Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Don't Call Me That!

If you're 35 or under, please don't miss my request at the end of this post!

Sharing the Thanksgiving dinner table with my older brother reminded me of our childhood squabbles and the resulting name-calling. "Fatty-Matty!" (He was and is very lean.) "Christie-Wistie!" (I have no idea why this infuriated me.) This year, we were all very civilized, however, and the taunting centered around people's fantasy football picks. However, what's-in-a-name still hovered in my mind. A few years ago, my aunt gave me some family names from her genealogical research. Some I've used (Riley), some I intend to use (Bashor), some I never will use (Beaver). I remember tales my mom and aunt told of their early years in Pacific Northwest logging towns where they went to school with a girl known only as "Baby Sister." How did that name affect her in life?

When I set out to write my novella set in the Napa wine country, the phrase "original zin" popped into my head. But I wasn't really going to name a character Zinfandel, was I? Nah. My heroine is "Zinnia" named such by hippie parents who met at Woodstock and who named their other offspring Mari (Marigold) and Kohl (wait for it...Kohlrabi). Zinnia Friday is trying to live down the kooky reputation her parents have left with her and the nickname "Flaky Friday" that she was given in school. She's serious, a hardworking overachiever, who has just received her MBA and is working four jobs to pay off her loans as she seeks the perfect position.

Enter serious, hardworking, overachieving businessman John Henry Hudson. His name just popped into my head too. John Henry (yes, he goes by the whole thing) should be pefect for this heroine. Except John Henry has decided to turn over a new leaf and (at least on occasion) stop to smell the (at least now that he's met our Zin). I had so much fun writing this story and those names that just popped into my head became an important element to the characters and their growth. I hope you'll look for the anthology. I've read each of the stories and they're all sexy and fabulous.

Mine still echoes in my head. Would I be a different person if I'd been named Sue or Joan? (Especially as I recall reading a study that women named "Christie" are taken the least seriously!) However, I shouldn't complain. My aunt found an ancestor named "Punkin." No kidding. Not Pumpkin. Punkin. That would make Thanksgiving interesting.

Do you have weird names in your family? Or a name that you'd rather have?

To readers 35 and under: I'm putting together an article about romance readers of that age group for the February issue of BookPage (a publication that goes to libraries and bookstores and also has a web presence at I need your help! If you could answer some questions for me, I'd really appreciate it. Email me at and I'll send them along.


Michele Hauf said...

Oh my gosh! I can see how fun that story could be to write with those fun names! I want to read it now just for those names. (One sale coming right up!)

I love to pick long and regal names for my male characters for some strange reason, and I never shorten them (which drives my editor nuts).

We don't have any weird family names I can think of. I know I feel like my name fits me, but if it's spelled wrong--with 2 l's--then I don't recognize it as my name and think that other Michelle is kind of snooty, actually.

Christie Ridgway said...

::snort:: about the other spelling of your name as kind of snooty. My name can be spelled a lot of different ways, with Ks and Ys etc, and I always see those other ways as personality indicators. The "K" girls are modern and edgy. The "Y" girls are cute and cuddly.

Son2 has a friend named Regina. Now that I've met her, I want to use her name in a book.

Rachel Beithon said...

I have a weird last name, and I know all the people in the world with that last name--quite literally, but most of the first names are pretty normal. At least to me, although there are some very Scandinavian names (Olga, Merritt, Thea, Lena, Ole, etc.), which probably aren't that normal (we had a Norma too).

I used to want to be named Naomi, until I figured out that it was I Moan backwards and that just weirded me out. :-)

Christie Ridgway said...

Rachel: I love your Naomi/Moan story. And have to say I love the name Merritt. The first names in my family (after Punkin) are pretty normal, though my sons' names are names that would work for boy or girl, so they both have masculine middle names, Matthew and John (after my brother and Surfer Guy's uncle). We would have used Surfer Guy's brother's middle name, but it's a family name, Lynn, and would have added to the gender confusion.

Lanae T. said...

We have some interesting names in our family. I for one, am Lanae. Some of the other names over the years are August, Severyn, Lynnard Gilbert, Tasheena, Sharla, CloAnne, Zelda, Faye, Ellis...the list could go on but those are the top ones popping into my mind today.

I always wanted to name my kids Maximillian and Geneena Rose, but my hubby had other thoughts. So, I have Charles & Sheila Raye.

Names can be so fun!

Kathleen O said...

The only name in our family was my grandmother.. She was always called "Nellie", but her given name was Eleanor.. I could never see that. I would think they would have called her Ellie, but hey her family was English and they have some wierd nicknames..
My godfather always called me Sasserapple.. When I got older and I asked why I was called that and the reply was.. "You are always sassy and your cheeks were always rosy, like a shiny apple".. There are worse things I have been called, so guess this was not too bad..

Kathleen Eagle said...

You've got me smiling, Christie!

I remember being called Bean Pole for a time when I was a kid. Otherwise, it was Kathy. As far as I know. Daddy called me Punky. He was the only one who ever called me that, and it made me feel special.

Nicknames were big among my students and in-laws. I just couldn't use most of them. Boo Boo, Fats, Chub, Snoopy, Stinky...and I taught high school. I've always called my kids by their full first names. Elizabth won't answer to anything else except her daddy's pet name for her, which is a derivative of Buffy, which her older brother started and the Eagle side picked up. But they're the only ones who can call her that. Daddy's girls, huh?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Here's a cute one: one of my students was still going by Biz when he was in high school because his mother found him sleeping in a Biz box when he was a tot.

Lanae T. said...

Nicknames are another story. Dad always called us by different names. I have a brother who was called Jake or Tyler. Neither was even close to his real name.

One brother we simply called "Brother". Hard to explain to people why our kids are telling people they have an "Uncle Brother".

I was called Nae Nae or Dizzy Dean. On occasion, Troll. Mom was called Toad. We never figured that one out! lol

Older sister was Sissy for years. Started school not realizing that Sissy wasn't her name.

Helen Brenna said...

I love this topic. Names are so fun to come up with. What I find so interesting is that a can mean one thing to me and the total opposite to another.

I had a great aunt whose real name was Allene, but everyone called her Girl. Not kidding. Just Girl. And it's not like she was the only girl is a family of boys. She had a couple of older sisters. This was my grandpa's sister. Now that I think about it, his nickname was Bunch.

Oh, and the hero in book I'm writing right now is named Riley. It's his last name, but the name everyone knows him by. Fits him, somehow.

Helen Brenna said...

Brother. Too funny, Lanae.

Cindy Gerard said...

Okay. I'll dish. Everyone called me Windy Cindy
Now I ask you ... what was THAT about??? :o)

Christie Ridgway said...

I love all these names. Sasserapple is so dang cute.

And Lanae, I think Maximillian would have been a great name, but I like Charles as well. And there's a Severyn in your family? How cool is that.

Brother and Sissy. I think these kinds of nicknames might have been very common in the past. My mom and my aunt both call me "Sister" at times. Sort of like "honey."

Helen, I love the name Riley.

KylieBrant said...

Gee Cindy, I wonder, LOL!

Great post! Names just pop into my mind, I'm never sure why.

My dad has called my twins (Alison and Justin) Ali-Cat and Justo since they were babies and still does so. I had one uncle who to this day still calls me Kimmy. And my dad used to call me Kimber-Chick. Not sure what that was all about.

Oh and weird family names? My great-great grandfather's middle name was Everhard. That one would be difficult to live down these days.

Cindy Gerard said...

Forgot to add: My dad's middle name was DeVere. have never heard it before or since and it's not a family name.
Our son has always been Kylie-poo - much to his dismay...

Debra Dixon said...

Oh, Christie!

I'm from the South! Weird family names are required. LOL!

But my funniest name story lately happened yesterday in the car on the way to a speaking gig out of town. I'm trying to listen to ONE COWBOY ONE CHRISTMAS by our own Kathleen Eagle.

I was very excited to get it yesterday 'cause when I originally checked the Kindle version wasn't up. So, I'm all settled in, I hit the highway and I hear...

Zatch. Not Zach.

Kindle can pronounce his last name of Beaudry, but it can't get Zack right?? I gave it about 10% of the book and I gave up. I'll read it instead of trying to listen to the speech on Kindle.

This is why peformance audio isn't threatened by Kindle. But if the speech recognition gets better we will disable all our BelleBooks and Bell Bridge titles.

Christie Ridgway said...

Wow, Deb. Like you, I'm shocked it could get Beaudry. But Zatch? I'm thinking, what word ends in "ch" that you actually say with a "tch" that doesn't already end in "tch"?

Brain cannot think of any, though maybe there are many.

april said...

I never loved my name growing up (april), but now I like it even if it is always a loose woman on television. I had no nicknames that stuck.

I'm under 35! For about 6 more months. hahaha

I love the meaning of names even though how they sound will win out every time. I don't like names of people I know when I read or dabble in writing. I think it's weird. Plus, so not sexy if a hero's name is the same as my dad's. I totally found the name of the hero in my last book unsexy (until he did something very sexy and I forgave him his unfortunate name).

Christie Ridgway said...

April: I did not realize that is a loose woman's name! I wanted to name a heroine January once, but the editor didn't like it. I like "month" names, but some just don't work. Say, October.

Yeah, finding your dad's name as the hero's in a romance is not good. And email me if you have time to fill out a short questionnaire about your romance reading!

GunDiva said...

Let's see... besides my name (Shawntel), we've got a Lona (my grandmother), AshLynne LaBrooke(my daughter), Aecian (my cousin-in-law), and Azelyn (my neice). My poor 89 yo grandmother can never spit out the right name, she has to go down the list: "AshLynne, Aecian, know who I'm talking about!"

Azelyn's dad gave her the cutest nickname, Azelnut :)

Keri Ford said...

I always wanted to be a Victoria. A Victoria sounded so bold and sexy. So unlike the very plain Keri.

My grandma's middle name is Devine and I just LOVE it. She hates it.

I wanted to Victoria Devine.Sounds so exotic.

GunDiva said...

Oh, and one of my friends is Squid. I knew Squid for two years before I found out his real name is Michael - I just thought his parents didn't like him.

I think pretty much every family has some odd nicknames, too. We've also got Digger, Ashee-butt, Ninny (my son couldn't say Nelle), and Deejo.

I have to tell you, I had a moment of sadness when I realized that I'm no longer under 35 and can't help you out. When did I get old?

catslady said...

One of my daughter's friends named their new baby Annabelle - I can think of a clown, a cat and a goat with that name lol. (also over 35 sigh)

Christie Ridgway said...

GunDiva: I love Azlenut. Those are some very interesting names in your family. I can see everyone trying to top each other with a cool name for their kid.

Keri: I like Victoria Devine. Pen name?

Catslady, I'm snickering about Annabelle.

Re: those under/over 35. Interesting about the younger readers. It all boils down to every romance fan wanting that one lovely thing: the happy ever after. Age doesn't change that.

Keri Ford said...

hey, that would be a good historical pen name!

Lanae T. said...

Growing up I always wanted to be Genvieve. I thought it sounded sexy and classy and just so much better than my own name.

I have a sibling name Sunnie that I nicknamed SunnieButt! Can't explain that. It just happened.

Kathleen Eagle said...

One of the cool things about being a writer is that you get to name so many people, and you don't have to worry about whether they'll like the name when they're 75 as much as they did when they're 5.

Deb, you got the Kindle version? Cool! Zatch, huh? Sounds like the ranch has been taken over by Dr. Seuss!

Christie Ridgway said...

Keri: There's already a Thea Devine. She writes very spicy stuff. Victoria could be her more repressed sister.

Lanae: How do you say your name? La-nay? La-nay-uh?

Kathleen's right. It's very fun to name characters. Can be a trial if you don't get it right. Will feel off. Zinnia and John Henry just clicked for me.

Aly said...

I have a sister CaraBeth and she doesn't have a middle name. Although we all joke and call her CaraBeth Beth :)

My daughter seems to be the one who gets the nicknames. My husband has called her Poop Machine or Pooper since she was a baby. They have recently made a deal that as long as she doesn't call him Father he won't call her Poop Machine or Pooper!

Also our son couldn't say Delainey when he was younger so he called her Lai Lai. Then threw in her middle name for more fun - he couldn't say that either! So she became Lai Lai Zella (Delainey Gizella). And I don't know of any other Gizella's except for my Oma :)

And although these aren't odd, weird, funny or strange, my husband calls me Sam and I call him Bud - we are Alyson and Brian. This is not an occasional thing either. These are the names we actually had engraved in our wedding bands! LOL!

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, what I've missed all day.

I have a feeling I'll be referring back to this. If you can think of it, there's a nickname for it!

Right, Windy! LOL

Helen Brenna said...

I must confess I always wanted a nickname. What can you do with Helen?

Lanae T. said...

Christie, it's La-nay. Short a, and nae. Funny how many way's I've had it pronounced though.

Helen,...nickname...well, off the name, Hell's Bells. Especially if you are mellow. ;) Would have to know more about you for an appropriate nick name though.

Lady_Graeye said...

I think we have different names in our family. My Granddaughter's name is "TuesDae' Rain." My son's name is Zakary "Kane" which means tribute, fitting for the only boy. My olders daughter are Alexis Sha-nae and Tristan Shaun-te'. So I think we are a unique family.

Christie Ridgway said...

These are all the coolest names! I'm feeling very boring because I can only add that my bro and my dh (Surfer Guy) often call me "Chris." Now there's adventure.

Aly: I love Sam & Bud. That is the kind of special husband/wife connection that makes a relationship.

Last night we were talking with Son2 about what the cousins call his grandparents (not very adventurous either, Grammy, Grampy, etc.). Surfer Guy (the dh) was called "Rodent" by his brother as a kid. "Rode" as he grew up. My nieces and nephew on that side call him "Uncle Rode" or "Uncle Rodeman." Son2 thinks the grandkids will call him "Grandpa Rodeman." Color me appalled. But I suppose it's not up to me!