What’s in a Name?

Reflections on my URL change and my own name. 

I’ve had this blog for only about five months now — wait a second. It’s actually exactly five months today! — but I had already become tired of my previous URL. anylimn was an anagram of my name Manilyn — “any” to suggest an open-endedness, and “limn” to refer to a term that means to outline in clear, sharp detail. I thought it was clever. But it honestly didn’t satisfy my eye. It didn’t feel or look like me. When the letters in my name were mixed up, felt mixed up.

My name has always meant a lot to me. From elementary school teachers and substitutes calling role to folks in customer service who ask for my name today and then inevitably mispronounce or misspell it, I’ve been hyper-aware of the uniqueness of my identity from a very young age.

  • “M-Marilyn? Oh, no, Manilyn, I see.”
  • “I thought your name was Madeline until I saw it written out!”
  • “Mandolin? Like the instrument?” (And let’s not forget the snarky “Ha ha, you should totally learn how to play the mandolin so you can be mandolin player named Manilyn.”)
  • “Manilyn? Well, isn’t that just different.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard variants of those statements throughout my life. It gets tiresome sometimes. The number of times I’ve had to correct someone or say the words, “It’s like ‘Marilyn’ but with an ‘N’ instead of an ‘R'” is immeasurable. I rarely print my name in lowercase letters. When spelling my name, say, on the phone to an office or customer service line, it’s always, “M-A-N as in Nancy-I-L-Y-N.” In situations where I introduce myself to someone I probably won’t even ever see again, I don’t even bother to correct them when they say, “It’s nice to meet you, Madeline.” (I get incredibly moved if I’m with friends and they take it upon themselves to correct that stranger. I would never have that expectation of anyone to do that for me, but it’s happened a touchingly large number of times, and for that I am so grateful.)

But of course, I don’t expect the world to know my name. I’m not arrogant enough to actually be upset when a stranger doesn’t get my name the first time around. If anything, I just laugh to myself when I see what new variant of “Manilyn” or “Madeline” a Starbucks barista will write on my order. My name is the farthest thing from common, after all.

Apparently, the name Manilyn appears only 56 times in the U.S. When I try and type “Manilyn” into the Facebook search bar, just a couple hundred more appear, all located in the Philippines. There is a Filipina singer and actress by the name of Manilyn, but I’m not named after her. As many of my friends know, my name is a combination of my parents’ names — a practice common to Philippine culture, actually. I adore that tradition. I hope to continue it with my own children. (Future hubby, I hope your name blends well with mine.)

Having such an uncommon name has shaped my entire personality and perspective on life. It inflates my ego every now and again, and I’ll readily admit that because it’s a bad habit I’m painfully aware of and trying to tackle. But being made hyper-aware of my own identity and how “different” it is has made me feel special my whole life, all just because of seven letters. Unique. Unlike others. Different. Sometimes uncomfortably different. I’m not trying to suggest by any means that my name defines my value as an individual over that of others. But it does push me to set myself apart, not only in identity but in everything I do. I could almost describe it by saying I feel like I have to live up to the uniqueness of my name.

Sometimes, I dismiss my own self and say, “It’s just a name. It’s nothing special.” In this day and age in a society where people frequently dismiss what others are emotionally invested in, I can imagine that’s exactly what some people might think when they read how much I value my own identity. But then I remember that Freakonomics did a pretty cool study on the power of names, and that it’s actually not unreasonable to place this much importance on one’s identity when it’s been proven that a name really does have some influence on an individual’s life. My identity has shaped who I am and what I do in every bit as much that what I do has shaped my identity.

Featured image created on Canva.com

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