What’s In A Name?

I have name issues.

It’s not my impossible last name. I don’t expect people to get that right. Spelling, pronunciation. It’s a lost cause. I’m over it.

Although I’m going to respect you if you get it right the first time. We’ll be friends.

My name issues stem from my first name. Returning briefly to semiotics – linguistic semiotics are, as I mentioned, completely arbitrary.  Humans randomly agreed to assign a sound to arbitrarily created symbols and then put those symbols together to create arbitrarily agreed upon words with arbitrarily agreed upon meanings.  Language, beautiful.

Names, they don’t have arbitrarily agreed upon meaning. “Margaret” might mean pearl according to the baby names books, but what does this have to do with me or any other Margaret? And peeling back the layers, I’m Meg. Which has nothing to do with Margaret. And has no “meaning.” Meg is meaningless.


So, semiotically speaking, “Meg” has no system of denotations and connotations. I have complete license and freedom to create a meaning for myself – to create a system of denotations and connotations for people to associate with me.  It’s a powerful feeling.

Except I don’t think I’m very good at it.

Because people rarely remember my name.

I think I have psychological damage from this.  I know, some people are just not good at remembering names. It’s not personal.  But…I DO remember your name, I’m good memory girl. So. I take it personally.

I am always reintroducing myself. It’s embarrassing. I’m at the point where I pretend I don’t remember your name.  It’s just easier than uncomfortably demonstrating that I pay attention. Or that you are more memorable than me.

Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve always been horribly shy and wallflower-y. Maybe I don’t expect people to remember me, so they don’t. Add this to my other layer of name anxiety:  correcting people about what my name actually is.

Meg is three letters. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Problem #1:  Margaret. In second grade, due to my bashfulness, I made my mother write my teacher a note telling her to call me Meg. I went through all of first grade hating being called Margaret, yet I couldn’t bring myself to correct my teacher. I don’t identify with “Margaret.” It is not part of my semiotic self-creation. I associate it with “official business” and my father’s wrath.  It has nothing to do with WHO I AM.

Problem #2:  Guess what.  Megan and Meg are not interchangeable. If I introduce myself as Meg, I am NOT Megan. But people don’t get my semiotic dilemma. Still being introverted and awkward, I rarely correct them.

I really do think this name issue has eroded my sense of self.  I start to think I am truly unmemorable. I wonder if I even exist.

My senior year of high school, a friend asked my crush to the prom for me (shy, hi.) I was euphoric when she told me he said yes…until I found out he didn’t know who I was.

We’d worked on a musical together. Granted we rarely spoke, as me talking to boys in high school, well, that didn’t happened. But I was within his sphere of awareness.  We had mutual friends.  Why didn’t he remember me? Do I somehow intentionally erase myself? Especially around men I WANT to notice me?

I was totally shocked the first time I heard a boy I liked say my name: it was my freshman year of college, and he passed me on the quad and said, “Hi Meg.” He didn’t ask me out. He just knew my name. And that was amazing to me.  Twelve years later, I remember that moment with perfect clarity.

As I’ve become more aware of my “conceptualization of Megness,” as I’ve grown stronger in my knowledge of who I am, I think I’ve gotten better about  asserting my identity.

But I still get Megan-ed a lot. And I just cringe and let it go.

Currently I have a crush on a boy, and still, still! at the age of 29! I get blissfully tingly when he says my name. My reflex is still giddy surprise that he knows who I am, and is willing to remember.

Why don’t I DEMAND that people remember me? Why am I so willing to be glossed over?

Maybe this is why I’m preoccupied with “making a name for myself” as a writer.  I want to get to a point where people know who I am, dammit. I want my own personally created semiotics to have actual significance. I want the denotations and connotations I’ve built around these three letters to matter.

Which is just another way I’m struggling to create meaning and purpose in my life.

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?

  1. I remember your name.

    some times when I hear it I think of the first wife of Hercules…

  2. This is so interesting. I grew up as one of three Jessies in my little high school class, and I was Jessie in college. At work now some people call me Jess, and my family calls me that, and sometimes Steve, but I don’t like it when people I don’t know well do it.

    You’re the only Meg in my life! I have a cousin named Megan but I think of her as such. Oh, except there’s also Meg in Little Women. That was my first exposure to a Meg. You’re cooler though.

  3. Richard – you may call me Megaera. I will allow it. I have a thermos that says as much. I don’t think she was legit Hercules wife though, only in Disney movies. She’s a Fury, and I’m comfortable with that association.

    Jess – my best friend is also a Margaret, which is really odd. I’ve always hated it as a name for myself, but not for her. We were in the same reading group in first grade and I HATED her because she had my name and I was always terrified I wouldn’t know who the teacher was calling on. I really sweat over it. My anxiety is deep-rooted…

    You are someone I’ve always had name anxiety over too – Steve always called you Jessie to me, but I got the sense you were trying to grow out of it into the more adult “Jess” so that’s what I try to call you, although instinctively I feel you as a Jessie and had to correct myself for a long time.

    Names are weird. I have a few friends who’ve tried to do the whole grown up thing (Mike becomes Michael, Katie becomes Kate) and it’s really strange for me. It really does become so part and parcel of WHO YOU ARE, and shifting it to me seems like changing a fundamental piece of yourself which I can’t fathom. And I never can make the transition to the new name.

    That’s my two more cents on the subject…

  4. It DOES NOT help to have a Meg and a Megan at the workplace. I’m sure it’s 90% of why people call you Megan there. Or at least 60%. At any rate, it was when you came that they all started calling me Meg whether we were on that level or not.

  5. Nadine

    well, i always remember you. but you are meggie. and for the life of me, i can’t remember who it was that you took to prom. so take that, boy!

  6. Deb

    I’m married to a Jefferson who goes by Jeff – and I know, Meg, that you can imagine how many times he’s called Jeffrey by people who think it’s cute to call you by a full first name you never introduced yourself as and, as it turns out, is totally wrong.

    My grandparents actually call him Jeffrey sometimes. Still. And we’ve been married like 5 years.

    His full name, though, is another semiotic conundrum – the whole thing together is so southern that it sounds like he’s a straight up confederate general (in fact, his middle name is the name of a REAL confederate general that he IS RELATED TO). So that’s its own bizarre burden to carry around.

    My gosh, let’s shed our names and name ourselves all over again. Like in sci fi. Anyway, the point of all of that is – I vicariously feel your pain.

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