Thursday, 8 December 2011

It's all in the name

I really enjoyed this article on The Guardian website last week, about namesakes in literature.  I really love my name, Nancy, because it is a name everybody has heard of, but in Britain it is still quite unusual.  I've never met another Nancy.

I have very clear ideas about what sort of person a Nancy is.  A Nancy is feisty, strong, independent, feminist and slightly old fashioned.  She doesn't take anybody else's nonsense, and she gets things done.  I'm not sure that all these attributes apply to me, but they're certainly traits I aspire to.

Good Nancys:
  • Nancy Mitford - writer.
  • Nancy Astor - politician; first woman MP to take her seat in Parliament.
  • Nancy Blackett - Pirate, Terror of the Seas, and true heroine of the Swallows and Amazons books.
  • Nancy Sinatra - singer of excellent, strong songs.  This one is my favourite - definitely a feisty, sassy, Nancy song.
  • Nancy Drew - multi-talented girl detective.
Rubbish Nancys:
  • Nancy Reagan - although clearly a powerful woman, ultimately too flaky to be a proper Nancy.
  • Nancy Dell'Olio - no; just no.
  • Nancy in Oliver Twist - an ambivalent Nancy: nurturing, but sappy as well. Gets herself murdered by Sikes. Could have been feisty, but wasn't really.
Last summer I visited the French city of Nancy, in the region of Lorraine near the German border.  I stopped off for a day with the children on our way back from Switzerland, and I was delighted to discover that Nancy is an absolutely glorious city - elegant and chic; very worthy of the name.  I would have been so disappointed if it had been a dreary, grotty sort of place.

Nancy in Nancy
Nancy in Nancy - beautiful roses and peonies in our hotel

How about you?  Do you like your name?   Do you approve of other people or places who share your name?

28 comments:

  1. Nancy Blackett is the Nancy that always comes to mind for me too!

    I love my name, and am proud of the many (not famous except in my family) Julias that have come before me :-).

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  2. If I'm honest, no, I don't like my name. I've got used to it, but I wouldn't have chosen it.

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  3. I'm actually Kathryn, meaning pure, which is obviously completely 'me'. The only other Kathryn who springs to mind was Howard and she didn't fair too well .. not exactly pure either! Hmm, you have me thinking now.

    That's a lovely photo of you.

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  4. Every Tom, Dick and Harry born in 1965 is called Sue. Can't think of any famous Sues. There was a Nancy a few doors down from me when I was little and I always envied her her name. Isn't one of David Cameron's daughters called Nancy?

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  5. I absolutely detest my name! I haven't got a middle name so have always felt very hard done by about that too. It has certain naff connotations which I have never forgotten!

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  6. I'm happy as Annie, but I was actually named Anne. I loathed the name growing up, and still don't like it much. The endless conversations about whether it has an e or not, the fact that most of the girls I knew were either also called Ann/e or had it as their middle name. It even meant that where others were called by their first names in class we Annes had our surnames (mine was an embarrassment) thrown in too to distinguish between us. And the teasing because the name is also an article so some other kids would shout "an elephant" at me because I was a chubby child and they thought they were being oh so funny. The only positive thing I can say for my mother's choice is that her motives were pure, she named me for her favourite Jane Austen heroine. Oddly if I were to choose a name for myself I might choose Anna, that last a makes all the difference!

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  7. Meant to say, I love the name Nancy, which is of course a variant of Anne. Lovely photo of you :D

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  8. When we were small, my cousin's best friend was called Nancy. My cousin also talked in her sleep, and one night woke me up during a sleepover by shouting "Nancy!" at the top of her voice. This is now how I always imagine saying it. If I ever met you you'd have to excuse the bizarre greeting. It's a great name.

    My name is just part of the rash of Joanne/Joanna that happened in the late 60s/early 70s. I'm ambivalent really, though I did get to identify even more strongly with Jo March in Little Women (even if she is a Josephine).

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  9. My Gran was called Nancy and I think you describe her pretty well!

    I like the name Terrie now but I hated having a unisex name at school. I remember learning that words in French with an 'e' on the end are feminine words (I have no idea if this is correct - French isn't my strong point) so as a teenager I shoved an 'e' on the end of Terri (which is actually how it's spelt!)and it's stuck ever since. I should probably start spelling my name correctly at the age of 30 but it's just habit now! X

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  10. Names fascinate me :-). I've never felt very attached to mine (Virginia) possibly because so many people got it wrong that I'd answer to almost anything! My mum (Millie) always says that a Millie in a book or tv is almost always the maid. I think we'd both be better as Nancy - Nancy Blackett is just the best character!

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  11. I like my name, but can't say i can think of anyone famous called Anna apart from Wintour-and she scares me rigid, frankly. Oh! and Anna Nicole Smith-didn't she have enormous boobs and marry an elderly chappie with loads of money? Oh blimey-see what you've started?!!

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  12. I always disliked my name. Every other girl born in the early 60's was called Karen so I was always in classes with at least 2 or 3 others. Not too many role models either. My mother sometimes called me Lucy Locket & I would much rather have been a Lucy - they sound so much more exciting!

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  13. Gorgeous picture of you in Nancy!

    I've only ever met one other Kristina in England. Perhaps this means I should be spending more time in Scandinavia...!

    I do like my name but get very tired of saying 'Kristina with a K'.

    K x

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  14. Nancy for me is Swallows and Amazons - which I love! I like my name - quite unusual, but easy to spell!

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  15. I shall think of you as a pirate from now on!
    as for my name - famous tess's - well there's that Thomas Hardy one who is a bit tragic......
    at school I got called Messie Tessie by a rather unkind teacher...
    and Tessie Bear (from Noddy) by my "friends" x
    oh quite often I hear "we have a dog called Tess"

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  16. I was Alison growing up, which I don't particularly love. Ali, I like better - until my phone tries to pronounce it 'Ah-lee', which is obviously not good. Given the other famous one is Mohammed Ali, with whom I don't feel much in common.
    There are hoards of Alisons who are my age, but I have no famous role model namesake. Unless you count Ali G (and I don't).

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  17. I'm called Josephine but never get called that, even my mum doesn't call me Josephine! You've made me think .... perhaps I will start a campaign for everyone to start calling me my proper name! Signing off Josephine Norman

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  19. My name is Gareth, fine if I were a Welsh scrum-half, but unusual for a Scots lass. I've always loved it. I swear it's got me through several oral exams. I just knew that the examiner wouldn't be able to resist asking me why I'd been given a man's name so I got the answer off pat.

    I'm not alone. There is at least one other female Gareth - Gareth Pierce, a leading human rights lawyer, but she was christened Jean and apparently doesn't comment on why she changed her name.

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  20. Hate mine. The only thing that can be said for it is that it's always been old-fashioned and so can't date me to a particular decade. But I've always longed for more syllables!

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  21. My mom's name is Nancy (we live in Canada) and your description of what a "Nancy" is was bang on! She fits that exactly!

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  23. what a wonderful post! I'm not aware of any Maxine's in lit. but here in NZ 'Maxine' is a prostitute imortalised in an 80's pop song. i was delighted to become a Bennett on marriage tho, being an Austen fan!

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  24. I'm not overly fond of Leanne. I think I would have preferred Leah or Juliet. Leanne sounds too subtle for me.

    If they are the traits you aspire to Nancy, it's no wonder you are a friend of Lenka's. (And isn't that an excellent name?)

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  25. I love the name Nancy although I confess to using it as an insult once when I was small. I had an argument with my Nan and didn't have the vocabulary to express my anger so I said 'you Nancy'at the top of my voice and she burst into tears!!! I have a love/hate relationship with my name as it gets pronounced Si-moan but it should be pronounced sim-on as in the French pronunciation.

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  26. OOh, I LOVE Nancy Sinatra. Her and Lee Hazelwood were so good together. I have not found a namesake at all, I used to rather search for Sheridans and there is a lack. Anne Sheridan, but otherwise it's all men. Sheridan Le Fanu, I suppose. And Sheridan in Ireland, which is what i'm named after. It's a common surname in Kerry, and means, apparently, "Small Warrior", which I heartily approve of.

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  27. Nancy is a great name. (Great photo o you too) I quite like my name because it's fairly unusual... don't know many other Ginas

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  28. I don't like my name & never really have! I always have to spell it (not that hard is it?) and people shorten it to Jan, which I detest! Young children (family or children in my care) called me Neeny, which I prefer to Janine! In the past I've been called Gina, Nina & Jasmine, none of which I minded and still use 'Nina' as an alternative. When I was little I wanted to be called Belinda or Stephanie! Oh & yes I get children comment that there is a Janine on Eastenders, before that it was Janine in Ghostbusters!! ARGHHH! But the alternative when my parents were having me was Aleen, not sure I like that any better!

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Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.