“I like my name pronounced by your lips in a grateful, happy accent.” ~ Charlotte Brontë
WHY I CHANGED MY NAME by Phyllis Wax My father-in-law calls me Lois, his other son’s wife. Mail comes addressed to Phyllis R. or Phyllis M. Wax. I don’t have a middle initial. My daughters call me Mom, my sons-in-law Mother. To my grandchildren I’m Meme. To the waitress at the diner I’m Honey or Dear. Some people confuse me with my good friend. To them I’m Helen. Today the mailman brought some coupons for Yolanda Wax. I kind of like that. Please call me Yolanda. ~ as posted at Your Daily Poem, October 2021
Had a good laugh reading
Phyllis’s Yolanda’s poem. Talk about being able to relate!
Who hasn’t been called all kinds of different names? Maybe we’ve been given special nicknames by family or friends (Auntie Ella called me “Jade,” Lindsay called me “Eloise,” Tanita calls me “jama-j”). Perhaps our significant others use pet names or terms of endearment (Len calls me “Lulu,” “Curly Top,” “Cutie,” or “Shirley” — I call him “Digby”).
Of course many names are shortened for ease or familiarity: “Bob/Bobby” for Robert, “Dick” for Richard, “Liz/Betty/Betsy” for Elizabeth, “Sam” for Samantha. I’ll never understand “Jack” for John or “Harry” for Henry, though. Why not name him Jack to begin with?
Those of us who are bookish types are also used to pen names, the oh-so-revered noms de plume: George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell (Brontë). And don’t we love how Almanzo called Laura, “Beth,” Jo (Josephine) called Laurie (Theodore), “Teddy,” and how Capote’s Lulamae Barnes renamed herself “Holly Golightly”?
So many names, so little time.
Each of us contains multitudes.
Perfect strangers call us things like “Lady,” “Miss,” “Hey You,”or “Ma’am” (always makes me cringe). I must admit I liked being called “Hon” by a blue-eyed waitress in NYC, and Len likes to tell the story of being with friends in a Grand Junction, Colorado, coffee shop, where the waitress taking their order said, “Talk to me, Boys.”
Different names at different times for different reasons. Slips of the tongue, mistaken identity, momentary lapses of memory, like my mother calling me “Inez,” (her baby sister’s name), or “Newt-Jama,” (half my older brother’s name slipped out before she remembered mine). Dad (James) went by “Jimmy,” and he called Mom (Margaret), “Meg,” “Maggie,” or “Big Mac.” In my adult years, I called her “Margaret” (she didn’t mind at all). 🙂
What the poem doesn’t mention is mispronunciation or inventive misspellings. Having an unusual first name creates even more confusion. According to some enlightened individuals, any one of these is my actual name:
No need to convince them otherwise; they know best.
After all, “Jama” just can’t be a name. Better to change it and stick with the familiar. Truly, I’m a patient and tolerant person. If I were someone else encountering “Jama” for the first time, I would probably mispronounce it too.
Is that tricky first vowel like the “a” in apple or about? And what about the “J”? Since the entire name looks foreign, maybe the “J” is pronounced like an “H” or a “Y.” Yes, that must be it! Her name’s Yama (she lives in a yurt tearing apart wild animal flesh with her teeth) or Hama (Dalai Lama’s long lost twin sister). Or “Jama” could be a Spanish name — maybe she’s married to José.
All understandable. But after you’ve corrected someone several times and they still get it wrong, you know it’s hopeless. I’ve stopped trying. It doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I am shocked when anyone pronounces my name correctly.
Looking at me, you’d never guess that in grade school I was “Jawmah the Jungle Girl,” and when Len and I first met, he actually called me “Jāba.” This is how you’d say my name if you had a bad cold with serious head congestion.
Like Phyllis, I’ve had interesting mail, too: many letters addressed to “Mr. Jama Kim/Rattigan,” an invitation to join Knights of Columbus (sorry, wrong faith, wrong gender), and just who is “Mama Rattigan”?
True story: Years ago, I randomly called a caterer I’d found in the yellow pages.
Avec Panache, Jayma Wooditch speaking.
Did you just say Jama?
Yes, I did.
But my name’s Jama and up until this second I thought I was the only person in the whole world with that name!
Me too! I can’t believe it! How do you spell your name?
J-A-M-A. How about you?
I spell mine with a “y”: J-A-Y-M-A.
I don’t suppose anyone ever mispronounces it, right?
On a rare occasion, someone might get it wrong. But not usually.
You’re so lucky! That “y” makes all the difference.
Anyway, I ended up hiring Jayma for my Christmas Teddy Bear Tea. She even carved a beautiful bear out of butter. Sad to say that while writing this post I googled her and discovered she had passed away several years ago. I’m so glad we crossed paths. I mean, what are the chances?
Since then, I’ve heard of others with my name. A car salesman perked up when he heard it. “Hey, I know a girl named ‘Dreama’ with a sister named ‘Jama.’ She even spells it the same way.” And then there was that time Regis Philbin announced Jama (Somebody) as the winner of their daily drawing on network TV. He looked right into the camera and said, “Congratulations, Jama!” Totally surreal.
So there you have it. Once, I thought I had a one-of-a-kind name. Now, it’s as common as dirt . . . almost.
I take solace in the fact that I can go to places where, like in “Cheers,” everybody knows my name. My hairdresser of 20+ years usually says my name correctly. This wasn’t always the case, though. After correcting her several times, I told her not to worry, because if “Jama” was too tricky, she could always call me “Your Highness” or “Your Majesty.” Perfectly acceptable. We had a big laugh over that and she’s never pronounced my name wrong since. Now if I could just get the receptionist to stop calling me, “Jamma-lamma-ding-dong.” 😀
ETA: Believe it or not, just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, I received an out-of-the-blue email via my website from a “Jama F.!” She was curious to know how I got my name (her dad’s name is also James, but her mom wasn’t keen on the name Jamie, so they went with Jama). She pronounces her name just like I do, and we both feel really weird addressing another person as “Jama.” The timing is just too uncanny . . . 😳
Nothing left to do but groove on this oldie:
Do you like your given name? What are some of the names you’ve been called over the years? Any funny stories to share?
The lovely and talented Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink. Pop over there to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!
“A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs. He who can pronounce my name aright, he can call me, and is entitled to my love and service.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
*Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.