March 7-13 was Celebrate Your Name week. Established in 1997 by American onomatology hobbyist Jerry Hill, Celebrate Your Name Week (CYNW) is a week for embracing and celebrating your name.
Before you say, “Why would I want to celebrate my name?” think about this--your name identifies you. It is the one thing that will be in your life now and forever. It can define your ethnicity, your heritage, how you look at yourself, and sometimes how others look at you. If you hate your name you can change it, but the original moniker will still be on your birth certificate. Your name will be used throughout your life to identify you in a myriad of ways: on your driver’s license, bank accounts, health accounts, mortgage deeds, insurance policies, social media accounts, professionally, and friends and family will say your name hundreds of thousands, or even millions of times, over the course of your life.
Think about your name or names if you have a middle one. Do you know what they mean? Do you know how you got them? Do you know how long it took your parents to decide on what to name you? How important was your name to those who named you? Have you ever wanted to change your name, and if so why? How did that change work out for you?
I know the answers to a few of those questions. My birth names mean pure and peace. I was named after both of my grandmothers, whose names at the time of my birth were very old-fashioned. My aunt Ella, on my father’s side, always addressed me by my first and my middle names. I suppose she didn’t want me to forget my paternal grandmother, whom I never met. I can still recall my aunt’s voice addressing me. She was the only one who ever called me by both names and somehow it became extra special to me.
I don’t know how long it took my parents to decide on my name or whether they had chosen it before I was born or after. Back then you had to have male and female options, since the gender was a surprise until the baby arrived.
I do know that it was very important to my mother that people called me Catherine, not Cathy. While in high school I shortened my name to Cathy and introduced myself that way at school. Catherine was too long to write on homework papers and very old-fashioned at the time. I wanted to be hipper back then. At church, and in front of my mother, I was always Catherine.
That dichotomy caused me a lot of problems. Although I cautioned any boy to whom I gave my home phone number to ask for Catherine—not Cathy, they invariably forgot. When Mom got to the phone before I did, which was often since she had a phone beside her easy chair, I’d hear, “Sorry, there’s no one here by that name.” Then she’d hang up the phone and glare at me. I lost a lot of potential boyfriends and dates that way. One icy answer from my mother and they never called back. I think they thought I’d given them the run-around with a wrong number. As the years went by, I grew out of my Cathy phase and now I have to correct people when they shorten my name. I still answer to Cathy at my high school reunions. Mom’s not around anymore to glare at me in disapproval and it’s just easier for those few hours to answer to the nickname.
My grandmother was called Cat by her brothers. I used to think that was a horrible nickname and cringed whenever I heard her addressed that way. When my nieces and nephews came along, Cat was easier to say than Catherine, so I adopted Grandma’s nickname. It shocked the heck out of my family when I gave those babies the okay to call me Cat. Now I’m Aunt Cat to all of them. I now eschew the high school nickname I gave myself and love the birth name I once hated. Ain’t life funny?
When I began my fiction-writing career, I changed my name again. I kept my first name, because I like it a lot now. I’ve grown into it. I also thought keeping my first name would be less confusing at writing conferences. If someone called me Nancy, I might think they were talking to another person and unintentionally ignore them. That would be bad. I did, however, choose a different last name—one that would fit easier on a book cover and had a nice alliteration to my first name. My pen name is Catherine Castle. With that name change I became an author of sweet and inspiration romance.
I still remember the first time a stranger in a bookstore asked, “Are you Catherine Castle?”
Startled, I looked at her and said, “Yes, I am.” No one had ever recognized my author persona before and I wondered how she knew me.
She must have seen the question in my gaze because she said, “I recognize you from your picture on your website.”
I left the bookstore with a big grin on my face that lasted for several hours. A complete stranger knew who Catherine Castle, the author, was!
Shakespeare wrote, in Romeo and Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…" This popular quote is often used to imply that it didn’t matter that Romeo’s name was associated with the house of Juliet’s family’s sworn enemy.
I suggest that your name does matter and that your name affects who you are. A boy named Sue will have a very different life than one named Chauncy. So if you love your name, or are just indifferent to it, embrace it. Take a few minutes this week to celebrate your name. Find out everything you can about your name. Dig into its history. You might be surprised as to why you are named what you are and how your name has made you who you are.
If you need to change your name for some reason, choose wisely. In the Bible, when a name change happened it often reflected some new aspect of one’s life, a thing that changed them and defined their new life paths. Your name can define you, too. So make your new name a good one.
Celebrate name week—Celebrate!
Catherine Castle is very picky about how she chooses the character names for her books. She once wrote an entire book inserting the name Mother 2 into the pages because she couldn’t think of the right name for that antagonist character. Her critique partners thought it was a real hoot, but when she finally came up with Mother 2’s name—Tiberia—they all agreed it fit her perfectly.
In her book A Groom for Mama, she named one of the characters in honor of a dear friend who battled cancer. Here’s a peek at the blurb.
Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes, she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.
The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.
A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.