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Why My Name Isn't Anna Christine

Posted by brokenstrings on Sunday, June 24, 2007

Why should it be? Because that's what my father picked out. My mother had other ideas.

She held out for Jessica in the face of well-meaning arguments from friends: (1) Are you nuts?  Germany's at war with England, so why do you want to court trouble by giving the kid an English name? (2) In fact, why attract attention with an oddball name anyhow? (Meaning, "You're both part-Jewish, so keep a low profile.")

Mama's reasoning was as follows: (1) She liked the name. An American singer, Jessica Dragon(n)ette, was popular at the time; also, Mama had played Jessica in an acting-school production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. (Years later she dug up her acting text and discovered she'd actually played Nerissa.) (2) In case we made it to the United States (which we did, but not till after the war), it would be good for her kids to have at least one English name. She wasn't to know that Jessica was at the time a very rare name and the kids at school would dub me "Jesse James."

Pop got to contribute the middle name, Regine. I wasn't crazy about it as a kid, but hey, if it was good enough for no less than two of Johann Sebastian Bach's daughters, who am I to quibble? Like my mother, Bach probably didn't care for two names ending in the same vowel in a row: I'm Jessica Regine, not Regina, and his daughters were Regine Susanna, not Regina Susanna, and the other one.

Anna, my original intended name, was the name of several of my father's ancestresses. Christine, I never dared ask, but it could have been what I think of as a Nostradamic gesture, something like "Who, me? No, I'm not Jewish. Nope." I say Nostradamic because the famous Michel de Notredame came from a family of converts who kept having to prove themselves and avoid clashes with the Inquisition, so they chose an ostentatiously Christian last name.

OTOH my brother ended up with a triple-barreled name that sounds like a son-of-a-Bach: Johann Matthias Christopher. (Everybody calls him Matt.) Johann was for two great-grandfathers, I think; Matthias for a family friend; and Christopher was supposed to be the English name.

In case you're wondering how come only my father's ancestors were thought worthy of immortalization, my brother gave his second daughter the middle name of Marianne, after my MOTHER'S mother.

4 comments on “Why My Name Isn't Anna Christine”

Sid Langley Says:
Monday, June 25, 2007 @5:33:44 AM

My name was going to be David Sidney Langley, but my mother's sister got it the wrong way round when I was christened, and that's the way it went on my birth certificate. But my family always call me David. It wasn't until later when I went to secondary school that my name was read out as Sidney David and I was too shy/overawed to correct them. Ever since I've been known as Sid, and it became by professional name. Now it feels weird when anyone calls me David. I think I have grown into being a Sid (never a Sidney, which was my father's middle name). Both grandchildren (one named Jessica, after a sister of my mother) call me grandad Sid. Keep up the playing and the name calling!

stanger Says:
Monday, June 25, 2007 @12:46:46 PM

...and now, we all know why. Wonderful story, Jessica!

brokenstrings Says:
Monday, June 25, 2007 @4:24:04 PM

Thanks, y'all. That's sorta how Hiram Ulysses Grant became U. S. Grant. Everybody called him "Ulysses" or sometimes  "Useless."  A family friend enrolled him in the army, realized he didn't know Ulyss' middle name, and put down "Simpson" because it was very common at the time to give a child the mother's maiden name. Ulyss didn't bother to change it. In time, his men came to think of it as "United States" or "Uncle Sam" or "Unconditional Surrender," and he gained a new nickname: Sam.

brokenstrings Says:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 @5:06:29 PM

AFTERTHOUGHT While my parents gave me an English name, that doesn't mean they could pronounce it with ease. English J doesn't fall easily to the German tongue, where J is pronounced Y. More often than not they called me "Yessika" or "Dschessika."

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