What’s your name?
An easy enough question we’ve been asked countless times. For most, there’s an automatic answer.
Not for me.
I look around. Remind myself who I’m with. And then I answer.
Sounds duplicitous, doesn’t it?
I’m not a double agent. The truth is I have two names.
I’m not talking about a first and middle name. Or a full name and a derivative. I wish it were that easy. I’m talking about having one name that my family calls me, and another name for everyone else.
Things get sticky when family and friends commingle.
Whenever I’m in the company of both, no one knows how to refer to me in conversation. It’s awkward for everyone around me and for that I feel bad.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So how did this mess begin? It started with a disagreement and two strong-willed parents.
My father was eighth of eleven children, practically raised by his adored older sister Gina. My mother wanted me named after her.
My father, although touched by the gesture I’m sure, wanted me named after my mother, Jo-Ann.
Relegated to the waiting room as was typical for the time, and with my mother in recovery after a difficult delivery, Dad went ahead and signed the birth certificate, sealing my legal first name with his choice.
Mom wasn’t too happy about it when she woke up. But she conceded. Sort of.
“Fine. Her name is Jo-Ann. But I’m going to call her Gina.”
And so it began.
Eventually, my father came around but no one bothered to change the birth certificate.
This means all legal documents list me as Jo-Ann. In every roll call through many years of school, whenever I said, “here” I was essentially confirming that identity.
So now, whenever I introduce myself, I say Gina if I’m with family, and Jo-Ann if I’m not.
What’s your name?
Start a conversation about names and watch it take off. Everyone has something to contribute. There is so much to say about names and their significance. But for now, let’s focus on how you got your name, and what it means to you.
Are you named after someone? If so, how do you feel about that? Do you have a family legacy behind your name and if so, do you aspire to uphold it? Or do you resent the pressure and expectation that accompanies a name that spans generations?
When I was very young, I was thrilled to share my mother’s name. Then, in the tumultuous teenage years, I resented it. Now that she’s gone, however, and realizing the strong woman she was, I’m honored to sign my name and see hers live on.
What’s your name?
Names have meaning. Anyone who has named a child or a pet may have scoured the books that tell you the origin and meaning for any name.
Gina is most commonly derived from Regina, which means queen. When I think about who Gina is, meaning the person I am in my family, it’s somewhat appropriate.
My family would describe me as serious, and I don’t know any comedic queens, so the name fits. Queens delegate, and when I was younger, my family referred to me as bossy. My nickname (as if I needed another) was The Little General. In retrospect, The Little Queen would have been more fitting.
Jo-Ann is hard to find in baby books. It’s as if someone made it up, especially spelled with a hyphen. Actually my mother did. Her given name was Josephine Ann, which she hated. According to my aunt, she was always called Jo-Ann at home and Josephine in school. Later, she legally changed her name to Jo-Ann. But the seeds of a name dichotomy were clearly established in her life, so she had no qualms about passing one along to me.
The name was legitimized for me the day I saw it in a plain but bold font announcing Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store. But then I researched the company name to see if it belonged to a real person only to find the store was named after the daughters of the two founding families; Joan and Jacqueline. So yes, it’s a made up name.
Let me also go on record as saying that technology isn’t as advanced as we think because computer programs still won’t recognize the hyphen. I continue to get mail as JoAnn, Jo Ann or Jo A.
My legal first name comes from Joanna, or Johanna, a derivative of John which means “God is gracious.” Yes, He is. Since I’m in full agreement, I suppose I’m worthy of the name.
Do you know what your name means? Does the meaning of your name reflect your personality? Do you find it strange if it does, and momentarily concerned if it doesn’t?
What’s your name?
I’m sometimes asked if I think of myself as Gina or Jo-Ann. I am both. And neither. Since I’ve been called two different names my entire life, I don’t feel particularly attached or identified with either.
I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with that statement.
But my name predicament begs an important question.
According to the bible, God’s people are written in the book of life. I can’t help but wonder, which name is in that book?
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
Maybe God will recognize my soul as one of his own and my name will be irrelevant. Finally! After all, a father doesn’t need to say his child’s name to know her.
I hope so. Because I’ll never stop being Gina and I’ll never stop being Jo-Ann.
And I’m counting on it not being a sticky situation for God.
If you have an unusual story about your name or thoughts on this topic, please share in the comment section below!