They were a group of girls. Young compared to me. The oldest had been in college for a mere two years, the rest were freshman age. They were discussing naming their future children and I was eavesdropping.
“I will not give my child a common name,” one declared. “I had to be Casey C. in every class because there was always another Casey.” The others nodded their heads knowingly.
“There were at least two other Katie’s in all my classes,” someone contributed.
“At least you’re not another Jennifer.” Someone offered and everyone agreed.
“I want to give my child a unique name.” Casey C. asserted.
Uh, oh. I sensed a small wave of children going to be born with highly unusual names that they will grow up having to explain and pronounce for people. I feel sorry for all the McKayleigh’s and Cameal’s and every other child born to a parent who learned to read by using Hooked on Phonics. If I had known the girls, I would have jumped in at that moment to make a plea for their unborn children. But I didn’t, so I will now.
First, let me explain why I’m so passionate about this. My parents thought they were going to be blessed with another son because, “Lee’s have boys.” They had a very cool name picked out for me, James Jack after both grandpas. With that name I would fit right in with the rest of the family. All my siblings are named after someone in the family. My brother is a junior, my older sister received both grandma names, and my little sister’s middle name is Jacklyn. However, when I was born, I lacked a very important component to carry the name chosen for me. My parents had to quickly come up with a girl’s name. They decided on “Corina,” a name of a girl in my brother’s first grade class (my brother one time added the adjective ugly and I have never forgotten). They didn’t know how to spell it so they guessed. For my middle name, they chose “Kay” the name of a daughter of close friends. While the rest of my family has traditional stalwart names, I have been the oddball.
I am very sensitive to how my name is pronounced. The wrong pronunciation is like fingers down a chalkboard. In grade school, the first day always began the same, with roll call. By second grade, I recognized when the teacher came to my name. First, a studious pause. Then the attempt, “Cor- Cor- Cor-in.”
“Corina,” I would help out.
“Core-in-a?” The teacher would be studying my name on paper instead of making eye contact with me.
“Cur-ee-na.” I would correct.
“Core-ee-na?” Another attempt. Closer, except for the fact it has to be pronounced with a Wyoming drawl.
“Cur- ee-na.” This is when the instructor would move on. One college professor called me Core-in-a for the whole semester despite many attempts to correct him.
Unlike Casey C., I never had to go by Corina L. In first grade, I shared turf with a Katrina which confused the class. They called me Katrina and her Corina. Neither one of us appreciated it. I had a missionary companion named Corinne. That was the closest I came to sharing my name, but it didn’t matter since we used our last names.
There is never a “Corina” option when picking out personalized souvenirs. That doesn’t stop me from looking. I like to see how close I can get to my name. Recently, I found a “Corrine” key chain, but my name is three syllables, one letter each.
One Christmas season, my mom found cute personalized snowman ornaments. She got one for each of us. Everyone’s ornament displays their first name except for mine. My snowman proudly reads our surname, “Lee.”
My grandpa’s wife once made macramé door hangings for all the younger grandchildren. She made it with our favorite color and glued down the middle was our name in big, white letters. Imagine my surprise when I opened mine and saw, “Corena” down the middle. I feel sorry for my mom who had to work hard that Christmas morning to keep the peace between an ungrateful grandchild and a step-grandma who spent a lot of time working on a gift. Mom painstakingly took off the “e” and tried to make it an “i.” So my Christmas present always had a glue spot in the middle in the shape of an “e” and an “i” that didn’t really look at all like an “i.” I never cared for that door hanging.
I always like getting something with my name on it. Spelled correctly, of course. Over the years, I have acquired a few personalized things but they had to be specially ordered and cost a little extra. For awhile, I tried going by the nickname “Cori,” but only if it was spelled with an “i” not a “y.” I didn’t like the name Cory, but Cori suited me (I’ve always appreciated Anne with an “e” in Green Gables). But Cori is just as uncommon as Corina.
So my advice to expectant parents is be careful and be nice. Just because something sounds cool or pretty at the moment, doesn’t mean you have to burden your kid with it. Picture your kid six years from now at recess. Is he going to have to spend his free time defending his name? Is she going to have to learn the whole alphabet to spell her name? Just think about it, that’s all I ask. In 20 years, your kids may thank you for it.
Originally posted June 13, 2013