What would your name have been?

My given name is the seventh most popular for girls in the 1960s. In classes through primary and secondary school, there were never less than two other girls with the same name, and one term there were five.

Stephen - from Us&ThemIf I had been a boy, the seventh most popular name for boys in the 1960s was Stephen. (Curiously enough, throughout primary school there were always at least two Stephens in the class – varying spellings – and in adulthood, though I know only a few women with the same given name as me, every other man seems to be called Steve.

The game notes that if I had been born in the 1900s (my great-aunt – my grandfather’s sister, and effectively my grandmother – was born in 1908) my name would have been Margaret. My great-aunt’s name was Margaret.

(And if I had been born in the 21st century’s teenage years, my parents might have called me Mia. Ho hum.)

It is strange how names go in cycles. The official story about my given name is that it’s from my mother’s brother: it’s the standard female version of his name. (Curiously enough, the other given name they picked for me, the one I never use, is just one point off: my parents chose two girls names that sit side by side on the probability table. But if I’d been born in the US, I might have been Cheryl. So glad I’m not.)

My name is just a collection of syllables. When I have said it, I have described nothing, but I have named myself. People’s perceptions of witty, pretty, attractive names change over time. (I like Stephen, as a name, just as I do my own.)

There has been a lot of recent discussion about “essentialism”, and the need that some cis women feel not to be labelled “cisgendered”, and the need some of the same people feel to be able to exclude some women from woman-only spaces because those women are trans. A popular feminist blogger mocks rather nastily the idea that all women need to be included, not just those whom trans-exclusive feminists feel they can approve of.

If my mother had been a boy, she might have been named Derek. If my father had been a girl, he might have been named Peggy. (Had my brother been a girl, he would probably have got my name: but while my parents picked top-ten names for me, they picked unusual names for their son and for their other daughter.) My brother’s gender-switched name is Anna: my sister’s isn’t on the chart because her name isn’t in the top hundred. Oddly, the name my mother said she would have given my sister if she’d been a boy is Martin: and the corresponding girl’s name is Tracey.

What’s in a name?

1 Comment

Filed under Unanswerable Questions, Women

One response to “What would your name have been?

  1. I would have been Dorothy. You cannot imagine the hilarity that would cause among family and friends if I told them (my Aunt Dolly was ….. well, a character, shall we say).

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