Before you ask about my name — please don’t.

How I got my name

Personal names are something that we are pretty much stuck with. Our parents chose them. We are legally identified by them. They follow us everywhere.

In the part of America where I grew up, babies were given a first name, a middle name, and the last name of their father, if the parents were married.  Mine were.  Often the first name for a girl would be chosen from one of her grandmothers’ names.  Often the first name for a boy would be the father’s name, making the boy baby a “junior” or “the Third”, etc., with that name.

My first name was chosen to honor my mother’s best friend.  In all my life, I only met one other person who had the same name as I did.

How my name became a problem for me

When I started school, the nightmare began.  No one had ever heard of my name. (Before you ask about my name – please don’t.)

Children’s name tags (Pinterest)

In many schools, children’s names are printed on paper or card stock by teachers and taped to the children’s desks. In some schools, children must wear nametags or signs draped around their necks with their names printed on them. Children’s school work is identified by their names written at the top or bottom of each page. Children are called on in class by name to answer questions or carry out teachers’ instructions.

In every single school, in every single class, I had to explain my name to one or more people.  I soon wished I had some other name – a “normal” name that no one would focus on.  I would think to myself:  “Before you ask about my name – please don’t.”  I hated introducing myself.  Children and adults alike made fun of my name.

In the 1950s, there was a popular television show about a hero dog, called “Rin-Tin-Tin.”  This was the most common response to my introducing myself.  Each person thought he or she was the only one who saw the connection.  Ha ha.  Very funny.

The “name nightmare” continues

As adults, our names appear on our driver’s licenses, state or provincial identification cards, tax bills, credit cards and loan papers, voting records, mail boxes, and on and on – hundreds or even thousands of documents and forms.

Whenever we try to carry out some intention, the first thing we are asked for is our name. When you apply for a job, volunteer for an organization, ask for an appointment with a doctor, sign up for a class, or even sit down to play cards with people, you are asked for your name.

And that is when the nightmare returns, for me and many others like me who have unusual names or names perceived as “foreign”.

My name is frequently spelled wrong.  I have to spell it our, letter by letter, in any official situation where there is oral communication.

Official:  Name?
Me:  Laurinda Porter
Official:  L-O-R-I-N-D-A?
Me:  No.  L-A-U-R-I-N-D-A.
Official:  Oh, I never heard of that.  Where did you get that?
Me:  –Sigh–

When I am asked for my name in an informal situation, I reply, “My name is Rin, R-I-N.”  I think to myself:  Before you ask about my name — please don’t.

Inevitably, I receive the following responses: “Oh, like Rin-Tin-Tin. Ha ha.” “What’s that short for?” “What’s your REAL name?” “Where did you get that name?” “Spell that again?” “Is that a nickname?”

My internal thoughts: “Really? Do you think you’re the first person who ever thought of that? Why do I have to explain my name? Why is it any of your business? Can’t you just accept it?”

It has reached the point in recent years where I avoid new situations because I don’t want to have to deal with it. I am 70 years old. I have been asked these stupid questions since I went to kindergarten 65 years ago. I’m really sick of them.

When people persist, I just go silent, or I say, “Please, just accept it. It’s my name.”

When I go to Starbuck’s for coffee or to a restaurant where you have to give your name to be put on a list for a table, I give my name as Ann. It’s simple, clear, and not unusual. No one asks me to spell it. No one asks me what it’s short for. No one makes dumb jokes about it. I breathe a sigh of relief and wait for my turn to come up.

How I deal with other people’s names

Children’s name tags (Pinterest)

I NEVER ask anyone about his or her name. I just make sure I am pronouncing it right and move on. I assume that someone with an unusual name has experienced the same kinds of stupid questions and dumb remarks from other people that I have.

Why don’t people think before they speak? I don’t know. At my bridge group (which numbers over 50 people), I have to play cards with people I haven’t met  almost every week. All of us are senior citizens. All of us have lived a long time and experienced stupidity and rudeness from many sources. Yet, every one of them asks me the same questions every time I introduce myself.

Pretty soon I’m going to become Ann just to get through the afternoons at bridge.

Why it makes me mad to be asked constantly about my name

Why do I become so irritated about it? Because it goes on and on. It’s not just one person doing it. It’s the 65 years, day after day, person after person, singling me out as different, as “other”, as abnormal, that ticks me off.

Every day for 23 years of school, college, and graduate study. Every day as an adult.




Before you ask about my name — please don’t.

I don’t like having to explain myself in every new interaction. Why should I have to do this? Why can’t I be accepted without an explanation?

So please. Take my advice. When you meet someone, don’t make ANY remarks about his or her name. Just say, “It’s nice to meet you.”

You will make someone’s day. You will make MY day.



Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017 Laurinda Porter
Acknowledgements: Town and Country Magazine image, Pint more...

22 thoughts on “Before you ask about my name — please don’t.”

  1. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience this. It drives me crazy when people can’t spell my name, even when it’s already written out for them because I’ve just emailed them, (I will never be Kristy, even when the spellcheck says I should!), but I had never thought about the unwanted questions that people with more unusual names are asked. That isn’t fair. In my class at school, there were three people with the same name. I was always glad that mine was a bit different, because I didn’t really want to share it with anyone in the class 🙂 However I can see now that people with less common names don’t always have it easy either.

  2. With the plethora of unusual names, along with our wonderful multicultural nation, it must be driving (teachers) a bit crazy. I have a common name, but was given no middle name and that bothered me as a child. So I made one up. But I had a difficult last name and endlessly had to correct the spelling for whomever needed it, along with their questions to me about its origin, etc. Tiresome, yes.

    Currently, I’m becoming aware of how personal pronouns effect my viewpoint and also helps in other ways. For instance, here is the above, changed:

    With……this wonderful… The name given by my parents…and that was bothersome as a child. So one was made up. The last name…questions about its origins.

    This is a simplistic example, but self-identification is a tool of abuse and self-judgement, too often, at least in ‘my’ experience. Somehow learning to not self-speak constantly is making critical thinking more open and warmer.

    Apology for taking this off-topic.

  3. I’m impressed with how you have navigated around your name, using “Ann” in certain situations—brilliant! But I love your official name, Laurinda. It’s so poetic and feminine, but yes, the spelling challenges it brings would be pretty irritating! As you grow older, you may appreciate your shortened name more. It is unusual, to be sure, but in a good way!

  4. Touching post.

    As a child and teen you have a strong need to fit in with your peers. You were probably perfectly accepting of your name (which is pretty by the way) until someone joked about it. Isn’t that the way?

    I have an unusual first name in that I have never personally met anyone with the same name. There are plenty on Facebook (yes I checked) but they are strangers around the world. People have spelt it with a “V” and an “F” and acted confused when I informed them it is spelt “Ph” followed by “like the word phone/photocopier/ photographer”!!

  5. Funny, I always liked your name (“Rin,” I wasn’t aware of “Laurinda” – which is also nice) and never thought “Rin-Tin-Tin.” Maybe it’s because I never watched that show. Anyway, I can see how it must get so tiring to keep having to explain yourself. I wonder if your namesake had the same problem. My name is spelled a bit differently, but as long as isn’t for anything official, I let people spell it anyway they want – life is easier that way. People used to say, “as in Janis Joplin?” and I’d say, “yes, I was named after her.” Of course that couldn’t have happened since I was born before she was popular, but that seemed to satisfy them.
    Janis recently posted…GratiTuesday: Here Comes the Rain AgainMy Profile

    1. Hi Janis,
      You and I have similar experiences. I like your way of dealing with your questioners. Lots of us remember Janis Joplin and this mention of her is an effective way of ending the topic!

  6. Hi Rin. I wrote a rather long (for me) comment earlier, but it seems to have been lost in space (commentluv didn’t like my website link for some reason so I left it off this time). Anyway, I like your name and it didn’t occur to me at all to associate it with Rin-Tin-Tin (maybe because I never watched that show. I wonder if your namesake had any issues with her name?

  7. Your parents were ahead of their time. Many parents today try to choose a unique name for their child. (By the way, I think Laurinda is beautiful.)

  8. As far as I am concerned, name is very important to all of us. We are often named by parents, and name is the good hope from them. Additionally, name will company with us for the whole life, so I love and cherish it very much.

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