In the US, having a first, middle, and last name is quite common. My full given name at birth was Barbara Jean Rauh — so many As and Rs in my name — what was that all about? For the first six and a half years of my life, I couldn’t even say it right. The closest pronunciation I could come up with was “Baba Dzen Wow”!
Throughout my school years from about age ten to seventeen, I made up different first names that I forced my teachers and friends to call me, such as, Bobby, Gretchen, Greta, and Xenia. When I was nineteen, I legally changed my last name to my great grandmother’s maiden name, Fortier — but I was still stuck with the other two names. For the middle name, I decided to simply hide and deny that I even had one.
I intensely disliked my first name because there were so many undesirable words associated with the name. For example, “barbed wire,” which is sharp, rusty steel, used for fencing in cattle or protecting property, and is considered very dangerous; a “barb” is an insult hurled at someone; a “barbel” is the fleshy filament hanging from a fish’s mouth; barbe in French means “beard”; and of course the infamous “Barbie Doll.” But, most of all, I didn’t like the name Barbara because it meant a “barbarian” or “stranger.”
However, a serendipitous event occurred that caused me to simply love my first name. I just happened to stumble into a ballet class taught by a former principal dancer of an ex-Soviet ballet company. He was gorgeous and when he said my name, the Rs just rolled off his tongue like smoothly turning chainés across the stage.... Rs can be good...
Do you like your name?
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