What’s the Story of Your Name?

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Me striking a pose in front of some classic 70s wallpaper.


Do you have a great story behind your name?  Or do you wish that you did?

The Story of My Name

I was born, Lainie Beth Johnson.  My mom was going to name me Andrea Kelly.

On my mom’s side of the family, I was the first grandchild to be born.  My parents liked the name Andrea, and Kelly was the name of my mom’s brother.

It was getting close to her due date and Mom was at a Lamaze class.  The instructor was telling the group about her daughter, Lainie.  She went home that night and asked Dad if they could change the name they had picked out for me.  It made sense.  Her mom’s name was Elaine; when she was a little girl, her family and close friends affectionately called her “Lainie” for short.

My grandma didn’t know of the name change until she heard about my birth.  My grandma and grandpa lived in a remote area of Northernwestern Ontario.  Their home was nestled amongst trees and always near water.  They had no phone, so to communicate with them we could call into the local radio station and leave a message.   Messages were read on air at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. (they called it “The Message Period.”)  Grandma first heard my name when it was read over the airwaves to announce my birth.  What a surprise that must have been for her.

Growing up with a unique name, I was never the kid who found hair brushes or key chains with their name on it.  I always scanned the alphabetical order of items hanging on a rotating rack, never to find anything under the L.

I have spent my entire life spelling out my name when ordering a cup of tea or trying on clothes in a store.  I have gotten smarter over the years and have created what I call my “Starbucks name” – a name I use when ordering my drink so I can avoid spelling out L-a-i-n-i-e.  The name I use is Beth.

Despite the quirks of a name that’s different and the questions that go along with it, I do love it.  It has given me the opportunity to proudly tell others about my grandma.  I am named after a woman I admire so much.  To me, there is no one else with a story like hers.  Where other kids in class had grandmothers who baked cookies and wore aprons, my grandma wore cargo pants, trekked through the wilderness, could shoot a rifle, and also play a piano.  I grew up feeling that women could do anything.

I’m now realizing how much of my identity is tied to her.  No wonder losing her was so hard.  Now I’m learning to tease out what is me and what was her.  She would want that.  She always wanted people to live their own lives.

Writing my life stories is a way to figure out my own path.


Why It’s Important to Share our Stories

If you have children or nieces and nephews, consider writing the story of their name.

Professor Andrea Breen, of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at University of Guelph states: “Storytelling is really important for children’s development.  Kids who come from families where there’s lots of storytelling tend to be stronger in terms of their language, relationships and emotional well-being.”

Let kids know the history of their name.  It’s the beginning of their story.


And write your own!  It’s all a part of our narrative identity.  (If you’re wondering, what is Lainie even talking about?!  You can learn more about it here.) I love this stuff. You need to check it out.

And here’s the article about Professor Breen if you’d like to read it.



Just for Fun…

As a random aside, if you want to giggle like a kid, look up the meaning of your name on Urban Dictionary.

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Unconventional, I hope so.
Crazy and silly, yes.
Hazel eyes.
Likes to make people laugh.
But the rest… too funny.
I may not party all night long,
but I do care about my friends.


One Reply to “What’s the Story of Your Name?”

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