What’s in a name?

I’ve been doing a series of conversational starter questions with a couple of French clients, and one of them is ‘talk about three names you go by’ – firstly, explaining ‘to go by’ isn’t easy in French, it’s more kind of ‘respond to the name of’. Secondly, it reminds me of a funny thing that happened this week.

In England, giving my full name has always been a nightmare. It sounds like Emily, and a lot of people think that’s what I say, even though I say it in two distinct parts and add ‘and that’s L double E’ to explain the spelling of my surname, which kind of distinguishes it from LEIGH (à la Vivien) at the same time as making it clear it’s a surname.

In France, I don’t have to do that. They look at me confused when I say I am called Emma. I don’t know why. It’s a perfectly popular name. It’s said the same way.

I’ve been doing a lot of form-filling this week and I realised a lady had written down Emma Lit instead. It’s perfectly plausible. Emma Bed. Or Emma Reads. I like Emma Reads. I’m not so fond of Emma Bed. Emma Reads is kind of true to life and appropriate.

From now on, I would like to be addressed as Emma Reads in English, as it is less confusing than my own name.

Many people call me Emily, and Steve, who likes to make up ridiculous names for people, made up the Emma Milly-Lily Lee thing. Of course, that’s my facebook name and it has been for a while. I thought about changing it, since facebook is all grown up now and you can’t choose a crazy name easily (although it didn’t stop me changing my name and profile picture to that of a friend, driving them completely crazy because it looked like they were writing things on people’s pages, and it was really just me… fun until he did the same and it descended into chaos and insults from there) Some people call me Lilian or Lil, even so.

A couple of newer friends even thought that crazy concoction of names was my real name. Lucky for me, my name is not such a mouthful. I can’t believe they truly thought someone would be unfortunate enough to have such a terribly difficult (and girly!) name.

Still, there are other names I go by, besides Lilian and Lily and Emma and the likes.

One of those is of course Lady Justine, which is a long-standing pseudonym from back in the day when I used to find fun with a certain friend in hiding out in chatrooms and seeing if we could cause mayhem. That was all fine until he signed me up for a Christian dating website for Christians who want to date people with mental health issues. I never found out if he advertised me as a Christian or a crazy.

Hence, Lady Justine’s blog. Something of a pseudonym.

Of course, I still answer to “Miss” as a throwback to my in-school days.

I was not the only one with a silly name though. My students had lots of silly nicknames as well. I love it that I’m not the only silly one around here. Though it got a bit tricky when I was trying to explain why we call my sister Nappy Girl and Happy Girl (from Abigail) and why I call my brother Bert when he’s really called Alastair.

It’s certainly one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had for a while, and, I suspect, the one that told me most about my students!




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