what’s in a name?

This post gives me the pleasure of welcoming a Toastmaster friend and colleague to my blog, with a guest post that’s actually a reprint of the amazing speech she recently presented to the Toastmasters in the Arts club in Gimli, Manitoba. Carolyn Dyane had us sitting on the edge of our seats with this thought-provoking, entertaining, and compelling presentation. Please welcome Carolyn, (pictured below receiving a certificate of participation in her first-ever speech contest) as she tells us the importance and significance the art of choosing a name has played in her life.

choosing a name can be a life altering process

What’s in a Name?

by Carolyn Dyane

I am a wasted time artist, able to fill a day with little bits of things and lots of relaxing. I don’t write, don’t draw or paint, don’t sew, garden minimally and find that what I create best is wasted time! When I try to find the time to begin a creative project, particularly one that involves creating something with my hands, the time is never there. It is all gone with my bits and peices of things that fill my day.

I belong to the Toastmasters in the Arts club. My fellow group members are writers, quilters, painters, gardeners. Artists all, and I wonder “What am I doing in such creative company?”

Being involved with creative people has nudged me to take a look at what it is that I have created in my life and it seems to me that just living my life and creating “Me” is an enormous act of ongoing creation and has been as long as I can remember.

Things weren’t going well for me when I was in my 30’s and in a quest to become more comfortable within my own skin and my own thoughts I started a journey of personal growth which, in retrospect, has been a journey of re-invention. That re-invention of myself has brought me to a place in life where I now feel that I am more aware of and in control of my consciousness – I find that I have become semi-conscious, and can look back on a journey of creative choices that have brought me to where I am today.

When I review those choices, I find that one of the most creative tasks I undertook was the search for a new surname, one that reflected who I am to both myself and to the world.

choosing a name is an act of creation

I’d like to tell you about how my name is both an act of creation and part of my personal journey.

I had never liked the sound of my married name. It had a harsh sound and was difficult to spell and pronounce. In the 1970’s women still automatically took the name of their husband upon marriage and I was no exception to that rule. Once my marriage ended, however, I had the opportunity to think about changing my name to something I liked better.

The search for a new name was on. But how does one find a new name? What does one look for? Looking back, I realize that I was clear on what I didn’t want in a name and gradually became clear on what I did want. I wanted a girl’s name, something reflected me as a woman. And I wanted a name that did not identify me by my relationship to anyone other than myself.

My family encouraged me to take back my birth name. I found when I tried that the person I’d been earlier in life had disappeared during the years I’d been married and I could no longer find her. At that time I was at university and my Women’s Studies courses were developing the art of critical thinking in myself as well as shaping my feminist thought processes. When I started examining names my feminist eye found that in our culture most, if not all surnames represent male lineage and can be quite masculine in sound and meaning. And the son’s! There are so many sons around – Johnson, Wilson, Dickson, Anderson, Einarson, Thompson. I sure wasn’t a son, nor was I a man, another common name ender. So I considered the Icelandic tradition where females take on their mom’s name. Llike I had started doing with most names that caught my attention, I tried Bertsdottir – my mom is called Bert. Bertdottir just didn’t fit for me and that name went by the wayside.

What eventually happened was that it was through two remarkable men that found the name that I finally chose.

During the time of my name search my daughter, Sara, was taking the lessons necessary to pray and read from the Torah in Hebrew at her Bat Mitzvah. Her teacher’s last name was Daien. He was the cantor at our synagogue and he impressed me as one of the loveliest, most gentle people I’d met in a long time. It had become clear to me that I could only choose a name that came from persons who I liked and respected. I would automatically discard any names that had negative connotations for me. His name held positive connotations for me and I also liked the sound of it although I found the spelling a little complicated.

I was also interested in the name of the famous Israeli general, Moshe Dayan. He was in the news at that time and I tried on his name for size and liked how Dayan felt and sounded.

I worked with both the name Daien and Dayan, saying them in my head, mentally introducing myself and having imaginery conversations that included using the names with my first name of Carolyn. And somehow, I put them together and came up with the name I had been seeking for over two years – Dyane.

All it took to make the change was a trip to the Vital Statistics office, fill out the forms, pay the money and six weeks later I received a change of name certificate. I also received something that surprised me, a new birth certificate indicating that Carolyn Dyane was my name from the time I was born.

I so clearly recollect the thrill of using my new name for the first year or so. It was love! I would happily sign cheques and forms. I would do almost anything to write, see and experience my new name. My delight must have rubbed off on others for there didn’t seem to be any problem for friends and family to make the shift to using my new name.

Choosing my own name became one of the critical and important first steps in my journey to creating who I am today. I continue on that journey of growth and exploration as I transition into a new stage of life with solid appreciation of the person I have created.

Thanks so much to Carolyn for sharing these words of inspiration with us. Have you chosen your own name? How important is your name to you? Let’s discuss the importance of a name.


Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

27 Responses

  1. That is a fun post, Doreen. There is a lot to our names and what we make of them.

  2. Aja Knight says:

    Thx so very much Carolyn Dyane!! I wanted to change my 1st name way back in jr high. As an adult I was busy naming my children. As I got older my desire to change my entire name became an Odyssey. I started with a name I created for an “online handle”, Jiinxsay, a sassy form of Jinxi. Then my FB looked lonely without a last name so instead of Sanders, my adoptive last name, dad was gone, the name took on an evil connotation thx to my adoptive mother. So I used my birth name, Mahoney. As time has gone on & I looked for a name that told the story of ME, whilst going to CVS & being called, “Mrs. Sanders” which continuously ‘soul murdered’ me. I have created MY name. I won’t share the elaborate middle names, or even the ‘long’ version of the 1st name. As for my last name I decided I Loved British surnames! So to sum up the super-short version, my name is Aja Knight. Aja is (pn; Asia or AY-zhuh). Thank you for allowing me to share that. Still waitin for the paperwork, God save me from Sanders!!! Of course if you fancy yourself an Odyssey of your own, you may google, Prof. J. Lyell Sanders & see my Hero, my Beloved dad, the shy, humble Harvard Professor. Thank you again, love, Aja doll

  3. Carolyn, what a wonderful journey you went on and not one many people would consider. I can easily see giving up a married name, but most people don’t see it as an opportunity to redefine themselves with a new name, that’s lovely.

    I never took my husband’s last name. I love him dearly, but I have always enjoyed my own last name far too much to walk away from it. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this with us Doreen, it was a treat.
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Slow and ExpensiveMy Profile

  4. Pamela Heady says:

    What a great story! I remember going through a period of weird emotions before I got married for the first time. While I was so looking forward to getting married and taking my soon-to-be husband’s last name, it was bittersweet for me because I was proud of me and my last name. I’ve been very loyal to my last name, if that makes sense. Sure, I could’ve hyphenated it but that seemed silly. Many years later after an amicable divorce, I went back to my maiden name. And that felt good. I have since met the man of my dreams and have happily and proudly taken his last name. 😉

  5. Bindu says:

    There is a lot in a name. The name usually brings the image of the person. Love the post.
    Bindu recently posted…Story of the tree: Mixed media projectMy Profile

    • That’s true, isn’t it, Bindhu? When we hear a name, we often construct a mental image of the person based on the sounds of the name, or perhaps someone else we know with a similar name. When we have an exotic or unusual name, is that mental image more likely to be equally exotic? Interesting dialogue …
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what’s in a name?My Profile

  6. Mina Joshi says:

    I found this Post very interesting and very unusual. I would love to be able to change my first/Christian name but never my surname. In the Indian culture our surname has a lot of importance as it helps genealogists trace back to our forefathers right back to generations. Women take on their husbands surname but still like to keep their original surname and wouldn’t dream of changing it if they got divorced.

  7. maxwell ivey says:

    Hi Doreen and Carolyn Dyane; Thanks for introducing us and sharing this story of change. Names are a funny thing. when i was a kid i hated my name. max became maxwell house or maxi pads or max factor on the playground not fun. later maxwell was better because people didn’t think i was saying mike like they did when i said just max plus being a jr. my dad was max. thanks to people on the net i am now either called max mr. midway or the blind blogger. I am happy with either. But i must admit it is still a little surprising when people who only know me from my website call me up and ask for mr. midway. 🙂 but its become my brand or one of them so I am also happy they do it. thanks to both of you fine ladies. Take care, max
    maxwell ivey recently posted…Remembering when I decided on my new pathMy Profile

    • Thanks, Max, for joining the conversation and sharing your personal insights on the name game. Do you happen to remember that song?
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…a profile of Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais IVMy Profile

      • maxwell ivey says:

        hi doreen; yes i remember the song the name game. still common for a lot of dj’s to use it at kids parties or 70’s themed events. my grandmother actually tried to talk my dad out of naming me maxwell just like she tried to talk her husband out of giving it to my dad. The story goes she thought the name would be too hard for a kid to remember how to spell it when first starting school. now that i’m older I can appreciate the weight the name maxwell comes with. and now that i weigh in at under 250 pounds instead of over 500 i don’t mind being called little max or maxi. a couple of women have even asked if i’m good to the last drop? ;0 looking forward to your next post, max
        maxwell ivey recently posted…Remembering when I decided on my new pathMy Profile

  8. What a wonderful story. After I divorced I decided to take back my maiden name. I felt rooted in that name and also felt that changing my name had also somehow changed my perception of myself. It was one the things I did that helped me regain my footing… get back to being me. But THIS is so original…so rooted in a deeply personal journey…such a great example of what’s in a name? Possibly everything:)
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Freedom… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  9. Hi Caroyln,
    Nice to hear your story, and I’m glad you picked a name so meaningful to you. I have never thought about changing my name, but as a 10-year old, I thought I would like to have been called Oscar. I guess back then it sounded unusual.

  10. Tim says:

    I have never thought to change my name; it has been with me from the beginning. Through the good times and bad. It is a name I don’t overly like or dislike but it is a connection to my past and my past is ok with me. My past is the foundation of my future and my name helped build that. As a man I do not have the looming name change that sometimes comes with marriage and therefore would not have a window, post-divorce, to opt for something completely new. My name is my name and it will probably be with me forever.
    Tim recently posted…Happiness Sold HereMy Profile

  11. Susan Cooper says:

    I think everyone has probably given thought to what they would change their name to if they could, I know I have. It is so strange to be stuck for life with a first name that someone else has chosen for you and the last name of your family whether you like it or not. Especially for those people whose parents have a strange sense of humor and stick their kids with a ridiculous name. Congratulations to Carolyn for finding a name that felt “right” for her.
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Tempering Chocolate: #RecipeMy Profile

    • Hi Susan: I’d never thought of having a different 1st name until I visited a shaman who told me that my “soul name” is Alison. I found that quite surprising. But last names … Yes! I was born a Herneshen. Was then a von Thuelen, and am now a Pendgracs. No one has every been able to say or spell any of them! I have visions one day of being a Smith, White, Brown or something extremely simple. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what’s in a name?My Profile

  12. Loved this story. When I married my husband, I was already 41 and established in business with my maiden name. I asked him if he wanted me to change my name to his (Antin) but his mother was a successful businesswoman back when women didn’t work. He saw no reason to change it, “Well, why shouldn’t a man have to change his name to his wife’s!” So I left it. Now that he’s passed on, I wish I had taken his name as a tribute to him and a fond remembrance of our years together.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Define Your Company’s Brand by Engaging EmployeesMy Profile

  13. Donna Janke says:

    What a great story about choosing a name and beautifully told. I am comfortable with my name now. It is my birth name. I changed my surname in my first marriage and was never comfortable with that name so was happy to revert to my maiden name. I decided I wasn’t changing it again. Changing surnames can be difficult for a lot of people to do or accept in others. I know a husband and wife who changed their surname because the name, acceptable in the country it originated in, would leave their children in Canada open to a lot of teasing. I also worked with a man who took his wife’s surname when they married. Congratulations to Carolyn for finding her name.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Travel Then and NowMy Profile

    • Hi Donna. It can indeed get complicated, can’t it? I, too, was in an awkward position before my second marriage. I was still carrying the married name from my first marriage when I met my to-be second husband. I’d been carrying that name longer than I’d had my maiden name, so it didn’t really feel right to go back to that. So I did take my second husband’s name when we married, although it did feel slightly odd to do so in this later stage in my life.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…what’s in a name?My Profile

  14. Katrina says:

    Cool story! One of my mom’s friends changed her name when she got married, but so did her husband. They picked out a name together. Always liked that idea.
    Katrina recently posted…Agonda Beach: once more, with feeling!My Profile

    • I like that idea, Katrina. I think that marriage is embarking on a new journey, and so BOTH of the participants should reflect that change in their identity — not just the woman!

      Thanks, also, for your comment, A.K. I agree that Carolyn has done something really cool in creating her own unique name.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…Book Review: 10% Happier by Dan HarrisMy Profile

  15. A.K.Andrew says:

    I love this article. I’ve often though about changing my name for a myriad of reasons, but Carolyn, your journey to find one made the eventual choice all the more meaningful. Congratulations & kudos to you for pursuing what you wanted.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…How Can you Convert Failure into a Learning Experience?My Profile

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