Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What's in a name?

My name is unique. Donloree. I used to be Donloree Dickau and I grew up in Puyallup – let’s all pause here and say a collective, “Wow!”.

I love my name and have never wanted a different name. Unfortunately, my name is complex. People seem to always think that ‘Loree’ is my last name, especially over the phone. I am constantly explaining that it’s all one big name, one big first name. My name also puts people into a stunned moment of shock when they first hear it. A look of confusion and a thought of, “What the heck did she just say?” runs across their face before they can cover it up. This continues to humor me, and it’s been happening for over 25 years!

My biggest frustration about my name is that everyone tells me how unique it is and then proceeds to ask me what the story is behind my name. If my name was something like, oh say - Sharon, no one would ever ask me that. This conversation would never happen to ‘Sharon’ on her first day of work:

New co-worker – Hi, it’s great to finally meet you, my name is Fred. We’re very excited to have you on board here at the office
Sharon – Thanks. I’m glad to be here.
New co-worker – I’ve been meaning to ask you, where did you get such a beautiful name? There has got to be some story behind it. Did a man named Ron share something with your family around the time of your birth and your parents created the name ‘Sharon” because what Ron shared was so meaningful? Or something even better? Do tell, I can’t wait to hear!
Sharon – Umm…no. My mom saw the name, really liked it and so they named me Sharon. That’s about it.
New co-worker – Oh…I see…

When I got married my last name changed to Hoffman, which I thought would be less problematic than Dickau because people have actually heard of it! In elementary school whenever there was a substitute teacher, I knew when they came to my name because there was a huge, pregnant pause in the D section of the roll call. I would usually pipe of with a “Here!” before they could muster up enough courage to slaughter my name. I thought that this new last name of “Hoffman” would lead to fewer questions about the origin of my name. But as per usual, I was wrong. Now everyone asks me if I know some Hoffman out in some small rural town. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone, I married into the family!!

Since my first name tends to be really confusing for people, I try to make life easier for everyone involved. At restaurants and other public places that require your name, I have been known to give a name that isn’t my own.

  • Penelope. This seemed like a reasonable name – known, yet not extremely common. Penelope seemed like a good compromise of normalcy and uniqueness all rolled into one. Unfortunately, the 15 year old girl that took my name down at Tony Roma’s apparently didn’t pass spelling. She seemed highly confused, and after my third explanation of how to spell it I gave up and let her spell it “Paneloppie”.
  • Cherise. I love this name, I think it’s an absolutely beautiful name. After the more normal name, Penelope, didn’t work out I decided to go with a different unique name. So the next time I had to call and make a reservation I gave ‘Cherise” as my name. Note: make sure to know how to spell your fake name when you give it. You come across as very flaky when you don’t know how to spell your own name.
  • Susan. This is a great name to give. It’s common, no one asks you how to spell it and there is no story to go along with it. Although if you are at a busy Starbucks it can lead to severe confusion. The woman that is actually named Susan may inadvertently steal your beverage and then be very upset because they made the wrong drink for her. So much customer dissatisfaction just because I didn’t want to spell my name loudly four times and then listen to the barista stumble over it 3 minutes later.
  • Matilda. At Lulu Lemon they require a name when you go try things on. They write your name on a white board that is attached to your door. I just didn’t feel comfortable having my name being displayed for the whole ‘luon’ wearing community to see, so I stated that my name was Matilda. I kept an extremely straight face and even acted appropriately offended that the change room woman was trying not to burst into giggles because my name was Matilda.

I used to work with a man named Roger that pronounced my name, “Dawn-Lori”. His quirky pronunciation was noted by many people, but no matter how many times people told him the correct pronunciation of my name is “Dawn-lah-ree” he continued with the “Dawn-Lori”. This annoyed me to no end, I thought the best way to combat this was to pronounce his name, “Row-Ger”, unfortunately I never got up enough nerve to say it to his face. Although many, many people came to refer to him as “Row-Ger” over the years I worked with him.

I have always wondered if my name has contributed to my quirkiness or if it had something to do with the fact that while my mom was pregnant with me, she tripped and ended up rolling down a somewhat large cliff at a beach on the West Coast. I guess we’ll never know. All I do know is that a girl with the name Donloree Dickau that grew up in Puyallup could never ever end up normal!