August 25th, 2006



What does your name say about you? Do you think it reflects who you are or who you've become? Are you able to get past the popular associations that load it down?

When we were choosing names for our children, besides wanting them to be names we liked and felt comfortable with, we also had the requirement that they work both in America and in Sweden. Thus, no names starting with J since in Swedish J is pronounced with a Y sound. I dwelt lovingly over lists of names in baby name books, but the MEANINGS didn't weigh that much with our final decisions, and good thing, since they couldn't be farther off. Martin Wallace, after all, is no warrior, Welsh or otherwise, and Karin? It's a Swedish variant of Katherine, which means pure. And her middle name, Linnéa**, is a pretty pink flower.

From what my mother tells me, I wasn't named for anyone, despite the fact that my paternal grandmother's middle name is the same as my first one. She claims that they just let the old lady think that in order to keep the peace, but that actually they just liked it. There's no telling how much influence a certain major Hollywood star had. But either way I didn't start out by answering to the name that I was given. Since my father liked Lisa best and my mom liked Elizabeth, they compromised by naming me the second, but calling me the first. My middle name, Ann, seems to have been chosen solely for the fact that it goes well with Elizabeth.

That lasted until I came home from the first day of Kindergarten and declared that there were 5 Lisas in my class and that was too many; henceforth I would please to be known as Liz. I suppose I thought I couldn't pick Beth since I had a close cousin (also Elizabeth) who was nicknamed that. It wasn't long before my dad was calling me Lizard, though.

I thought Elizabeth sounded too old-fashioned and too LONG. And in addition, it wasn't UNIQUE. In fact, it's one of the most popular girl's names of all time, not having dropped out of the Top 25 in the last 150 years. What seems strange to me, though, is that I rarely run into other women named Liz. Lisa was FAR more common in my generation, it seems. Even in the nearly 10 years I've been a member of the American Women's Club here, out of nearly 300 members past and present, there has only been one other Liz and one other Elisabet (from Iceland). There have been, however, 5 Lisas and 1 Liza. I may not often run into them in real life, but Liz's are certainly well represented in the blogosphere.

So, does the meaning of my name reflect who I am? From the Greek Ελισαβετ (Elisabet), a transliteration of the Hebrew אֱלִישֶׁבַע (Elisheva), meaning "consecrated to God" or "oath of God" or "God's promise"?...hrm. I don't think so. (more about exactly what promise my name refers to)

Famous Elizabeths? Well, aside from the obvious one, there are lots of them, among them a slew of royalty and sainthood. If you add in all the gazillion short forms of Elizabeth, that's a big group of famous people, none of whom I feel particularly like, although there are some I am more partial to, including Bishop, Barrett Browning, and Bennet.

In summary my name is saintly, royal, ubiquitious, old-fashioned, literary and a lot to live up to. Does that sum me up? Well,...halfway, anyway. I'll leave it to the discerning reader to figure out WHICH half. :P

*Audrey Hepburn
**It actually means linden or lime tree.
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