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:
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:
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.
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).
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.
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!)