What’s in a Name?

Do you ever think about your name and what it means?   I remember that my whole life I have known the meaning of my name.  Juanita is the Spanish form of Joan (John for men).  It means “God’s gracious gift”.  I love that.   My daughter wants to change her name and I told her she can’t.  She’s 14 and thinks that she needs to have a mind of her own and thus a name of her own.  What is it with teenagers?   

Each time we named our babies we found a name we liked but we immediately looked up its meaning to make sure it would suit.  I don’t understand the parents who come up with these wacky made up names that combine so many vowels and sounds that you couldn’t possibly find a meaning in it.  Laqueesha,  Tawanda, Quishanda…?? Seriously?

Did you know that the name “Israel” was actually Jacob?    Jacob wrestled with an angel(that would have been cool to see) and God re-named him Israel which means “contended with God”.   So, here’s Jacob who suddenly becomes Israel and for thousands of years to follow an entire nation is named AFTER him!! What a legacy.  Actually the Bible is full of people whose names were changed based on the meaning.  

I like my name.  It’s poetic and rather romantic I think.   The other day a man asked if I was Spanish.  I said “no, my parents were hippies.”  He looked confused.   But let me explain.  My parents, in all their wisdom, decided to name us 3 girls after songs.  Actually, it’s pretty cool.    My oldest sister is Bonnie-Jo.  There was apparently a song in the 50’s that went something like this:  “Please Mr. DJ, play a song for him; I’d like a dedication from Bonnie-Jo to Jim.”   Wanna hear something cool? She married a man named Jim!  I love that story.   Sadly, we’ve been unable to find the song. It was a folk song and rarely played so tracking down its roots has been difficult.  

Little Juan as a little girl ; wild child.

Then there’s me: I actually have TWO songs.   My grandma always used to sing me “Juanita, Juaaaaa-nita…” but I was named after a country song called Juanita Carmela Garcia.  I still have not heard it.   I am however, extremely thankful that my mother came to her senses and dropped the “Carmela” and instead gave me a second name of Suzanne.  Yikes, I would have been wearing a sombrero and colourful skirt my whole life! 

My younger sister Amanda, was named after the most popular of all three.  Amanda by Don Williams.   It is a beautiful song, makes you cry.  Whenever my dad sings it the room is silent and we hang on every word. 

So, names are pretty important but then there’s…..the nickname.  Oh boy.  Quite honestly, I have no problem with my nickname.  I’ve had it my whole life and it’s just who I am.  But some people, who hear it for the first time are a little shocked.   You see, when I was born my sister(Bonnie-Jo) could not say my name.   So, she would pronounce it Jua-TI-ta.    Eventually that was shortened to Juati.    What’s interesting is how that stuck and how it BECAME my name.  My uncles, aunts, cousins and so many others just called me Juati.  What followed was anything that rhymed and well, it didn’t take long and I was Juati Pottie.  Now, this may be gross, odd or very tasteless but it stuck and it never bothered me .    We moved off the farm into the city in 1980 and I continued to be Juati.  All of my school friends, my church friends and my mom’s side of the family followed suit and I was always Juati.    Juati Pottie became the endearing form, the “call of the wild” so to speak. Hey, it got my attention.  Nothing like having someone in a mall yell out “Juati Pottie!!!”   

I got married in 1992, moved away in 1994.   Because my husband NEVER called me Juati, moving brought an end to my nickname.  Or so I thought.  For years, building new friendships and new relationships, growing into a wife and mother, it just never was brought up EXCEPT when we’d go home and see sisters and cousins.   But those visits were fewer.   Imagine my childrens’ surprise when they were old enough to understand and be at family gatherings where their mother was called Juati or Juati Pottie! Especially during those pottie-training years it was particularly funny.

I now have friends, who I’ve been friends with for more than 10 years who can’t bring themselves to call me Juati.  They find it disturbing I think.   But actually, I have to say that “Juan” and even “Juani” have come up too.  I think my sisters and other family may have felt that Juati was too juvenile and so I became Juan in the late 80’s.   That has seemed to be more acceptable.  And now I find that as I approach 40…..EEk!!!!!  the nickname has been rejuvenated.    Friends who have never called me anything but Juanita are now calling me Juan.  It’s a funny thing~ the shortened form or the nickname form of any name.  Why we feel the need to shorten everything.  I do it to my own kids.  Leslie is Les,  Lyndon is “Bud”,  Emily is “Em” and Lauryn is …”Honey” . 🙂

Just call me Juati or Juan.  After all, I’m Little JUAN on the Prairie!


6 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. PS – my dad in all his humor used to joke that they were going to give me the middle name “Talia” as in Jenna Talia. He thinks he’s funny. When I got married he said my new name sounds like a disease if you say it fast.

    “What’s wrong?”
    “I’m not feeling well.”
    “Oh no – what do you have?”
    “An awful case of jennapelias”
    “That sounds horrible.”
    “It is.”


    • Oh man. That is SO funny! I remember you telling me about your Dad’s take on your married name. Dads are so mean.
      I think “Auntie Meanie” is cute. Yes, nicknames are special in families …..keeps a special bond and line of communication separate from the rest of the world.

  2. Nicole couldn’t pronounce my name when we were little – she called me “Nenna” and actually little kids still do sometimes. But my grown up adult sisters STILL to this day call me Nenna. Nobody else does because it’s kind our “sister” thing. I like it. Nicole was Coco and alot of our cousins and most small children call her that still. My boys only know her as Auntie Coco – they look at us strange if we call her Auntie Nicole. Amy was “Mimi” and Andreas can’t pronounce that so he calls her Auntie Meanie instead 😛

    I love nicknames. Mateo’s nickname is just Teo (tayo, rhymes with mayo). Andreas is Dreas (dray-us) and Olivier is Olie or Ollie. (oh-lee or aw-lee).

    Glenn and I have one of those celeb nicknames – we are Glenna.

    And lastly Mateo is affectionately known as “Potato” at school. The kids think that’s his real name, just like half our church thinks Glenn is Mexican.

    Your daughter will change her mind. I wanted to change my name when I was younger too. I grew out of it and got a tattoo instead. LOL

  3. I’ve had the song ‘Hey Jude’ sung to me a million times in my life. A conversation starts out casual – hey Jude – and then the song just seems to inevitably break out at that point. 🙂

  4. I seriously I think you should compile your posts and have them published…maybe bathroom reading…..LOL no ..no .. no just kidding, it went with the nickname, Nick names are special because usually the people who give them to you are very special to you and so it is a form of endearment. With a name like Phyllis you can imagine some of the ones I have had..including “filissimo” and my dad always called my Delphy. Short for Philadelphia but mostly to my family I’m just Phyl.

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