Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of th...

Abraham Lincoln

My mother chose my first name, Carol, so there would be no derivatives.

Perhaps, it was because her name, Elizabeth, had so many derivatives – Liz, Liza, Beth, Ellie, Bett, Betsy, and the one she settled on, Betty.

She took a lie detector test once and the technician, to get a baseline reading, asked her, “Is your name Betty.” “No.”

He turned off the machine. She explained, “My name is Elizabeth. People call me Betty.

So, for me no cute or teasing playground names. No annoying rhyming names. I was not born near Christmas, so it was not related to any holiday.

No hero, like the Dallas Cowboys football coach, Tom Landry, inspired my name. I once met a mother who named her daughter Landry.

No feminist heroines. No family roots, reaching back into our genealogy.

She just thought the name sweet and not subject to bullying. Protective, even in choosing my name.

She was wrong, of course.

  • If I’d been fat, I could have been “Barrel Carol.”
  • If I’d been sneaky, I could have been “Feral Carol.”
  • If I’d been prissy, I could have been “Sterile Carol.”

What I was, was quiet.

And, I appreciated her concern on my behalf. She eventually came to call me “Carol Lou,” a name I never liked, but tolerated from her, if not from my brothers. And, of course, when she was seriously mad, my full name, Carol Louise.

As an adult, I came to understand that, just as there are bullying names, there are also affectionate names that are derivatives. Nicknames for our children, or even full names of our sons that they have since shortened, now call back those times when they were our little boys.

  • How did your parents pick your name?
  • Have you changed it, favoring a middle name, or changing it altogether?
  • What did you think about when you chose your children’s names?
  • Do they know those stories?

Fashions in names change. When our second son was born, it seemed that every girl and boy was given a name that started with “J.

Are there stories about how your grandchildren’s names were picked?

My great-grandfather was named Abraham Lincoln Frederick. He was named by his grandfather, who threatened to take naming rights if his parents could not agree on a name. They could not agree in time for the christening. The boy’s grandfather strode into the church and named the baby.

And, that is why my grandfather was Raymond Lincoln Frederick, my father a Junior, and my brother Robert Lynn, to preserve the initials.

What are your stories about how you were named?

If you would like to capture those stories for your grandchildren, we have written a “Getting Started Guide” for writing them down. We would love to send it to you. Just sign up for our newsletter at the upper right corner of this page.

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To you and the memories you share with your grandchildren.

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