What kind of effect does your name have on you? My mother tells me that when her and my father decided to name me Sarah they checked the spelling in the bible to ensure it was spelled properly. That’s it. That’s the story of my name. I wasn’t named after a family member or friend, nor is there some long story on how my name came about; it was simply that they liked the name. Unfortunately for me, the year I was born there were millions of other parents in the world that also liked the name Sarah, making my name the popular for 1983. Some decided to be trendy and dropped the ‘h’ at the end, which only added to confusion when people would ask me how I spelled my name. I find myself ignoring my name if I’m out in public or in a group setting, assuming the person is probably not calling for me, but another person named Sarah; statistically speaking they probably are.
Growing up I also hated the fact that my name could in no way be shortened. No one calls a girl named Sarah – “Sar” for short. There’s no nickname or cool thing that rhymes with Sarah. The only things I remember from my childhood that had the mere mention of my name was a book, “Sarah Plain and Tall” (which I hated because while I was tall I never felt I was plain), and a song my older brother would cruelly sing to me about a whale in San Francisco named Sarah. (In Frisco Bay there lived a whale; they fed her oysters by the pail, by thimble, by teacup, by bathtub, and by schooner. Her name was Sarah and when she smiled she just showed teeth for miles and miles and tonsils, and spare ribs, and things too fierce to mention.) Even the song “Sarah Smile” was ruined for me when I had a creepy customer that used to sing that song to me every time he called.
My first name gave me no choice but to always feel common. Everyone knows someone named Sarah. Everyone knows someone that is named Sarah and is a brunette. Hell, in my 5th grade class of maybe 90 people there were three Sara(h) R’s and they all had brown hair. I wasn’t unique.
My last name, on the other hand, is one that is not common for most people. Or else if they know someone with the same last name it’s definitely not pronounced the same way. There’s no ‘i’ in my last name, yet it’s pronounced as if the ‘e’ were an ‘i’. Anyone that passed first grade English class wouldn’t pronounce it correctly, especially since it’s the only vowel in my name. I used to spend time correcting people when they pronounced it incorrectly, but when I was about 16 I made the conscious choice to stop correctly people and to respond to however anyone pronounced it. I started to feel self-conscious and worried that maybe people thought I changed the way to pronounce my name because I wanted to sound cool. It has gotten to the point that when someone asks me for my last name I just spell it. If I say it and then spell it correctly, no one listens to what I say and just spell it like it sounds. When they ask me how to pronounce I’ll typically pronounce it the way it looks, not wanting to have to give an explanation on why there’s an ‘e’ and not an ‘i’.
In September I will officially be taking my KISA’s last name and dropping my maiden name. Is it terrible that I’m really excited about this? Not to say the legacy of my maiden name had been bad, but my name will definitely be smoother. Now I just need to figure out what I’d want to change my first name to… 😉