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Alice Collins' PrimeTime column: Names can be revealing

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Columns Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
Alice Collins' PrimeTime column: Names can be revealing
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Names can be revealing.

Some are the popular choices of a certain era, and some are family names used as first names or just names that have been popular over the years. People have occasionally suggested that we were not very creative naming our two kids John and Mary. It was not just that they were common and popular names, although they were. We had very definite reasons for our choices


Each of us had beloved family members who carried those names. My wonderful stepfather was John, usually called Jack, and the grandfather who served the parental role in my husband's life was John. We each had very special and dearly loved aunts named Mary, so those were the names we chose. My Aunt Mary was so excited about having a namesake that she was just a bit annoyed with me when my first child turned out to be a boy.

I started to think about names when I was looking on the Internet for information about my Revolutionary War ancestor whose name was Ebenezer Blake. That is certainly not a common name in this day and age, although we have had a friend by that name, but he was always called "Eb"

Often these unusual first names come from a woman's family name that she wants to keep going. That is how my husband got his first name, from his mother whose maiden name was Dorothy Wagner. However, she called him "Waggie" right up to her death at over 90, and his friends quickly shortened it to "Wag" which has served him well.

Unusual names can be a burden in school. No matter what the name, kids can find a way to use it as a teasing tool. Since my last name, Vance rhymed with pants you can imagine the ways that was used to annoy me. My brother Bill seemed to avoid much of that, perhaps because he got tall very fast ending up at 6-feet-5 in eighth grade. My sister Hope got a few Hope the Dope types of thing, but she was too smart to be bothered by it.

The only one of our great-grandchildren who carries a family name is Stella. Our grandson and his wife specifically wanted an ancestral name and chose my mother's name which would have pleased her very much.

Many people complain that they don't like their names; however, I have always been comfortable with my name. But I didn't want to be called "Al." Only one dear friend and teaching colleague got by with calling me that.

Our twin great-grandsons are Miles and Liam. The only other Miles I had known well was employed as a high school boy by my grandmother and remained a faithful family friend all the years as he went on to become a law officer and swore he never forgot the kindness my mother and grandmother showed him. As a result I have good feelings about that name.

I have learned that Liam is an Irish form of William which is a valued name through the generations of our family from my grandfather to my brother.

One great-granddaughter is Emma. Didn't everyone in our generation have an Aunt Emma?And of course there was Dorothy's Aunt Em in "The Wizard of Oz."

Our youngest great-grandchild is Zoe, not a common name today, but my mother had a friend by that name.

But they pronounced it "Zo" whereas today they add the "e" sound.

I guess great grandson Tanner's name is the only one I can't find a family or old friend source for, but I like it, and he is such a charmer that any name would do.

Pioneer staff reports