Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's in a Name?

I was out and about in the blogosphere recently visiting old friends and exploring new territories. I zipped around reading, admiring photos and leaving comments. I came to my sixteenth stop of the day, preparing to leave an intellectual comment so the host would know I really had taken the time to read their post when I stopped dead in mid-typing. Quite a few people had already left comments and as I read through I noticed that another person named 'Deb' had already left a comment. And then another ... and believe it or not, a third 'Deb' had commented. And this is only one more reason why I hate my name. Once again I felt unoriginal and just another girl born in the 1950's who gets lost in the masses and who happens to think she has the most boring name EVER.

I decided to do a little research on the name ' Debbie'. There are currently 240,816 people in the U.S. with the first name Debbie. 99 % are females. It is a form of the name 'Deborah' or in my case 'Debra'. It means bee but I always tell people it means queen bee which helps in my quest to have a special name. I found a survey page which says the name is only mispronounced 11% of the time. No comment. Survey says people only misspell the name 9% of the time ~ this would include my darling husband of thirty years who wrote my name on a score sheet for a card game we were playing. I looked at what he had written - twelve times. I went to get my glasses. I cleaned my glasses. He had written 'Debby'. I thought he was having a medical emergency since HOW IN THE WORLD COULD HE NOT KNOW HOW TO SPELL MY NAME AFTER THIRTY YEARS OF MARRIAGE?! A fight ensued but long story short ~ the explanation was that he never writes 'Debbie' ~ he always writes 'Deb' - which is true but still. I bet if my name was Angelina or Halle or Goldie he would be able to write my name correctly. But I am over all that and ready to move on. Honey, you spell that D-e-b-b-i-e and I have a long memory.

Now at this point I need to tell you what my maiden name was so that you have a clear understanding of my name issue. My maiden name was Smith. Yep, Debbie Smith. Zzzzzzzz !!

Now I have a few Debbie Smith stories and if I had a dime for every time I heard 'That can't be your real name," I would be a rich girl. But I will share the story with you which made me truly dislike my name.

I was a freshman in college and lived in an all girl dorm. This was back in the prehistoric days when if a girl had a male visitor he had to stop at the desk in the lobby and the girl would be called down to meet her male visitor. She could walk him back to her room but the door to the room had to remain open.

It was a Saturday night and I was just hanging out in my room. The buzzer goes off and I hear, "Debbie Smith, please come to the lobby. You have a male guest." I looked at my roommate and asked her if I had heard correctly. I, Debbie Smith, had a male visitor? I never had male visitors. "Yes," she screamed. And soon the hallway was full of my friends all curious to see who was here to visit Debbie Smith. Well, I can assure you no one was more curious than I. I ran my fingers through my hair, thought about putting on a bra but no real need plus I had recently burnt them all. My friends shoved me to the metal door at the end of the hall which separated me from my male guest. There was this little window in the door so we could peek out to see who was standing at the lobby desk. Twelve of us were on tippy toe trying to check out mystery man. At that point we tumbled into the door and the whole pile landed, ungracefully, in the lobby. Nice. By the time I gained my composure my friends had vanished, leaving me standing there with the mystery male guest and the front desk clerk.

"Hi," I said meekly, wondering who the heck this guy was and vowed right then and there to stop drinking so much at fraternity parties.

"Hi. Who are you?" he asked.

"I am Debbie Smith."

"No, you aren't." He started to look for the closest exit.

"Yes, I am. " Now I am positive that I am having an out of body experience ~ and I am not sure why.

" I met a Debbie Smith last night at a frat party and she told me she lived in Monadnock Hall."

"Well. I am Debbie Smith. I was at a frat party last night and I do live here in Monadnock Hall." What the heck. Is this some one's idea of a joke? Not funny.

" You don't look like the Debbie Smith I met last night." Well, you don't look like the male mystery guest I have been fantasizing about for the whole semester either! What exactly are you saying buster? So you had a few too many the previous night and I looked better when you were under the influence? Slime ball. I could feel my neck veins starting to pulse and I was biting the inside of my cheek - bad sign.

I couldn't resist. "What did the Debbie Smith look like that you met last night?" Ah, Debbie, Debbie, Debbie - will you never learn?

"She had brown long hair. " I just pointed at my brown long hair. I decided to not make this easy for this male mystery slime guest.

"Um, she wore blue jeans." Hey, Einstein, that's all any of us wore in 1975. No help from me. I decided to let him squiggle a bit more since he could barely contain his disappointment that I was Debbie Smith.

" I guess, well, she wasn't as skinny as you." Ah-ha. His fantasy Debbie Smith had meat on her bones in all the right places and didn't go by the nickname 'Skinny Minny'.

At this point the front desk clerk pipes in. "You must be talking about the other Debbie Smith who lives on the third floor."

"What?" We both turned and stared at her.

"Yeah, there is a new transfer student who just moved in on the third floor. I bet that is who he is looking for."

I could see the relief on his face. I hoped he could see anything but the hurt that was threatening to squirt out of the corners of my eyes.

"Well, there you go. Mystery solved. Hope you have a good time with the real Debbie Smith," and I turned to walk back to my room, not wanting to hear anymore or to see the real Debbie Smith.

So...I once asked my mom why she had to pick such an ordinary name for her daughter. She defended her choice but then went on to tell me that it had been a toss-up between Debbie and Zilla. Right. I can totally understand why that must have been a hard call since those names have so much in common ~ NOT!

I have now been watching my children go through the name game as they prepare for the arrival of their children. No one has asked me for my advice but if they ever asked me 'What's in a name?' I would say 'Everything.' And now I am going to practice writing the new name I might consider for myself ~ Debzilla. It has a certain flair to it, don't you think?


Natalie said...

I LOVE Debzilla! ha,ha,ha!.
Poor you, I smiled and cringed, and wanted to bop your Hubby - or is that Hubbie?
Wonderful post.

Maggie May said...

I really enjoyed that post.
The name Deborah was very frequently used when my children were young! I have always liked it!

My name was very common when I was young, but is hardly ever used to name young people these days, so you can imagine how confused I was recently to find out that there is another Maggie May in cyber land who comes form California and she is young!
On one blog people were visiting me & thanking me for comments that I hadn't left! It was then that I started investigating and realized what had happened! On some sites my Japanese thingummy doesn't show up! Just my name & that is where the confusion lies..... cos the same thing happens to her on these sites where just names are left!
I thought someone had stolen my identity!

Momma Miller said...


So, I don't normally laugh out loud at posts. I mean, seriously, with like 150 blogs in my reader and three very young children, ya gotta really get me worked up to laugh out loud. But here I am at almost 1am (all three babies and hubby asleep) and I was totally laughing out loud. This is GREAT stuff, here. Thanks!


ssskip said...

Great post, Zilla! I've gone through the same situation, having a vanilla name such as "Matt Jones." I gave myself an accidental nickname in high school -- "Skippy" -- accidentally, that became my name to a lot of people.

I once had to appear in court over a traffic ticket. My attorney sternly approached me in the lobby and said, "Is there something you didn't tell me about that night? Like a lot of somethings?" The court had mixed my paperwork with another Matt Jones...same middle initial, same court, same day.

The greatest thing about common last names is being able to show up at any Jones (Smith, for you) family reunion, and claim you're family. Eat up!

The worst part is that inevitable question: "Hey, are you related to _______ Jones?" Um, no.

I guess we got the best of both worlds out of our wedding when I married a "Smith" girl. The Smith-Jones wedding inspired smiles in name alone.

Rock on, Zilla!

Melissa said...

I like my first name!!

And I'm thankful I'm not having to pick out baby names right now :)

Beverly said...

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet."

Oh girl, you had me in the floor laughing. Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.

And, I know we would still love you by any other name, but we've learned to love you with Deb.

I have a Deborah cousin born in the fifties, but she only goes by Deborah.

pink dogwood said...

Just what I needed this Monday morning - this is just hilarious. and sure Debzilla sounds great :)

Akelamalu said...

That was a great post Deb! Your name may be common but you are definitely NOT! :)

Daryl said...

It could have been worse .. you could have been Daryl and spent all your time explaining you were not a man ... sigh....

Margaret's Ramblings said...

I was called by my second name of Nan, why I don't know. My first name of Margaret was fine. I got nanny goat, grandma and many others. Yes a name is important.

But there is one advantage to having a name that brings problems, you get to develop a sense of humour and Debbie, you got it in spades. LOL


Marg said...

Too Funny!
That's hilarious. Keep your real name, but sometimes in blog world, you can do what you like and we'll all understand.
My last name was not Smith, but Schmidt. A good old German name.
And I vowed I would never keep it, because in school they all cheered me on saying "Go Schmidt Shit"
Now I prefer my new name. It's much nicer and has a European ring.
Loved your story. You are a great writer.

Brian Miller said...

funny. i grew up in a town with several other brian millers which was all fine except my mom was a teacher. any time one got in trouble word got back...yeah. names speak volumes. great post debzilla.

MarmiteToasty said...

oh those children of the 50s ;) - in my class at school there were 3 Julie Smiths, and 3 other Julies.... but only one me LOL - oh how I longed in those days to be a plain boring Julie Smith..


Willow said...

But Deborah is not as common now so I named my dd Deborah in the mid 70s and there aren't so many of you now.

HOWEVER, My husband has a very common name and just today I had to explain that no, my husband was not born in 2005 and that his prescription WAS covered by his insurance.

One reason I use Willow as my blog name is that it is less common than my real one...

Obviously I really enjoyed reading this post.

SandyCarlson said...

Debzilla is a wonderful name. I suppose the counterpart could be Debarella.

My name is so common there is a Sandy Carlson club out there. Creeps me out. The other reality check is finding a zillion of my name on Facebook (a weird world unto itself, so it magnifies the creepiness).

I gave my daughter a name that is not common. She regrets it only when she can't find personalized pens and toothbrushes in the store. She's little enough yet to notice that. Some day, maybe she'll be glad!

imbeingheldhostage said...

I LOVE debzilla-- wow the images that conjures!! And I really can sympathize, my sister married...

John Smith.

Louise said...

Debzilla. That's hilarious!

I'm torn about names. Mine is mildly common (my freshman year in high school, I lived in a dorm, and for a time there were THREE of us on the short hall), but not like Deb or Jennifer. I gave my kids quite UNCOMMON names (for Americans), and I hope they don't hate me for it. Mispronounced? 99%. Misspelled? 99.9% of the time. No, that isn't researched (or I didn't look it up), but it's what we've experienced. I think a lot of people hate their name no matter if it's common or uncommon.

GREAT story. Excellent writing!

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