What is in a name?

As parents, we put so much emphasis on the names we choose for our kids. There are some fabulous web sites out there to help with the decisions — my two favorites being Nymber (where you can input a favorite name and get suggestions of names with a similar style) and NameVoyager (which tracks popularity through the years).

Caroline Joyce’s name was chosen because 1) I really like the name Caroline, 2) John’s mother’s name was Carolyn, and 3) Joyce is a family name passed from both of my grandmothers to my mom (Velda Joyce) to me (Amanda Joyce) and shared by my nieces.

Our names for any hypothetical future children both include names we like (tending to what many consider traditional or classic) and family names.

What has NEVER crossed my mind (because today, I suppose, we’d fix any clerical errors right away) is that my child’s name could be influenced by a mistake. Take my grandparents. I mentioned that my middle name and that of my daughter honor my grandmothers — Joyce Faye and Joyce B. But, if you hear folks talk about my nanny (Joyce B.) you’d distinctly hear them say Joyca B. I asked about that as a child. It seems that my Ma Susan (my great grandma) meant to name my nanny (Joyce B.) Joyca. But the midwives who delivered her goofed up on the paperwork and wrote Joyce. So, her family all still called her Joyca B, but legally, she is Joyce B.

This week, we buried my Paw Paw Jenkins. He’s always been Paw Paw to me, but I knew he was called KC by everyone else. Nanny has always called Paw Paw KC. And I knew his name was Carl…Karl…My uncle and cousin share his first name of Carl. It was not until I pulled up his obituary online that I saw that his name was spelled Carl Clayton. How do you get KC from that? Did the paper make a mistake? Maybe the funeral home?

Nope, turns out, it was that midwife, 81 years ago. Grandma Jenkins wanted to name Paw Paw Karl Clayton Jenkins. The midwife filled out the paperwork and wrote Carl Clayton. Well, by the time anyone realized it, they’d been calling the boy KC, so they just continued that. Kinda like Joyca B.

I am amazed that the “legal paperwork” meant so little to these folks so many years ago that they just let it be. I am glad, at least, that they continued to call folks by the name they had intended, though. Is this just a Louisiana thing? I know we like to think Texas is a whole other country and all, but man, Louisiana seems to have its own rules as well.

3 thoughts on “What is in a name?

  1. That’s kind of neat though. It’s interesting to look through those old documents. We recently applied for passports for all of us and we were looking through all of our documents (birth certificates from Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Minnesota) and it’s funny to note that Mike’s birth certificate has his adopted parents on it. It clearly states that his adopted mother and adopted father gave birth to him on his birth date, with this attending physician, and it’s all notarized and legal, even though his parents did not adopt him until he was 13 months old. It’s very odd to look upon that document that’s legal in every way, but really just a lie. Those people were not even there at that time, they didn’t even know of his existence, but it’s what’s legal. Just like your paw-paw KC really being a CC. Funny weird stuff.

  2. That’s interesting. Just this weekend I was discussing last names with a table full of people, and we discovered most of their last names had been more or less “coined” on Ellis Island by simple spelling errors.

  3. i agree with your love of nymbler (and name voyager — my copy of baby name wizard by the same author is so well used all the pages are falling out).

    both my husband and i have grandmothers who don’t really know if their middle name “joan” is pronounced “joan” or “joanne” — how weird is that? that same grandmother of mine (for whom eva is named) was named hafia, went by eva (the americanized version of the ukranian name), but was baptized as “mary”, so she’s got a lot of names to choose from.

    as for ellis island, that’s so true. two brothers from my hometown arrived with “ewine” and “iwonneu” (sp?) as their last names — 3 or 4 generations later, it has to be explained to people that they’re actually related.

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