Todd. Insert laugh track and sitcom magic could be born.

2. I have a whole theory of child naming that should be a New York Times best seller but probably won’t make it into book form, so I’ll share it with you all. Please don’t write your own book using my genius idea. That would make me cry.

Here’s the deal. I call it The Architect Test. You want to give your kid a name unique enough to be interesting but not over the line into weird. The parameters are stricter for boys, though I’m not sure why.

Basically, think of that little bundle of joy as a grown person. Will he be able to work as an architect with the name you are giving him? A creative job, yes, but professional also. So if you, like my husband, are fixated on super hero names or the ones you thought of while listening to White Snake in your youth, perhaps not.

3. Growing up, I always hated my name. Eliana Osborn. Say it like 'alien.' No one could ever say it, including my elementary school principal who had six whole years to practice. The first day of school was always the worst: there would be a pause after Morris or Neumann. I’d finally raise my hand and say, “That’s me.”

My dad picked up my name while serving a mission in Brazil (I’m not sure how he convinced my mom). All five of my other siblings have normal names with no tricky pronunciation issues. Living in Alaska, Latinate names weren’t in vogue so it was actually easier for a lot of people to do my Cambodian friend’s name since it was phonetic. Chuthara Kuntubichi. I still remember it; she’d tell you it was like Kentucky Fried.

I don’t know when I stopped feeling defensive about my name and began to embrace it. I’m guessing college when I stopped being shy about most anything. I still had to fill in the pause when a professor or ward member was trying to decipher my name for the first time. But instead of chiming in apologetically, I’d say it proud. I’m not an Emily or a Jenny, even though I know really nice ones of each. I’m pretty weird. I definitely deserve an unusual name.

Times are changing though, especially since I live on the US-Mexico border. Eliana was embroidered on a baby towel in a Pottery Barn catalog and featured on a personalized watch face in an ad at the back of a magazine. I collect these surprise moments as one who never could pick out a souvenir with my name on it. I know other people with my name, mostly Hispanic, and hear about others. Eliana or a similar variant is even on baby name lists. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Now that I’m a mom I don’t hear my name very often. Professionally I am usually Ms. Osborn and even my husband usually addresses me as the mama. When someone does say my name, especially pronounced correctly and with a slight Spanish accent, I swoon a bit. When my husband says Eliana I notice it and smile.

My dad has called my mom ‘hon’ for my whole life. I make up nicknames for everyone I like as an odd sign of ownership. Where do you fall on the naming spectrum? And don’t you wish we’d go back to Brother First Name at church?

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Eliana Osborn was raised on cold weather and wild animals in Anchorage, Alaska, setting the stage for her adult life in the Sunniest Place on Earth in Arizona. She grew up in the church and didn't know there were places where conformity was preached. She has degrees. She writes. She teaches. She has some kids. She even has a husband. She's trying to do her best.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gif Image credit: Jack Dorsey (used with permission).

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