Saturday, October 27, 2007

Name Game

It is time I said it: I have a nickname. It is Bissy. (This is Elizabeth, new blog coordinator, writing by the way.) I have blog posts on other subjects in store for you, but before I could even go there, I had to get the name thing out on the table. "Elizabeth" sounds so regal, and I treasure it as my given name. But I also love "Bissy." It is the name I gave myself upon learning to speak, unable to pronounce the four-syllable version I was given. I wanted to tell you all right away, first post, but what can I say? Elizabeth is me, too. But "Bissy" really says it all. It is my essence. So from now on, you will be hearing from Bissy.

Making the decision that I would share this in a post, I realized that there was a lot more to say about names in general than just letting you know my nickname. I mean, think about it--for some of us, names simply say it all, for others they fall short of what we want them to say. They are things we celebrate, think about, modify, explain.

For women and girls, names have always had a special significance. The author George Eliot, who wrote in the 1800s, is one example. The woman Mary Ann (Marian) Evans used this name as a pseudonym. She believed that if readers could tell by her name that the author was female, they would not credit her as much as if they thought she was a male. Many female writers published under male pseudonyms, either for Mary Ann Evans' reason or because certain publishers did not accept writing by women. In the present day, I remember hearing that J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, used initials in her pen name so that boy readers would not avoid her work because she was a woman. There are many stories about women's names in history. Do you have one to share?

What do
you think about names and nicknames and how they are different for girls and boys, women and men?

There are more names out there than people's names, too. Sometimes businesses name their products or their very business something to get people's attention. And it can be deceiving. Take Nair Pretty, for instance. The company tries to appeal to tween girls with the word "pretty" in its product line's name. Have you noticed other examples? I want to know.

Names shape our understanding of the world around us--words are names for concepts, concrete objects, people, everything. Different cultures approach names differently and different languages have different . Our picture of a word's meaning in one language can be completely different from the concept we have of it in a different language. Language is fluid and changing and it can shape our understanding of the world without our even noticing.

And then it all comes down to our own names. What do they mean to us, as empowered girls and women? For me, it means embracing my two names and letting myself get down to the essence with you.

Showing you more of my true self now, Bissy (Elizabeth!)


piglet said...

I think nicknames are a good idea....if you like them! No one wants to have a nickname they don't like! I have a short name, 4 letters, so there really aren't many nicknames for short names. I am certain that many compainies and even websits tend to use cute nicknames to attract people.

Black Rose said...

Me and my best friend have nicknames. She is Darkstar and I am Black Rose.

Anonymous said...

Little bit of history: back in the 1970s (when I was in my 20s), the wild wonderful feminists decided to try to get away from the traditions of passing (last) names down in the male family line, and honor our mothers who gave us life. So we called ourselves by our mother's first name and then our own first name: so I was "Peace's Bonnie," because my Mom's first name was Peace, which is another story. Please keep up all your good work girls!! Bonnie Watkins (my "official" name) for the Minnesota Women's Consortium

desty said...

when i was in senor high school, my friends call me "echy". They call me like that because I'm look like chinese girl (truely i'm indonesian). Untill right now, my friend who stay close with me always use that name