What's really in a name anyway?

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

This is for the Margarets and the Elizabeths, the Mitchells and the Marys. The Thomases. The Roberts. The Annas and the Catherines. And, of course, the Phillips.

This is for all of you people who go through life not really knowing what your name is. I am one of you.

"Hey! How've you been?!"

Her face lit up when she saw me, a genuine 'glad to see you' moment not so long ago from an acquaintance I hadn't seen in quite some time. It didn't take long for the light to turn to confusion, though. Her eyes went from my face, to my name tag dangling from my collar, and back to my face.

"Uh..." she stammered with one of those looks you get when you run up and start babbling to someone you're so excited to see, only to realize seconds later they aren't the person you thought they were at all. They're a complete stranger.

This girl knew me, she just didn't know my name. My first name, that is.


"They put my 'legal' name on my name tag," I explained and watched as the color drained back to her face. "Everybody calls me Mandy."

It's been interesting, these 42 years, living with being called by my middle name. Well, sort of. Amanda's my middle name. I guess it immediately became Mandy when I left the womb. No one's ever told me different.

I got in trouble once in elementary school when the substitute teacher kept calling for Sara and I kept doodling Luke Duke's name in the margin of my notebook paper. Yes, that Luke Duke from the Dukes of Hazzard. I had no idea who this Sara was she was hollering for.

Funny thing was, nobody else in my class knew who Sara was either and I guess the poor substitute thought we were all trying to be smarty pants and she took our recess away.

So everybody hated me because we couldn't go outside and I spent the rest of the day secretly praying Luke Duke would come rescue me away from it all. Only, I didn't know his real name either until some very intellectual fellow fifth grader informed me that Luke Duke's real name was Tom Wopat and if I married him my name would be Mandy Wopat. That sounds just like Wombat - I think we were studying Australia in Geography - so then some of them started calling me Wombat and I swore that if I ever got out of fifth grade I would never go back again, much less to Australia.

I realize now it's rather shallow of me to judge an entire continent based on my experience in the fifth grade, but if you've ever been compared to something that looks like a big rat, has sharp teeth and eats bark, you know how it stings. If Australia would like to take it up with anyone, they can speak to my mother.

"Your parents did that to you too!" another friend said recently when he realized my real name is Sara and my middle name is Amanda only everybody calls me Mandy, except for my mother and husband, who occasionally call me Mamps, which brings a whole new chapter into the identity crisis.

Apparently, his real name is Phillip but hardly anybody knows that except the government and his mother because everybody else calls him Todd.

"I'm so sorry," I commiserated, and we briefly discussed the need for some sort of support group for people who walk around day in and day out not really knowing what their names are - but answering all the same.

Sigh. There are many more important things in life to think about. Many more.

So call me Sara. Call me Amanda. Call me Mandy. I don't really care.

Just don't call me Wombat. I have sharp teeth, you know.

Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.