Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's in a Name?

What’s in a name?
I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Shakespeare in his assessment of the worth of a name.  In my personal experience, a name can indeed have great value.  
My name is Conia.  Not Sonya, not Connie, not Tonya.  Conia.    After introductions, people generally ask about the backstory  of my name.  It is at this point that I have to disappoint them and say that there is nothing exotic in the origin. 

It helps when you know that my mother’s name is Sonya, and her sister, my Aunt is named  Tanya, but that is where the novelty ends.   I am not Russian, nor is it a long-standing family name.  My mother is just a little unique.  
The story of my name really has rather humble origins.  My mother DID want something unusual.  Keep in mind that this was long before baby name books became popular, and the Internet was just a theory, so hunting down names took a little imagination.  
 Mother was a regular subscriber to Southern Living magazine, as all good Mississippi women are!  While she was pregnant, she was flipping through the magazine.  In the back, there were always advertisements for various products that would appeal to the demographic.  Canning jars and lids, tractors, the latest floor cleaner, you get the idea.  One of the ads was for a company that built barn stalls.  The ad featured a photo of the stall being used complete with horse.  Engraved on a wood sign hanging on his stall, was the horses name.  You guessed it - Conya.  A little change to the spelling, and viola - I was named!
My name made things a little difficult through school.  Especially the first day each year.  The teacher would go down the roll calling everyone by their first name.  Michael...Jennifer....Wendy....There would be a long pause, a puzzled look and then.......the easier to pronounce last name....Meadows??  It was during one of those first day of school encounters that I garnered the attention of my now-husband.  He was a senior and the lab manager of my freshman physical science class.  He was standing next to the  instructor as the schedules were confirmed.  I knew by the pause they had come to my name.  Sean leaned over and whispered something, Mr. Wakeham smiled, shook his head and came out with the expected Meadows?  Only later did I learn that his advice to Mr. Wakeham was “call her Cornucopia and see if she answers!”  He may have poked a little fun, but he never forgot me!
Then I got married and had children.  
Naming our children was no easy task - the bar had been set so high!  After much research - ( I had the advantage of the Internet )  - we came up with Karina  - not too weird, had the A at the end and was pretty.  Our second child presented a new challenge - we wanted something that started with L because Karina’s name started with a K.  we never could find a name we liked that ended with an a.  We decided on Laurel - a name we both fell in love with even though it didn’t fit the ‘a’ theme.  About 3 months after she was born, we discovered that my Great-Grandmother - who I had only ever heard referred to as ma Freeny - was named Leila.  But it was too late - our baby really was Laurel - changing her name to fit the mold just wouldn’t do.  For our third, we needed an M.  This one was easier - but I have to tell you that we named her Melia before we had ever heard of Barack Obama - or his daughter.
Did I mention that my last name is fun, too?  I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked - “Is your last name really Sell?”  Indeed, it is.  Sean’s last name is Sell - And he can’t stand dealing with salespeople!  He always says to me - YOU deal with them - I don’t want to talk.  Through the years, I have figured out that it is because he is a SUCKER!!  If you want to sell something, corner my husband.  The lotion gal at the kiosk in the mall can see him coming a mile away.  A kid comes to the door selling magazines, and suddenly, we are getting kyaker’s quarterly - we have never kayaked in our lives!  
At this juncture in my life, I happen to be in sales.  I liken my experience to the dentist named Dr. Payne.  Being able to chat with my customers about my name is another way to put them at ease.  We joke,  I tell them of Sean’s aversion to sales people, and I become a real person and not someone out to take them to the cleaners.  
My name often takes on the verb form.  Just last weekend, one of our upper managers was presenting monthly stats.  My name was on the PowerPoint slide for excellence in a particular area.  His quote?  “And once again, Conia CAN SELL!”  I smile and nod - because I suppose I am aptly named.  
Throughout my life, my name has served me well.  It has gotten attention, boosted my self-esteem and a little ego.  My name has enabled me to break the ice an engage in conversations that might not happen otherwise.  It stands out, it’s short enough to remember, and the vast majority of people I have encountered think it is quite pretty.  I am thankful for and all things it has done for me - and most recently it gave me the topic for my speech today!

Originally given in an Ice Breaker Speech 7/10/12

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