Sunday, April 12, 2009

what's in a name?

'what's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.' [william shakespeare, romeo and juliet].

while that is true, a person's name, and how one feels about that name, has a lot to do with how that one feels about oneself.

personally, i never really liked my first name [robert]. when i was small, before i started school, i was called robbie. i liked the name and everyone liked robbie. when it came time for me to start school, my parents declared that i would no longer be called robbie, but i would be 'robert' instead. i threw tantrums and resisted as much as i could, but eventually surrendered to their wishes and begrudgingly accepted being called 'robert,' but i never liked it. as a result, i can't say that i ever really liked myself very much. i don't know that it's fair or accurate to assign all of my poor self image to not liking my name, there's much more to it than that, but it did play a part. to make matters worse, i had a friend in elementary school and junior high, whose name was robby. how i envied that he had gotten to keep his name when i had to surrender mine.

disliking my name also made my stuttering [or palilalia] worse. when introducing myself, i would frequently repeat the first syllable several times. whether anyone else took notice of this or not, it was quite distressing to me.

the remedy, for me, came when i finally left home to live on my own. i began introducing myself as 'rob'. as a practical matter, this interrupted the repetition process. because i had no reason to go beyond the first syllable, i could stop speaking before the repetitions began. this minor change helped me feel better about myself.

people who 'knew me when' still call me 'robert'. i don't especially like it, but i don't get overly upset about it. i didn't tell mom and dad how i felt about my name for a very long time. mom now calls me 'rob' some of the time, though dad rarely does so. my brothers call me 'robert' but most of my aunts, uncles and cousins call me 'robbie'. and i still get a pleasant, warm felling when i hear 'robbie'.

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