Thursday, February 05, 2015


Recently one of my young relatives asked me how my name was chosen. 

As a child, when asked my name, I answered, "My name is Helen And Killeen." I thought my middle name "Ann", was "And". After all, we had two names; I thought logically, if a three-year-old can be logical, that my parents called me Helen Killeen, joining the two names with an appropriate "And" to link them together. My niece briefly considered giving her daughter Jennifer the "And" name as a middle name, but decided against it. 

The thing about an interesting/unusual middle name is that it can be very useful at times when the ice, so to speak, needs breaking - ergo...when you first meet someone and introduce yourself. You don't risk too much if it's a quirky name. I read a recent study which concluded that one is viewed as smarter if you use your middle initial in your name. An interesting middle initial such as Z. X. U. Y. Q. (I consider these interesting) would be sufficient to provoke curiousity. 

I was named after my Aunt Helen, who is remembered for having survived two shipwrecks. She was much more than just a shipwreck survivor but that's what people remember about her in the end, pitiful as it is. Another consideration of my father's, who disliked nicknames, was the difficulty of shortening or abbreviating the name Helen. "Hell" "Ellen" "Len"??? None of these work. A third consideration was that Eilleen (my sister's name) and Helen are actually the same name, Eilleen being Helen in Gaelic. 

I should add that my father's distaste of nicknames and diminutives was for use in public. In private he used pet names on all of us. He called my mother "Jelly Bean" - her name was Jill. Once in a while he referred to her as "the old crow" in jest but she didn't think it was a bit funny. He called us Skookumchuk, Monkey Bean and Cutie Pie. He'd sometimes get stuck on one of our names and run through the roll call of the women in his life, principally his four sisters: "Hilda, Pearl, Netta,!" 

In school, I was called Skinny Minnie/ Bones and their equivalents. God, I hated that. Probably I was called other names, but I've blocked them out of memory.

My sister began calling me Hegen - the Pig Woman when I entered my teens and I was particularly obnoxious. It's my all-time favorite sobriquet. She continued to call me that throughout our lives and it never failed to make me smile. I earned that name through various heinous acts I can thankfully barely remember. The name is the last remnant from that stage of life. Now I'm nice. 

Behind my back as an employer and as a boss I'm sure I've been called an ass and other more specific names related to the derriere's anatomy - although never to my face in such a relationship. Certainly, I deserved the name from time to time. I picked up "Cookie" during my baking days and it's stuck for many years. 

I've been called a Canuck; Frog; a hoser; a dry-back; a cold-back, snow monkey and pea souper. I won't list here all the names men call women - I've had most of them slung at me over the years. I've been designated a bitch, a witch and worse - probably deserved the names at the time. I don't hear this kind of thing from my current husband. I'll repeat: Now I'm nice.  

I've used the titles or been addressed as Miss, Mrs., Ms., Miz, Maam, Madam, Madame, Senora and Hey You. With age and unsteadiness, I'm starting to get called "Honey" and "Sweetie" in the grocery store, these diminutives uttered along with a proferred arm. 

Finally, I have to note that as a senior driver, I've earned some new names. Most of them I can't fully comprehend as they are being shouted through another car's windshield as the driver streaks by me at high speed. "Hey, but I'm nice!" I shout back. They don't seem to hear. 

No comments:

Post a Comment