News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

March 12, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Not every other name smells sweet as a rose

TERRE HAUTE — It was either Romeo or Juliet who said, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Unfortunately, a good many of us don’t particularly like the name bestowed upon us at birth. Some of us take refuge in a nickname and others go to court as soon as they can afford to do so and pick their own name.

I’m open about Elizabeth, although the name on my birth certificate reads “Elizabethann” — all one word. Apparently my parents were exhausted by the effort so did not give me a middle name. I tried to explain this for years and was frustrated trying to cram all that into the little bit of space allotted on forms requesting my full name. So, I arbitrarily made “Ann” a middle name. It gave me a middle name like everyone else, and Mom and Dad seemed OK with it.

I have a cousin who went the cute route. Rua, my cousin, married a young man whose last name was “Harris.” When their daughter was born, they named her “Scarlet O.”

It got a few laughs, but Scarlet wasn’t amused and as soon as she got old enough to appeal to the courts, Scarlet O became “Sandra.” I don’t know how Rua took the change and, as for Scarlet’s father, he was long since left by the wayside in a divorce court. Maybe he didn’t get the joke either.

I know of another couple who named their daughter “Montana.” That is an attractive word and, I’m told that Montana is a beautiful state, but kids inevitably get tagged with a nickname and there doesn’t seem to be anyplace to go with Montana.

My Grandma stuck with good old names for her three sons, but went off track when it came to middle names. Dad was named for his father so someone else had chosen “Dominic” as his middle name, but Grandma let loose with Uncle Jim whose middle name was “Hartsell” and Uncle William who drew “Leonidas.” I never asked how they felt about it. Maybe Rua was on the family radar with Scarlet O?

Maybe a rose with any other name would smell as sweet, but if we called a rose a skunk cabbage, I, for one, would not want to sniff it to find out.

Liz Ciancone is a retired

Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to opinion@tribstar.com.

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