Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's in a name...

Wordle: kathleens
image created at

I was over at my niece's blog tonight catching up, and I came across a post in which she mentioned her Aunt Kathy (me). I wouldn't have her call me anything else! Unless she wants to revert back to Khaki, like she used to call me when she was little...I was about 12 when she started that, after which my father never called me anything else but Khaki for the rest of his life. :)

But in commenting on her post, I had a very hard time signing my name as Kathy. I wouldn't have the problem if I was signing a personal card or letter to her, but being that a blog comment is kind of public, I had a little struggle. I usually just settle on signing 'k' these days.

I'm a tag along baby of the family. My oldest sister wanted my name to be Kathy. She never knew what it was like to have the teacher call your name and have three or four other girls look up. Thanks a lot, sis. I am eternally grateful to my mother for opting for Kathleen.

According to the Social Security's list of top 1000 most popular names for baby girls from 1950 to 1959 (I came along toward the end of that decade), Mary was the single most popular name. There were 625,328 baby girls named Mary in that decade. That surprised me, because I know a lot more Kathys than Marys. Or at least it seems so. I'm willing to acknowledge that maybe I'm just a little more sensitive to recognizing people with my name, but since I'm a stubborn type, I went through the whole dadgum list, and this is what I found.

Kathleen came in at 15. Then there was Kathy at 22nd. Followed by Catherine at 32nd...Cathy at 52nd...Kathryn at 57th...Katherine at 65th...Cathleen at 282nd...Kathie at 320th...Kathi at 402nd...Katharine at 471st...Cathryn at 507th...Kathrine at 604th...Katheryn at 715th...Cathrine at 798th...Catharine at 806th...Cathey at 906th...and finally Kathaleen at 958th.

You add all those up, and you get 755,170 baby girls that I am willing to wager got called Kathy (or some spelling thereof) at least part of the time, either by choice or because people like to call others by familiar rather than formal names. That's a lot more than the 625,328 Marys. (I knew it!)

I started school at a private school where the girls had to wear a head covering to chapel with their name embroidered across the front. Mine read 'Kathleen,' and that is what I was called by everyone. So I was accustomed to being Kathy at home, and Kathleen in public. It was actually junior high before we could choose to go by a nickname. I actually preferred Kathleen, but there was one person in particular who called me Kath-A-leen. Oh how that drove me crazy! So I told this person to just call me Kathy, and it spread. And it clung until after I married and moved out of the area.

For the last twenty-five years (give or take), I've gone by Kathleen in public (again) by personal preference. I don't ask or even want my family to call me anything but Kathy...that would actually feel weird. But if a new acquaintance does so, I usually make my preference known.

Sorry to bore you with such a self-indulgent post. Anyone else have an identity crises?


  1. A fine post for the-middle-of-the-night. :)
    Aunt Kathleen??? Hmmmmmm.... that would be strange. :) I've never heard your name called by anything else!
    I can hear my mother and Aunties (and Grandma, too), all saying "Kathy."

    Maddie was going to be Isabelle. I had never heard it, except for Isabella Rosalini.
    That year that I was pregnant, I heard it a thousand times. I looked it up on popular baby names, and it was like #5 or something. Much irritated was I!
    So she was became Savannah, or Madeleine, depending on what she told us when she was born.
    A bit too mischievous for Savannah. :)

    Now I gotta go to Sherlock Holmes so I can go back to sleep.
    Love you.

  2. Mom called me Kathy most of the time...unless I was in trouble. :) I remember Daddy singing K-K-K-Katie to me, and I love that he always called me Khaki, so thank YOU for that! LOL

    Your mother, upon hearing a friend call me Kathleen several years ago, told them that my name was NOT Kathleen. But she's no match for a birth certificate.

  3. Oh, and when we named Kasey, you hardly ever heard it. Then when she was about two months old, one of the soaps introduced a character named Casey, and I knew it was going to become a lot more common. :( We actually named her for our initials K/C.

  4. My name is Vicki. I never felt like a Vicki! It's fine on other people, but I never wanted it to be MY name! I so wish my parents had named me Victoria, at least! Many people have assumed my name is Victoria - but no--I had to have my name changed on my birth certificate this year because all these years it has been mispelled "Vickye" and that is the ONLY spelling of the name I haven't seen before. Most mail is mispelled - it's either Vicky or Vickie - So what do you think? Would it be ridiculous to legally change it to "Victoria" and still be called "Vicki" by friends & family? After all these YEARS???

  5. If it will make you feel content, then go for it. Though I might consider something other than Vickimay, Vickibelle, or Vickilicious. You know, something that will make you feel better about being called just Vicki. :)

    My mother hated her middle name, and we were forbidden to speak it even in fun. When she turned 65, I took her to the court house to get a copy of her birth certificate so she could register for Social Security benefits. When she saw it she was absolutely elated to find that there was actually not a middle name listed.

    So if it's not expensive, and it will make you smile to look at it, then I say go for it!

  6. Well, I am purely "Cynthia" at work because my licenses are in that name and it is how I sign. With family and friends, I remain "Cindy." It matters not one whit to me...

    As for Cowgirl "Vicki" it is NOT expensive for her to have her name changed (a perk of blogging with a lawyer). I have offered several times to do so for her, as she has long complained on the name scene. Perhaps she is getting ready to take me up on it...we'll keep you posted. C


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