Friday, 27 September 2013 19:56

What's In A Name?

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family storytelling tradition choosing a baby nameIt's a story I heard countless times growing up:

"When I was born my mother wanted to name me Geraldine, after my father, but he didn't like the name.  He refused to have his daughter called by that name.  The debate went back and forth until my mother came up with a solution.  She declared that they would write all the girl names they liked on slips of paper and place them in a hat.  Then my father would have the privilege of drawing out a single slip of paper.  Whatever name was pulled from the hat would be my name.  So, that's exactly what they did.  When my father pulled the slip of paper that said 'Geraldine' he knew he'd lost.  He didn't even put up a fight.  That's how I got my name.  What my father never knew, though, was that every slip of paper in the hat had the name 'Geraldine' on it!"



It's a great story.  It's one I've shared often.  I love how it illustrates my grandma's quick wit and clever nature.  It never fails to get a great reaction from people who hear it for the first time.  It turns out the story is a lie.  Okay, maybe the term 'lie' is too harsh, but it's definitely a revised version of history.

Remember the game 'Telephone'?  You gather people in a straight line and the person on the end whispers something in the ear of the person next to them.  They whiper what they heard into the ear of the person next to them.  And so it goes, until the person at the opposite end of the line tells what they heard.  It's rarely, if ever, what the first person said.  Each participant hears and repeats something just slightly different all the way down the line.  It turns out the game is a great illustration of life.

family storytelling tradition choosing a baby nameImagine my surprise when just last year i was handed an original copy of my grandma's journal written by her own hand.  In it I found the tale of the naming of her youngest daughter, Marion.  It was hauntingly familiar- slips of paper, all the same name... what?!!  Could it be grandma had pulled the same trick twice?  Nope, it seems over time the story had been told so many times by my mother that it became her naming story.  No one was more surprised than my mother when I showed her the original tale.

I still love this story.  I love how it illustrates my grandma's quick wit and clever nature, and I love how it serves as a cautionary tale in regards to the value and importance of original documents.  Why should we write things down about our lives?  Because we want people to get it right!  Remember this little tale when you're collecting and sharing the stories of your family.

How did your parents choose your name?  Is there a special story that goes with your name?  (For more ideas, check out our When I Was Little story starter)

Last modified on Thursday, 10 October 2013 12:32
Teresa Clark

A national award-winning storyteller, historian and author, she is best known for her original works and recollections of life's experiences blended with history. Teresa has presented and performed throughout the United States. Of her, it has been said, "Charming, witty, soulful, and wise, her performances are filled with a compelling sense of wonder and an irresistable zest for life." Her story work involves performance, education, production, and advocacy. From the main stage to individual consultations in living rooms across America, she delights in the excavation and sharing of family story. Most importantly, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother to her favorite playmates and best friends.

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