Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's in a name?

I’ve never had a nickname that stuck for very long other than Breastany in my early years of high school. Puberty was good to me in the boob department, but that moniker became a bit of a cruel joke after I got mono in 10th grade and lost about 15 pounds, most of it in the upper body still never to return. My best high school friends still use this in mass emails and at group reunions, sometimes even going a step further and just using “Breast.” I’ve kept a sense of humor about it all these years. I might as well, because it probably won’t ever go away entirely.

Otherwise, BethyLou is the cutest nickname I’ve ever gotten, but it is especially reserved for my parents, my dad mostly. That one just shortens my middle name, Louise, into my first name. Far too cutesy for anyone who doesn’t see me as a little girl, it’s really only used affectionately by my parents. As I’ve become a real adult, my father simply invoking this name has an immediate calming affect, usually when I’m crying about some big life decision or heartbreak.

I suppose that Beth counts as a nickname for Bethany, and as an obvious shortening that one has had a bit more staying power. As simple as it is, it’s emotionally loaded for me. Only my family and anyone I knew before I was thirteen consistently refer to me as Beth. Once I hit eighth grade I took myself very seriously, and I decided that “Beth Scott” sounded far too simple, and “Bethany Scott” was a much more serious name for a serious adult. And it is a good name, rolls off the tongue quite well, and it’s just unusual enough that I don’t encounter many Bethanys. So I stuck with that.

I never offer Beth as an option, but people often ask if they can use it or just take it upon themselves. I only allow people who I have a good feeling to go forth with this nomenclature. As it happens at introduction or soon after, this is a litmus test for whether or not I feel comfortable with someone immediately. If I read your vibe favorably, I’ll give you permission or allow you to call me Beth without correction. It moves people into a particular realm of intimacy immediately, as if I’m allowing them to become family or old friends just by letting them take three letters off the name on my passport.

1 comment:

  1. bethany.

    im really enjoying reading this. youre so clever and witty.