Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What's in a Name?

My parents blessed me with an astonishing mouthful of a name:  Rochelle Rae Moser.  I have to forgive them for the Moser part, since the surname is something you're given automatically.  Moser's an upstanding German name.  No problems there.  And I got to give that part up anyway for a good old fashioned English surname, Newton, when I got married.

But Rochelle Rae?  The story goes like this:

My mother's original plan for a girl (this was before sonograms) was that she would name me Danielle Renee.  A beautiful name.  A very respectable name.  A name that people are able to say, pronounce and spell.  I love the name Danielle Renee.  In fact, believe it or not, I even considered it when I was pregnant three times, if the babies would ever cooperate and actually be, you know, girls.  (We all know how that turned out, but at least I don't have to worry about teenage daughters stomping to their rooms and slamming the door, or screaming "I hate you!" when I can't afford to buy them the latest Hannah Montana/Miley Cirus gyrating video download.  The worst I get from my boys is a lot of closed doors and silence, but hey, at least they all seem to like me.)

Back to the name story.  My mother's middle name is Rochelle and my dad thought that was a beautiful name.  He wanted alliteration, so my mother proposed Rochelle Renee.  Nope.  That wasn't going to work - he didn't like Renee.  He didn't like Renee?  Why not???  Okay, now I'm whining.  But Rae?  Really?  When you say it, it's a guy's name.  Yeah, I know.  Rae, spelled with an "e," is a girl's name.  But who's going to ask how you spell it?  Rochelle Renee would have been French all the way and how cool would that have been?  But Rochelle Rae it was.

Then things got complicated.  They decided, in their parental bliss, to call me Chelle.  Rochelle is the person who signs the checks to pay the bills.  Chelle is the person that everyone knows.  Here's the problem.  If you tell a person your name is Chelle, they say "...and that's spelled S-H-E-L-L-Y?"  For years, I corrected people.  No, I would say, it's "C-H-E-L-L-E."  And they would say, "S-H...?"  I finally gave up.  People just can't wrap their heads around the fact that Shelly can be spelled with a C.  Oh, and by the way, the "e" on the end has to be pronounced, or then you're just "Shell."  Which, let's face it, I get a lot.

My mom, after being harassed by me for years about my name, finally said, "Just spell it with an "s!"  (Subtitled, stop bothering me about the way we spelled your name.  You're driving me crazy.)  I actually considered it.  When I was a paralegal, I even drafted up the document that would officially change my first name to Shelly.  But something held me back.  Who changes their name because they don't like the spelling?  Apparently, I don't.  I just couldn't do it.  "Shelly" isn't me.

I recently posted up on Facebook to ask people who had never met me how they thought my name was pronounced.  Sure enough, I got a lot of "Shell's."  I even got "Chair."  Chair?  There's a new one on me, but again, the "c" throws people.  Can you see why I never misspell a person's name after I've met them?  Ever?  I know what it's like people!

My dad went his whole life going by his middle name, which he absolutely hated.  When it came time for our first child to be named, we thought Justin Tyler would be cool and, since we wouldn't want to get our first born son confused with his dad, we would call him Tyler.  My dad was horrified.  You can not call your child by his middle name!!!!!  My dad, the person who labeled me with a first name no one can pronounce or spell and a middle name that belongs to a man, was telling us we couldn't do this to a child?

I recently went on a rant about mothers naming their children strange things.  Like Tyrod Taylor, the quarterback for Virginia Tech.  Tyrod?  Seriously?  If you like the name Tyler Rodney, then name the kid Tyler Rodney and call him one or the other.  Don't saddle him with a name that people are going to push his head into the toilet in the boys' bathroom repeatedly for having.  It's just not fair.

Did I get teased about my name?  Yeah...and I'm not going to go there.  I'm still sensitive about it, so don't ask.  In a job interview, someone once asked me what the "R" stood for in my resume.  I'm sorry, but I don't share that information.  I once had a babysitter tell me, "You're spelling your name wrong."  (You're probably thinking, by now, this woman must have issues.  Ya think?) 

Then it hit me that I'm an adult and nobody was going to shove me into a locker because my first name wasn't "spelled right" or because my middle name is pronounced the same way as, say, Ray Charles. 

When it came time to name my children, I wanted names that people could both spell and pronounce.  Easy names.  Every day names, but original.  So we came up with Ben, Jamie, and Joey.  You really can't get those wrong, can you?  Guess what?  You actually can.

There is, apparently, an Hispanic spelling of my middle son's name.  It's J-A-I-M-E.  Who knew???  And I get it all the time.  He gets it all the time.  Oh NO!!!!   I tried.  Jamie, I'm sorry.  I really, really tried.  You can ask my parents and they'll tell you that I named my kids something I thought people could spell, just because I spent my entire life with people not knowing how to spell my name.

I have to say that after forty-six years, I'm pretty happy being "Chelle."  It's unique.  It's different.  I don't know a whole lot of other people with the name.  And it's actually pretty when it's spelled that way.

I think I'm finally okay with Chelle.  Just don't call me Shell.  Or Chair.


  1. Chelle, I know someone who did legally change her name because she didn't like the spelling. She went from "Laura" (which is a beautiful name) to "Lora." Also, while we're on the subject of names, I went by my middle name for 18 years (Dawn) and when I went to college decided to switch to my first name, which was also my grandmother's name. I still have name/identity issues, so this post resonates with me. Good one. :)

  2. I didn't call you chair. I suggested that it was a hard "Ch" sound like chair. The rules of the English language deem that a double "L" makes the following "e" silent. So when people call you "Shell", they are just applying that rule.

  3. Can I call you "Table"? Just kidding. ; )

    I've gotten weird spellings and pronunciations with both my first and last names all my life, but I've always found it entertaining. However, I'm easily amused by pretty much....everything.


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