A rose by another name...would still have thorns. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

A rose by another name…would still have thorns. (All photos by Marylin Warner)


Dear Mom,

I read in the DENVER POST that the first baby born in Colorado in 2013 is named Lyrik, for his mother’s love of music. Other 2013 baby names around the country so far include Daffon, Mobley, and Sayge. In Hawaii, this year’s first baby is Quetzalli; in Kansas, it’s Xiomara Tatiana. Mark Twain was probably right: “Names are not always what they seem.”

How many times did I whine because I didn’t like my name, Mom? All around me in grade school were cute names like Kathy, Mickey, Cindy and Karen. But I was Marylin, and the confusing spelling of my name reversed the y and the i of the traditional Marilyn. Even today, if someone calls and asks to speak to “Mary Lin,” I know they don’t know me because my name is pronounced in the typical mare-lin or mɛrələn.

The majority of us go through at least one period in life when we wish we had a different name. It’s very common for children to go by nicknames or their middle names for awhile, and many writers have pseudonyms. Author Dean Koontz has had 11 pen names, including “Deanna Dwyer.” Harlan Ellison had 25 pen names, and Ray Bradbury had 17, including Hollerbochen and Omega. Politicians have succeeded (or not) with names like Frank Schmuck, Jay Walker, Krystal Ball, and Rodney Assman. Maybe it’s true what W.C. Fields said: “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

When I used to complain, once you gave me a piece of paper and a pencil and said, “What’s the name you’d rather have?” I remember coming up with some doozies that even I didn’t take seriously. You smiled and went on to other things, reminding me that it’s not just our name that makes a difference, but what we do to make a difference…that’s what counts.

You were in line with the Dakota Proverb: “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” Thanks, Mom, aka Mary Elizabeth. (I’ve always loved your name, Mom, and your nickname, too…Mary Ibbith)                                                                                                               tracks in mud

"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." ~Dakota Proverb (with thanks to St. Joseph"s Indian School calendar

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” ~Dakota Proverb (with thanks to St. Joseph”s Indian School calendar)



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, names

97 responses to “WHAT’S IN A NAME?

  1. I used to want a different name when I was young, too. I suppose that’s just another way kids try to claim their independence. But now I’m happy with my name. I like the old-fashioned spelling of it. I thought about using a pen name for my writing, but I figured it would be hard enough to attract attention to my book as it was. Why make it harder for people to find it? 🙂

  2. I really like your name. It’s a good M.D. name, and a wonderful writer’s name–a good multi-tasker. I hope you always use your blog picture, too, a seriously whimsical pose!

  3. “Wunnerful, wunnerful!” as Lawrence Welk use to say. Thank you, Mare-Lin, for your story. Love it. I sign only a first initial to my art so people are not dissuaded by gender stereotypes when they see my creations. I want the art to speak for itself and tell a story. Too often people clutter perception with thoughts about who they think I should be and what I should do. You are blessed that Mary Ibbith let you chose many names.You can be all of them! I’ll bet when you name your characters that comes back into play. Very cool.
    There is an Eskimo saying I also love, “You don’t know who your friends are until the ice breaks.”

  4. juliabarrett

    Love the Dakota proverb. It’s one of my favorites. I hated my name growing up. Oddly enough my children are quite happy with their names. I do have one name for you – Anthony Weiner.

  5. As always, your post has a soothing tone and food for thought. I love the proverb at the end! Grrrrrrrracias, Lisa/z

  6. Hi, i just found your blog a while back and made a note to come back and read. Your writing is kind and thoughtful and touches my heart. My Mom has Dementia with Lewy Bodies. She lives with me and I work full time. I’m touched because I think your mom and my mom have a lot of similarities. Thankful for small things, loving to family and friends and both raised very nice daughters. We are sharing our story at MommaNMe.blogspot.com.

  7. Grrrrrrrracias to you, too, Lisa/z!

  8. I’ve had issues with my name my whole life. Growing up in France with a first and last name that were Yugoslavian, people always thought I was not born in France, even though my mom was French and she raised me. I was often nicknamed “the Polish girl”. And since I’ve lived here, people have also had a hard time believing I’m French. I’ve been American for the past 10 years so now I’m just one ingredient of the melting pot. I hope my kids don’t grow up hating their names, especially because I went so simple for them for that very reason.

    • Many of us would envy having the historical stories you have, the exotic names, etc. And brace yourself; your sons may grow up giving you a hard time for giving them simple name. I really believe kids go through phases when they have to complain, no matter what.

      • Haha, so far they have only complained about the last name, which is a mouthful (hence the short first name). They’re welcomed to change their names once they turn 18. Before that, they’ll have to deal with them! 🙂

  9. Very enjoyable blog and I wish you the best. I can’t wait to see what else you will have to share with us. Hugs, Barbara

  10. And that’s a proverb I’ll remember. My mum’s second name was Myrtle – and she hated it, mainly because we would tease her and call her Myrtle the Turtle. But she was a lovely person and that made it a lovely name for me.

  11. nice post as always 🙂
    it must be Shakespeare who penned “what’s in a name. a rose by another name is still a rose”, I don’t know what name I would give myself if I had the chance to change them.

    • I think that’s why my mom gave me the pencil and paper, to write down the names I’d rather have. What stopped me cold was “Trixie.” I was a big fan of the Trixie Belden mysteries at that time, and I loved the strong, brace and funny character. But to be named Trixie??? I decided that Marylin wasn’t such a bad name after all.

      • Oh, I loved, loved, loved Trixie Belden, and hated my name Marsha Lee. As you can see by my blog, I have come to terms with my name. It was my “in trouble” name with I was a kid, but I feel differently about it now! Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see more of you in 2013. 🙂 Marsha Lee 🙂

      • Ah, another Trixie Belden fan! Wonderful!

      • Yes, and Pam and Penny, the journalist twins??? Can’t quite remember the names of the books.

      • SECRET OF THE MANSION was the first. I collected all of them and for a long time didn’t realize that only the first 6 were written by the first author, and then others stepped in. Our small town library didn’t carry more than just the first 2 books, so each time a new one came out, I was in line at the bookstore in the city to buy it. Ah, those were the days. But still, I don’t think I would have liked having the name Trixie for myself.

      • I agree! I had them all as well. Do you still have yours? Mine are long gone, unfortunately. I have seen them in antique stores, but never bothered to buy them. 🙂


        I had them all, too. If you go to Amazon, you’ll see that they’re being reprinted and reissued–I think there are maybe a dozen out so far. I wish I had my originals. I paid for them with allowance and birthday and babysitting money. When I was in high school, we boxed them together and put them in the attic. But when I had my own daughter and went for them, the box was gone, and so was my original Shirley Temple doll! In all fairness, so was my brother’s box of baseball cards. I think there had been water leakage in the attic before my parents put on a new roof. Que Sera, Sera. ~ Marylin

  12. Don

    So enjoyed your post. It invoked memories of times when I was dissatisfied with my name. As you say, we do seem to all go through these moments of dissatisfaction. I suppose it’s because of the power a name has to define us. Thanks again. Always good to read your posts – look forward to them.

    • Thanks, Don. You’re right, the power of a name to define us–even for just awhile–makes most of us dissatisfied, especially when we’re young and feel the need to blame something for our disappointments.

  13. Must be something in the (blogging) air yet again – I have also just written about names! Don’t parents consider their kids feelings when they give them outlandish names?

  14. Ah, we’ll, I think I was pretty much alright with my name, there was 6 of us in the brood and No 3, Jim was, and no idea why, the only one to get more than one James Adam, Wilson Stronach, you know what we called him, right, long before the movie of that name.

    Marylin, is a fine name and it’s nice to know that I have been getting the pronunciation correct, in my head at least…. And you my sweet are leaving some mighty fine tracks, for you and your Mom xx

    Try this one too: http://tomstronach.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/memories-of-guilty-past.html?m=0

  15. poppytump

    Isn’t it interesting to see what comes up each year for the kookiness prize !
    2011 in UK still pretty traditional with Harry/ Oliver and Amelia /Olivia for the top two.
    Marylin … I was thinking of it as Tom above too 🙂

    • I agree. I was thinking of some of the students in class I had during my thirty years (teaching high school, that was a lot of students), and I’d like to think their parents meant well and actually liked the names they gave their children. Some of the names were not just surprising, but also kind of sad in how it set up the “wearer” of the name for extreme responses.

  16. I chuckled that you wanted a cute name like Cindy or Karen. No…you wouldn’t! Having those names brands you as person born in a certain decade in the same way as Brittany and Tiffany do today. I’ve hated my name (forever) and vowed I’d give my kids names that were timeless: Terrence, John, and Margaret all qualify.
    Thankfully (and perhaps oddly!) none of them dislike their names. After reading all the comments here it seems everyone would prefer going by something different!
    Now having said all that, I revert to your ma’s Indian proverb which is definitely all that matters. It doesnt matter if we’re named XYZ as long as we walk with kindness and good intention.
    Great post for a Sunday…..Mickey 😉 😉

    • I loved the name Karen. It had been my mother’s plan at first to name me Karen. Then a year earlier, my aunt named her daughter Karen, so Mom didn’t think it would be right to use it, too. Of course that logic didn’t translate to my uncle, who named his youngest son David after my mother named her son David. It’s such a name game, and you’re right, many of our names date us. ~ Hugs from Mickey! ;=)

  17. That was a fun read that touched nerves. Hated the name Rodney. When I asked my Mum why they called me that, she said “there is a battle-ship called HMS Rodney!”…smiled and left me to ponder. I really appreciate the Dakota proverb too. Gotta make tracks, bye,

    • Wow, a battleship! When I think of the actress who named her daughter Apple, I guess that the girl will be glad she didn’t name her for a specific apple, like Delicious or Granny Smith.

  18. My mother’s name was Marilyn and I really like your name. I went through my childhood not liking mine either. Your mother is a wise woman…love the Dakota proverb. 🙂

    • Thanks, LuAnn, the proverb is one of my favorites.
      Both of our names had the possibility of a nickname–either Lu or Ann for you, Mary or Lin for me–but I never tried the nickname. Did you? So I guess I wasn’t that dissatisfied with my moniker!

      • I do go by Lu quite often and someone who follows my blog called me Lulu recently. It reminded me of a friend who passed early in life who tagged me with that name. I’m ok with any of the above. There are much worse names I could be called, and perhaps have been without my knowledge! 🙂

  19. Jim

    Your blog is leaving some extraordinary tracks, Marylin. Our descendants will have an opportunity to learn about and cherish two delightful ancestors (Mary and Marylin) for generations to come. If WordPress ever closes down, I assume they will give notice and allow us to download and somehow save your blog with all the comments. From your hubby Jim

  20. I hear ya on the name thing… but I guess I’ve learned to live with it.. ha ha.

  21. Thanks, honey. Because of you, Jim is my favorite male name, and now that we have a wonderful grandson, Gannon is my second favorite male name. And while I was never that drawn to the name Trevor, now that we have a wonderful son-in-law named Trevor–and we see so much of him in our beautiful grandchildren–his name is one of my favorites, too.
    I think love for the person is a big factor in loving the name!

  22. My parents spelled my very common name, Lynda, in an uncommon way that continues to complicate things at times. On the other hand, like you, I can spot a telemarketer immediately when they ask for Lydia.

  23. Happy New Year, Marylin,
    Your mother was very wise. I do like my name. My mom, however, wanted to name me Cynthia. Not that Cynthia is a not a pretty name, but it sure doesn’t suit my personality. I’m glad dad won. LOL 🙂

  24. petit4chocolatier

    Excellent post! It is funny how many of us never liked our names. I had nicknames that I still use because I never really liked my first name either 🙂 You definitely gave us all something to thing about.

    • I’m glad you liked it. It seems like all of us at some time or another didn’t like our given name, but unlike you, I didn’t really have a nickname except for Mayno, what my brother called me when he was too young to say Marylin. Hmm…Mayno. Now I’m Mor-Mor (Mother’s mother in Swedish) to my grandchildren, and I really like that.

  25. great post.. I wanted another name too when I was young. Maybe all girls want that 🙂
    Have a wonderful and marvelous 2013!
    groetjes, Francina

  26. Dear Marylin, Beautiful post! Blessings, Ellen

  27. At least your mom did not name you Mrs. Cap’n Firepants. Or Wonderbutt. 🙂

  28. I remember those days. Leah was not a common name growing up and I wanted a prettier normal name like Maria or Anna.Then my sisters had kids and thought it would be funny to have them call me Lela. So that is the name I get most days. At this point I like how short it is and people hardly ever have trouble spelling or pronouncing it. Plus considering that my last name is very uncommon and constantly tongue ties people, I am not going to complain. 🙂

  29. My aunt’s name is Marilyn, but spelled the traditional way. I went through that phase not liking my name. But grew to appreciate it because it’s not common. I have found out that alot of orientals have the name “Irene” and it’s funny because “Irene” was the Greek Goddess of peace. And that was SO not what I was-peaceful!
    Wow, Julie Andrews isn’t her real name!?? My maiden name was Andrews and how many people used to ask me if I was related to her? Well, definitely not now!

  30. And remember when girls started dotting the i’s in their names with little hearts? I wished I had an i in my name then. But glad I never did that! Another wise piece of advice from your mom!

    • Oh-no. Thanks for bringing that up, Nancy. You know, for a while you could relive that period, spell you name Nanci, and use a little heart.
      Come on, rewrite your own destiny. Or not. ;=)

  31. Ooo, sorry. Didn’t mean to ruin Julie Andrews for you.
    I didn’t know Irene was the Greek Goddess of peace. If you weren’t peaceful, could you change your name slightly…maybe to Ireno (with emphasis on the NO)?
    Sorry. I’m not good at coming up with alternatives or nicknames, as you can tell since I just stayed with my own name.

  32. jakesprinter

    Beautiful post Marylin thanks for sharing my friend 🙂

  33. The Dakota proverb is true. We are remembered by our deeds- good or bad.

    • Absolutely. Even as a child, I learned this from my parents and by the time I was a teen, I was surprised that so many judged the validity of their deeds by the profit involved…or if they didn’t get caught.

  34. nancy Gibbs

    Beautiful photos and words!

  35. My Brother disliked his name so much (or the way others pronounced it) that he changed his name to…John! I enjoyed your post and love the last photo and quote.

    • Thanks, Victoria. Well, it’s comforting to know that sometimes the guys struggled with this, too, but how did your parents feel when he changed his name to John? I knew a guy in college who was going to legally change his name, but when he found out the cost (and that his parents would disown him) he changed his mind.

      • Well…fortunately my Brother’s middle name was John. So…he got away with it pretty easily. He dropped the first name…that my Parents made up! It was a combination of Dad’s two Brothers’ names. I quite liked the name but it is almost strange to hear someone call him that now! So…that is definitely one for the guys as well! 🙂 I like the way your name is spelled…it is unique. 🙂

  36. This made me think of a time with my mom when I wondered why I didn’t have a middle name and she told me to choose the one I wanted and I chose Aurora so that was always our secret that we always shared. Thanks for inspiring thoughts of my mom!

    • Aurora is a beautiful middle name. Good choice!
      My middle name is Naomi, which for a long time was considered an old Bible-type name and friends kind of laughed at it. But it was my grandmother’s middle name, and I really loved her, so actually I was glad to have her middle name as mine. I just didn’t use it for a long time, except as an initial.

  37. dianabletter

    This is a fun, wonderful post, MarYlin, and I apologize each time I blew your name. Who said, “The greatest sound in the world to someone is the sound of his own name”? Thanks for the fascinating information! I struggled naming my kids but I always told them that if the name I chose doesn’t suit them, they can feel free to change it. It’s their identity, not mine!

    • Such a wise and risk-takingly good mother you are! When Molly was in grade school, she decided she wanted to go by her middle name, Elizabeth. It didn’t last long, though; she kept forgetting how to spell it (she was very young).

  38. What a great post! (I hesitate to tell you that I’m one of those awful Kathy’s with the ordinary name that everyone had.) Seriously, there’s now a Quetzalli living on the planet? How cool is that? We named our son an ordinary “Christopher” and our daughter the odd name “Kiah”. She didn’t like her name for a long time, especially when strangers pronounced it wrong, but now she likes it. Phew! What’s a parent to do?

  39. See, whatever we do, we can never be sure. I think Kiah is lovely, perfect for the daughter of a Kathy! I’m glad she likes it now.

  40. My name is unique in that it’s pronounced differently than spelled. My father named me and would never say where he got the name.

    • I went to camp with a girl whose name supposedly had an exotic, secretive meaning that her father would never explain to her. So the girl created 3 amazing “meanings and backgrounds” of her name. She called them A), B), C). She told everyone in our cabin the three versions, and we were to guess which one it was. Quite an ice-breaker and attention-getter, actually, and she was the most mysterious and popular girl at camp. In the name game, this is the version of making lemonade out of lemons, I guess.

  41. I remember fighting with my sister when we were younger, all because I insisted she use my full name, Pamela, when I let everyone else call me Pam. Yes, a name does not define us. What’s inside us defines us.
    Nice post, Marylin. 🙂

    • Did she get sneaky and call out Pam to get you upset? What name did you call her? Never having had a sister–only one brother–I’m always curious (and kind of envious) of sister teams.
      You’re definitely right…what’s inside us defines us.

  42. Oh, Marilyn … you bring back such great memories. I recall being in that frame of mind. My Mom, thinking she had the perfect squelch, said the other name she considered for me would be the female version of my Dad’s name: Josephine Henrietta (His, of course, was Joseph Henry). I told her I’d like that better than “Judy.” I was such a contrarian at times. 😆

  43. I prefer to call it “Keeping our moms on their toes,” Judy.
    When you said you’d rather have been named Josephine Henrietta, wasn’t there a tiny tremble of fear that your mom would start calling you that?
    Come on, be honest. You’d be in 3rd grade before you could even spell that name without a cheat sheet, right?
    I just love these name games people are sharing!

  44. Great post! I was named after Darla of The Little Rascals. My older sister watched it all the time. She asked my mom to please give her a little sister (after having three brothers in a row) and please name her Darla. So, she did.

  45. What a precious story, Darla.
    Named by your sister, who had begged for a sister instead of a brother, and named after Darla from The Little Rascals! Such a combination of answered hopes and luck! I shudder to think if your mother had given birth to another boy. Would your sister have insisted they call him Spanky?

  46. Molly

    Thank you for naming me for you and Grandma. You two are two out of my three favorite women in the entire world (the third is Grace)! Although there was that short time that I didn’t really care for “Molly”, now I truly appreciate it, because it was cute when I was little, but yet not TOO cutsie now that I am a grown up! Although, I do think that I completely hit the nail on the head with my kiddos names……they are the bsst!

    Great blof momma……………..LOVE IT……………

  47. Great post, my husband insists he had a classmate Frank Frankfooter …it’s possible.

    • It is definitely possible, Claudia. Parents come up with all kinds of names for all kinds of reasons. In Colorado there was supposedly a baby born in the 50s who was named Placenta. Her mother was on pain medications; when the baby was born she heard the doctor say the word placenta and thought it was a beautiful sound, so that’s what she named her baby!

  48. Very touching indeed. I had a nickname when I was young. I resented it then, but look back quite fondly on the admiration in which it was used.

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