I hate my name.

For as long as I can remember, I have disliked my given name, “Loni.” The combination of sounds (an “ah” followed by an “ee”) has always sounded surly and masculine to me. Partly because I dislike it and partly because I have negative associations with my mother using it, I inwardly cringe when someone uses it to get my attention or in conversation. This is actually counter to one of the most widely accepted techniques for influencing someone. From 10 Psychology Tricks You Can Use to Influence People:

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, believed that using someone’s name was incredibly important. He said that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person. A name is the core part of our identity, and so hearing it validates our existence, which makes us much more inclined to feel positively about the person who validated us.

I would contend that this isn’t the case for people who have grown up disliking the sound of their own name. I usually ask close friends not to use my name unless it absolutely can’t be avoided.


Why don’t I like it?

A more popular spelling of the same phonetic is “Lonnie” which is almost exclusively used by men. Consider this popularity over time chart for the two spellings:

popularityLoniLonnie

Not only did my parents give me a name that is pretty uncommon, the few people who happen to share it – phonetically speaking – are mostly male. As a result, people I don’t know typically assume that I’m a man (regrettably, that could actually be helpful).

I was born in 1981, at the height of the popularity of the female version of the name (although, as a name, it was still pretty unpopular). This was no doubt related to the then-popularity of actress Loni Anderson, whose filmography credits were less socially impactful than her high-profile divorce from actor Burt Reynolds in the early ‘90’s. Although my mother always assured me that the name choice had nothing to do with the actress, I can’t help but think that she would have had to have turned somewhere else for inspiration had Loni Anderson not been well known at the time.

Why not change it?

My husband has been historically resistant to my desire to change my name. I suspect that having a gender-normative, common name like Chad probably means he can’t understand how frustrating having such an unconventional name can be. I wanted to change my name when we got married since it seemed like it would be a convenient time to do so, but he talked me out of it. I wanted to change it again after our son was born, but he didn’t hesitate to point out that we had named our son – Colin – by combining parts (in my case, all) of our two names.

There is also the consideration of my screen name, Loni2Shoes. “Loni two shoes” was a diminutive used by my father when I was growing up, derived from the phrase “goody two shoes” (if you knew me in school, you would understand). Unsurprisingly, he dropped the moniker as I got a little older. I adopted it as my screen name while in college, and have considerable online history associated with it. (Actually, this could be a reason in favor of changing it!)

Why not use my middle name?

A lot of people who dislike their given first name choose instead to go by their middle names. Unfortunately, my middle name is Therese which is weird and only marginally better than Loni. The correct pronunciation is such that it rhymes with “Perez” which I don’t like, and I can’t abide the thought of deliberately mispronouncing it (some people mispronounce it such that it rhymes with “Clarice”). When our family relocated last April, I briefly considered asking everyone I met to address me as “Lana” and, even though only the vowels are different between the two names, it felt weird – like asking to instead by addressed as Jennifer or Susan. I’m afraid that only a legal name change would make me comfortable asking to be called something different.

What would I change it to, if I did?

I don’t have a strong objection to having a less common name. I never envied Jennifer S. or Emily B. when I was in school (well, not for their names anyway). I would probably want a name that’s not super-common, maybe something older. Here are a few ideas I have considered, some with middle names and some without:

Lana
I already discussed – and rejected – the possibility of trying to go as “Lana” without officially changing my name. I like the “ah-ah” phonetic of this name surprisingly more than the “ah-ee” of mine. Disappointingly, the recent rise to fame of Lana Del Rey (who I like) makes this name less appealing.

Claire
Save the cheerleader, save the world. The most iconic Claire I can think of is Claire Bennet from Heroes played by Hayden Panettiere. I think I could see myself as a “Claire” (minus the limb regeneration).

Daphne
Honestly, how could anyone who watched Scooby Doo not like the name “Daphne”? (Unless you happened to prefer Velma, but no one could seriously consider changing their name to Velma, could they?) It would almost feel like a betrayal to the name if I didn’t color my hair red, though. The story of Daphne and Apollo is also one of my favorites in Greek mythology.

Lily Avalon
I like the name Lily because it preserves some aspects of my given name but sounds much more feminine. The “Avalon” is a hat tip to my Irish background, a nod that’s otherwise pretty hard to give since most Irish names are next-to-impossible to pronounce correctly. I could easily see myself going by “Ava” when I get older, and the “lon” in “Avalon” would be a way of preserving that part of my name. I have been told that “Lily” sounds airheaded, and that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a “Lily” to which I responded, “You take me seriously?”

What do you think? Is my son’s name (Colin) enough of a reason not to change my name? Are there any ways to get over dislike of your own name (preferably such that it doesn’t sound like nails on a chalkboard)? Have you ever changed or considered changing your name (outside of changing your maiden name, of course)?

(Lest any of my close friends feel the need to overshare, my original given name was “Misty Lynn”; at least I dodged that bullet!)

17 thoughts on “I hate my name.”

    1. I forgot to mention that 90% of the substitute teachers I had in school seemed to deliberately mis-pronounce my name in the most obnoxious way: LOH-nee or, worse, Looney. REALLY??

  1. Funny – you’re the first Loni I’ve met, and I never made the connection to Loni Anderson or thought you had an odd name. I like it. And when I later met a boy “Lonnie”, I thought he had a girl name.

    Every name has downsides. I’ve got one of those common, gender-normative names, and sometimes I end up in meetings or on emails with two others with the same name. So you get called your last name instead of your name.

    Anyway, I’ve always liked your name. It’s a personal decision, and I’ll do my best to call you whatever you’d like. But for what it’s worth, I like Loni. I think it’s feminine, cute without being weak or cheesy, and uncommon enough to be interesting without being completely weird. Kind of like you. 🙂

    1. I agree with Chris. While I’ve known a guy or two named Lonnie, I have always associated the name with you. Therefore, I have only positive and feminine associations with it. However, I also never realized it caused you such distress. That being the case, and as difficult as it is to associate someone with a new name, I have always loved Claire (WAY before the cheerleader) and also like Avalon. Lily… well, just doesn’t seem to fit IMHO. Plus, Loni would be a perfectly explicable nickname for Avalon.

      A rose by any other name… 🙂

  2. @Chris: Your post makes me feel tons better about my name. The manager at Kroger last night who helped me locate the $3.99/lb. T-Bones was actually named Lonnie. I decided not to point out that we had the same name in case he’s similarly sensitive about its androgynous nature. Thanks for the super-sweet comment.

    @Renee: I think I like Claire Avalon, too… and I really like the idea of “Loni” being a derivative of the middle name, for those who are forgetful! Of course, then our immediate family would include Connie, Chad, Colin, Claire with two cousins Christa and Chelsey. Maybe we can get a bulk rate on capital C’s.

  3. You’re the only Loni I know and I, too, think of it as a feminine (and beautiful) name! But I’d happily call you whatever you’d prefer and I think all of your choices are pretty! (BTW my name is technically masculine [son of Alice]). 🙂

    1. I didn’t realize that your name meant “son of Alice”! I’ve always loved your name and it would totally have been on “the list” if I didn’t know you. 🙂

  4. I’ll call you what you want. From now on, you are Auntie LaLa until further notice. 😉
    I hated having the most popular girl name of the early 80’s, and it still sucks. Anytime I go to the doctor and they say “Jennifer,” at least 4 girls stand up. Then I was stuck with Randi as the middle name, (which is now legally CHANGED AND GONE FOREVER) which is not only a boy name with an “i” but a damn stripper name. (My dad chose his favorite twin between Candy and Randi from some weird ass TV show called “BJ the Bear,” which is a show about truckers and apes. No, I am not making this up. At least I didn’t get Candi or Bambi, but jesus). Right now, Matt and I are struggling on picking a good middle name for our daughter where I want something unique and Filipino and he wants normal. The fight goes on!

    1. Haha, I can totally dig being Auntie LaLa. I didn’t realize you’d changed your middle name. What did you change it to? Was it when you got married? You changed it to something Jean Grey-related, didn’t you. Chad and I had a similar fight when it came time to name Colin. He wanted something “ordinary” that wouldn’t get him “beaten up” and I wanted something “fancypants” and exceptional. We luckily found a happy compromise with Colin (his middle name is Daniel, Chad’s middle name and Chad’s father’s first name).

  5. Well, honestly, I’ve never thought about your name so intently. When I think of you, your name is such a small part of that. Because of who you are, though, I associate your name with a very feminine female. Not only that, someone who is definitely unique and intelligent. You are also very beautiful so Loni is kind of sexy too. Maybe we make our names fit us and not the other way around.

    BUT, you obviously unhappy with it so, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to change it. It would take some getting used to for your friends and family…

    1. Thank you for saying that you think I’m feminine (and for using the word “sexy” to describe me!). I love the idea of making our names fit us but I’ve tried and tried to accept my first name and just can’t. It might have something to do with my wackadoodle, now-estranged parents: after all, despite being a firmly-entrenched feminist, I couldn’t change my maiden name fast enough when Chad and I got married. 🙂

  6. (I resisted the urge to use your name to address you in this comment.)

    I, like my brother, have always liked your name. I have a strong memory of jealousy of the “cool, unique, smart” girl that was such good friends with my brother. I remember wondering how it was someone was so comfortable in their own skin and didn’t feel the need to stoop to the level of all the other idiots around us. (Yet managed not to be condescending all the while.)

    I have met two other Loni’s in my life and they were both compared to you. I honestly thought the guy, Lonny, was named a girl’s name.

    Obviously, do whatever you feel the need to but I feel that you rock your name.

    – Laura

    1. My head is spinning at the idea that you ever experienced a pang of jealousy towards me. ^_^ You were the “IT” girl in high school and, from avidly following you on Facebook, you’re still as beautiful and charismatic as you were then. 🙂 Thanks for the incredibly sweet comments, nonetheless; I wish we had had the opportunity to be better friends (of course, then you would know the truth about how uncomfortable I was in my own pale skin 😉 ).

  7. I’ve often considered when moving to a new location (also frequently prompted by my father to do so) to have people start calling me Cait or Caity or even get more people to attempt to properly pronounce Caitriona. But I always end up sticking with Cathy because whenever people call me something different, it takes me a moment to realize they’re talking to me. I’m sure that’s something that I could overcome over time, though. Also when I was a kid I used to want my name to be Caitlyn and tried to get people to call me that instead. It didn’t work, though. >_< People still called me Cathy. I don't know if the sharing those experiences aided you in anyway. The only other thing I would have to say is that I think if your name bothers you that much, it's like anything else in life. You need to do what makes you happy to be happy. Everyone else will work it out, especially since they truly love you.

  8. Well – I have known you as Loni – so to me it seems that Loni fits you perfectly. You are the only Loni I know, outside of Loni Anderson (who was super cool when I was a kid). And since I tend to visually see words and names, I have always seen your name as a feminine name.

    As a kid, my dad had a friend named Lonnie and I always thought if his name as being feminine. Traditional names, outside of some Italian names, ending in the ‘ie’ sound always came across as feminine to me – Terry, Christy, Peggy, Lori, Jenny, Suzy, Penny, Fanny, Melanie, Jamie, Janie, Lanie, (Candy and Bambi nod to a previous post) etc. In fact, in the past I have actually spent time thinking of names that end in ‘ie’ that could be used as names for men.

    Having said that, I can somewhat sympathize, I never cared for Bryant. It is unusual and I don’t like to to stand out. It is a last name – who wants to be named after a last name, and when it isn’t, it is generally associated with African Americans, which of course I am not. I don’t dislike my name anywhere near enough to have ever seriously considered changing it. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable with any other name. There are names I like, like Jay and Mark, but I sure don’t feel like a Jay or a Mark, and the few times I have felt the need for an alias, I go with Jay Marcus.

    So – I wouldn’t write unless I had some suggestions.
    1.) Colin will just have to change his name to something more suitable. Thereby, you can change your name. And having set a precedent, he can just change his name once he hits 18 to whatever name his personality desires. After all, if you are thinking it now, Colin might act on it later. And wouldn’t it suck if he changed his name when he is 20, forcing you to live with Loni all those years.
    2.) Chad changes his name to Lonnie, you to Claire. Colin is now set, with Lonnie now representing most the letters and you the ‘C’. And Lonnie can now see how the name fits.
    3.) Change your name to something including the letters LONI (So as to not disturb the continuity you created with Colin’s name). I really couldn’t come up with much, but I am throwing this out there just in case someone else is more clever. Some options: Lioness Huff (My Favorite) or maybe Lorin, or Oliana (close to Lana).
    4) Go Prince. Pick a symbol and stick with it.
    5) Change your middle name to whatever the heck you want and everyone can just deal with it as you go with your middle name.
    6) Study other languages which have different phonetics for the various letters “No really, just because it is spelled L-O-N-I does not mean it is not pronounced Anna Marie Sunlight is Evil”

  9. I hate my name I always thought that mine was TOO feminine. I am the motorcycle loving leather wearing mud throwing tomboyish girl. Then to make it worse my own parents called me lilly and my teachers and my classmates, because they thought it was pretty. whats worse than that when tried to change my nickname to lyle pronounce lie-lee everyone asked but why would you want to do that lilly is so pretty No its not I hated it and I still do and no one ever takes me seriously bcause of my awful princessey name ugghhh I want to change it soo bad too bad I cant because i’m not of legal age yet. I even tried getting people to call me ann but to no avail I will always hate my name until I can change it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *