What’s In A Name?
June 26th, 2010 by Sonja

So, I’m a day late … you’ll have to decide whether or not I’m a dollar short.  I was off the grid yesterday, floating down a river in a tube with a group of teenagers and their moms (and a few dads).  Well … we each had our own tube.  There are now sunburns aplenty and at the end of the day a lot of smiles, weary arms, and tired legs, but we had so so much fun.  What a grand day it was.

Yesterday’s prompt – How do you feel about the name given to you at birth?

I was given Sonja by my parents.  It is an odd name for my cohort generation.  Most girls with that given name and spelling were first generation immigrants from an eastern European nation.  I am not.  I’m all English and some branches of my family tree can be traced back to the Mayflower, others to the Revolutionary War.  But I do not have any Eastern European roots (an unfortunate state of affairs).

I hated my name in elementary school.  I was surrounded by Peggys and Kims and Marys and Beths.  Growing up in a tiny backwoods Vermont town where everyone had known each other for several generations, I was the odd child, with the odd name.  Teachers couldn’t pronounce it because of the pesky silent “j” or they persisted in making the “o” long rather than short.  Sometimes they would forget entirely and call me “Tanya,” then wonder at my lack of response.  Children couldn’t pronounce or remember my name either, so I lived on the fringe for a lot of elementary school.

I remember asking my mom to change my name at some point.  She suggested that we could do so, but it would be to the second place name (the also ran) that I did not get named when I was born.


I was horrified.  For those of you who know me on Facebook, you know my maiden name begins with “N”, so I would move from the merely strange to the geeky and weird world of alliteration.  That was an unacceptable alternative.  I stuck it out with “Sonja.”

I’m glad I did.  As I got older it became who I am.  I began to learn more about the name.  It is the Slavic version of “Sophia” and means wisdom.  I’ve always loved that.  I was thrilled when LightHusband when to Germany once and came back with a mug with my name on it because you never see my name on anything here.  Ever.

All throughout grade school and high school I was the only “Sonja.”  It was just me.  I began to really enjoy that in a deep down quiet way.  Then in my senior year another Sonja came to the school!  And she was a senior!!!  To make matters worse, she was absolutely stunningly beautiful and kind!!  AND … because of the way things worked out with our last names we were put right next to one another in the year book.  It was the ultimate irony.

Now I have embraced my name and really love it.  I don’t mind when people mis-pronounce it, but I still don’t respond to Tanya.  I do correct the spelling if it’s important because I love the “j” and as a visual person I think putting a “y” or an “i” in there makes my name look like someone else.  I know that’s stupid, but there it is.  Most of the time I leave it alone, though, because it’s a petty thing.  I get a huge and silly thrill out of running across other women who spell their name like me.  I don’t know why, but I think we should start a club because there are not so many of us.

So that’s about all there is to know about my given name.  Some day I’ll write the story of my middle name and how I had a major depressive episode (that’s what they call nervous breakdowns these days).

2 Responses  
  • Kimber writes:
    June 26th, 201011:26 amat

    I’ve had to learn to love my name also… Kimber Lea. I always joked that my mom couldn’t come up with a middle name so just broke up Kimberly! But “Lee” was my grandfather’s name. There are cousins, nieces, and now my son with this name… all spelled “Lee”, but I am “Lea”. In junior high, there was another “Kim (my last name) so for a short time I switched to “Lea” which everyone pronounced Lee-ah rather than Lee. So, I went back to Kim. In college, I became Kimber and it has pretty much stuck. I answer to Kim or Kimber, but NEVER to Kimberly! :0)

    • Sonja writes:
      June 27th, 20107:53 amat

      hehehe … Kimber … I have to admit I was not given a middle name at birth. Periodically throughout my childhood I would choose middle names and there were some doozies. I don’t want to reveal too much here, because it’s really all part of the larger story I want to tell another time. But since my last name begins with “N” there was a time that I decided I wanted my initials to spell something and the obvious choice was SIN. I have a great grandmother named Ida. So I spent a couple years with Ida as a middle name. It was just weird.

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