The name game

Our names define us, just as every noun eventually replaces a real thing with a concept of it.

If you don’t believe this, there’s a new study that hints our names are tied to fundamental aspects of our life and accomplishments, such as grades.

As for me, I have always felt a sense of heaviness associated with my name. “Marion” — heavy on consonants, it ends with one, and has that dreaded, mournful “o” just before an equally melancholy “n.”

As a child I longed to be “Rose” and even as a young adult, wanted a simple, more symmetrical name. For a time, I used the pen name “Anna Baker.” Now, that name seems to reflect the naivete and hopefulness of that time in my life, when I was really beginning to think of myself as a “Writer.” I’m glad I didn’t draw up papers.

These days, I am especially drawn to the name “Hines,” which was my grandmother’s maiden name. It is light to speak, with the sunny “i” sound that’s surrounded by an “n” so it’s not too irritating. and it ends with a graceful “es.” Blackburn has always seemed lumbering and cumbersome and don’t get me started on “Phifer.”

Yet, I am a product of two distinct currents: The Marion Hines current, which represents my mother’s side of the family, the Colonial Dames and all their would-be refinements. On the other, Blackburn, side, are the hard-scrabble Scots-Irish who struck out in the early 1800s to settle in the most difficult surroundings possible — Appalachia. There, they would struggle for food, housing and survival, but they’d gain something even more valuable: Freedom from other people’s meddling.

I still carry both of those influences and some quite deeply. I sometimes feel my grandmother’s frou-frou love of beautiful things and can spot fine furniture at 100 paces. At the same time, I am stubborn and fierce about doing things my way, the hard-hardheadedness that’s so infuriating about the Blackburns.

Today, I still carry my given names … and all that they represent. A new name can never rewrite who I am and where I came from.

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