Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Are you calling my name?

I know this will come as a shock, but Pythagoras is not my husband’s real name.

In fact, his first name is a fairly common one. At least once a week, we’ll be out somewhere and a stranger will call his name.

Somehow, Pythagoras always seems to know when he’s truly being summoned and when the stranger is shouting for someone else with the same name.

“Doesn’t that drive you nuts?” I asked once. “Having so many other people with your name?”

“Not really," he said. "It’s more like we’re all in a club.”

Personally, that would drive me batty. I’ve always liked the fact that I don’t have to share my name with many people. My mom came up with it by blending her best friend’s name (Tanna) and my grandmother’s name (Donna).

Though I’ve met the occasional “Tona” or “Tana” who pronounce their names the same way I do, I’ve only met one other “Tawna." She was working the cash register at a local bed and bath store, and I was inexplicably annoyed when I saw her nametag.

“Your name is Tawna?” I asked.

“That’s right.”

“That’s unfortunate,” I told her. “You’ll have to move. There’s only room for one of us in this town.”

I swear she knew I was joking, but when I returned to the store a month later and asked if Tawna was working, the clerk gave me a funny look. “She moved away.”

Like many authors, I use Google Alerts to notify me when my name is mentioned online. Any use of “Tawna Fenske” is me 100% of the time, which is a relief.

I always feel for authors like agency sistah Linda Grimes (who recently blogged about sharing a first and last name with a Justin Bieber fan) or author Sean Ferrell (who, it must be noted, uses the Twitter handle @byseanferrell and NOT @seanferrell – a handle claimed by an Episcopalian priest who’s probably making all kinds of interesting new friends in light of the amazing buzz surrounding author Sean Ferrell’s upcoming debut, NUMB).

When it comes to my first name, Google Alerts is seldom talking about me when it notifies me that “Tawna” has been mentioned online.

Apparently, there’s a Tawna who is a character in a video game, and another Tawna who is…well…I’m actually sure what she does, though she describes herself as working in the “entertainment business”

Does anyone else find this name thing fascinating? Is yours a common or uncommon name? How do you feel about that? If you’re an author, do you have any plans to use a pseudonym with your books?

Please share in the comments. I’ll be busy shouting “Pythagoras” at my husband to see if I can get him to turn around.

50 comments :

KAK said...

I've a fairly common first name. First and Last are shared with a brilliant surgeon and a super-smexy male model.

When I have a "fat" day, I just imagine I'm him in a little Victor-Victoria.

Amie Boudreau said...

My name is common but the spelling isn't so common... I really don't like my name though. I don't think it fits me.

It's very 'girly' and I'm not a 'girly' kind of girl. :)

SM Schmidt said...

There were eight girls with my name in grade school, three were in my class, not a problem once I learned to tune out my name...until college where no one has my name.

Thank gawd for pen names, my one chance to be a unique little snowflake.

adriannerussell said...

My name seems to be more common now than when I was growing up, but the spelling isn't, with an 'a' in the middle where folks seem to think an 'e' should live, or with the last two letters constantly removed.

It's been mangled many ways. I've been Andrea, Audrina, Adriana, Adri-ANNE, etc. And if I hear that "Rocky" joke one more time... :)

Penelope said...

I love my uncommon name: Penelope Rose :)

I must admit to getting slightly annoyed at meeting another Penelope. I would not, however, be annoyed at meeting Penélope Cruz. She is an exception to that rule.

Sierra said...

For 24 years, I only met one other Sierra. Then I moved to Montana and started working at a Claire's. There was at least one Sierra a week sometimes. The Saturday when I pierced the ears of 4 Sierras in two hours was interesting.

My Dutch last name is REALLY uncommon, so it's sometimes a ten minute ordeal to get people to spell it correctly, even with it written down right in front of them. I won't even mention teaching them how to pronounce it. I'm pretty sure that if I'm ever published, I'm going to use a pseudonym so that people who are looking for my book can actually find it.

beadhack said...

Google "Renee Taylor" and you get the actress/playwright (the Nanny's Mom in "The Nanny), then an art gallery in Arizona, and Hey! A new one! A contemporary artist in Australia. How the h*ll did I become an engineer?!?

beadhack said...

p.s. - in a majority of "Renee"s, it is their middle name. Ask one next time you see her if it's her first or middle. Just sayin.

Purple Cow said...

My first name is boring but when I type it in google I am the only one with first and last name together...there are, however many purple cows and this excites me. I would feel lonely being the only one.

I read your blog occasionally and always seemed to think Pythagoras was your dog and imagined you must have some fixation with triangles by naming him thus.

By the way, you probably already know this, but you are hilarious!

Deborah said...

My name is common. Every time I'm at the doctor's office, they ask my date of birth to ensure they grabbed the right file. Google my name and all sorts of women pop up, mostly smarter than me (if the array of initials behind their names means anything). Which is why I will use a psuedonym; I'm thinking...Tawna Fenske. It's a beautiful name; has a nice ring to it, and I'm sure--oh, wait. That name's taken. Hmmm. Back to the drawing board. *g*

Linda G. said...

The Beiber thing was bad enough, but the other day Google Alerts informed me I was dead. THAT was a surprise. Also, a little disturbing.;)

grace said...

There aren't lots of Graces my age--it became popular again when I was like 10, so there are lots of "little" Graces--but my last name was uniquely messed up at Ellis Island, so I'm the only one. And everyone with that last name is related to me. I kind of love it.

Candyland said...

I have yet to have a problem with someone sharing my name...but I'm sure my time is coming.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Elizabeth is actually really common, but I like it, so I'm not willing to give it up. If the Queen doesn't like sharing, she can change her name.

I chose Ryann, which is not actually my last name, but still feels like a family name since it starts with the same and is the same number of letters as my last name, and is a slight variation on my brother's name. The double N felt appropriate because my mom has a double N in her name and so included a double N in my middle name (much to my father's irritation, since he'd envisioned my middle name spelled with only one N. He almost got my name legally changed it annoyed him so much. So my mom pointed out he should have either made that clear or stuck around to fill out the paperwork. So the double N has funny family significance.). My real full name I share with a Spanish teacher (I don't speak Spanish - which is disconcerting to those who assume anyone with a Spanish last name should), a Chapter 13 Trustee, and a stripper (or, at least, a lady who has a significant number of naked pictures online). When you search for Elizabeth Ryann, you find me. Which I quite like.

kd easley said...

My given name is Kathleen. I only ever heard that if I was in trouble. My nickname is Kadi. And for some reason no one can pronounce it. It's Kay Dee. When I started working construction I got tired of telling people how to say my name so I just started putting KD on my hard hat. That was cool, so i chose it as my pen name.

Karla Nellenbach said...

You mean to tell me that Pythagoras is not your husband's real name?!?! I feel so cheated, like our entire relationship up until this point has been a sham, one big fat lie! oh, the horror! How will I ever overcome this tragedy? How?

ahaha...I, myself, am proud to not just be Karla but Karla with a K...this is a very, rare Karla indeed, and must be cherished by all who have the honor to meet her.

wow! I'm full of it today, aren't I? :)

Kristie Cook said...

My name is fairly common but not TOO common and it IS like being in a club. LOL Mine's spelled differently than most, though. My Google alerts come up with a lot of Kristy Lee Cook from American Idol. I can definitely tell the difference there. There is also a cooking blogger named Kristie (different last name but since "cook" is in her posts, I always get those alerts). AFTER all decisions were made for my book and it was going to press, another author (or her publisher) announced that her next book will be published under Kristi Cook, the first time she's used that pseudonym. Not much I can do about it, though. Hopefully it will be a good thing for both of us.

Sydnee said...

"Sidney" or "Sydney" is pretty common but "Sydnee" isn't. There is only one other person I know of that spells her name that way, and that is Sydnee Steele. She's a retired porn star. Fancy that. A sign?

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

Happily, my family name was made up by an Irishman who wanted something more American-sounding, so there's less than a hundred of us running around out there. Add a weird spelling of the first name, and Googling me turns up...me. Sometimes in strange contexts, but me!

Kelly Breakey said...

Well since you are the only Tawna out there I may have to use that as my pseudonym. You won't kill me or anything if I do right?

Kelly AKA Tawna of Florida

LR said...

Is Donna "Hot Lips"?

Sierra Godfrey said...

My name is uncommon, so I only ever get my own posts pinged on Google Alerts. However, I know I have been mentioned elsewhere so I'm convinced Google Alerts is just laughing at me, trying to make me think that my own blog is the only existence of my digital print. Oh, Google Alerts, you mock me.

Delia said...

Mine's uncommon enough, though not unheard of (there is that whole retail clothing chain). I used to have an easy-to-pronounce Irish last name, but then I opted to take my husband's last name, which is Ukranian and easier to pronounce than people like to think. Now, I am a unique flower. There are no others that I've run across. And, since you've directed me to a new toy (Google Alerts), I'll be watching.

As such, I think if I ever do publish, it will be under my actual name. No mistaking me. I'm willing to correct pronunciation.

Editor Mouse said...

I am happy to know that while the pronunciation of my first name is common, the spelling is less common. I have yet to meet someone with my last name that is not a part of my family, though I know there are some out there.

Larissa said...

Mine's pretty uncommon, although, there is an urban fantasy author and a book blogger with my first name. And when I googled my first and last a couple of years ago, there was some athlete of some sort with it.

Oh, and I heard some author was using my first name for a trampy woman in one of her mss. ;)

I'm seriously considering going the first and middle initial route on my books (if I ever sell one - lol). When I google that, I get me, since it's what I use for my blogger url and my twitter handle. :)

Michelle Wolfson said...

My maiden name was a first name last name, and not one that anyone had ever heard of used as a last name. Ever. Unless you know one of my family members. So that made me virtually ungoogle-able, since my name would pop up as people's first and middle names.

And while plenty of people have the name Michelle, and enough have the first name that was my last name, no one ever had that combination. That was fun and special. Can you tell my husband and I had a big fight about changing it? Ooh, hint: this is related to the #2weddings1husband hashtag.

LadyGenette said...

Genette Wood is my pen name, and as far as I can tell, I am the only living person with the name. My legal name is also unique, as I am definitely the only person with that name. It all makes me feel doubly special.

Piedmont Writer said...

My real name is a nightmare and no one can pronounce it at all which is why I chose Anne Gallagher who is related to me in several capacities. Unfortunately when you google it, there are about 100 women who pop up and I am not one of them. I'll have to do something about that.

Tawna Fenske said...

It never ceases to amaze me which blog posts seem to generate the most comments :)

KAK, have you considered impersonating the surgeon or the model? There's gotta be money to be made there somewhere.

Amie, I always like that spelling of your name :)

SM Schmidt, wow, that would get confusing having that many classmates with the same name! I knew a girl named Jennifer who ended up going by "Woody" her whole life because there were too many other Jennifers and she used to wear a pair of secondhand overalls with the name "Woody" stenciled on them.

Adrianne, oh lord, I imagine the Rocky joke DOES get old. I get a lot of "Tawna-do-ya-wanna?" That's generally from my husband.

Penelope, I've always liked your name. I actually went through a phase as a kid where I thought I might like to be named Penelope.

Sierra, heck, I'm still amazed I have two Sierras who regularly comment on this blog!

Beadhack/Renee, wow, that's interesting about the middle name thing. My cousin's wife is "Rene," I'm going to have to ask her now if it's a middle name!

Purple Cow, I like your name best of all :)

Deborah, you're welcome to use my name as your pseudonym, particularly if you're planning to write a bestseller and need someone to send those royalty checks to.

Linda G, you write funny blog posts for a dead person.

Grace, very interesting about the Ellis Island mix-up. I know my last name is EXTREMELY common in northern Germany...like pages and pages of Fenskes in the phone book.

Candyland, what do you mean? I have like six Candylands living on my block.

Elizabeth Ryann, notice I'm putting your last name in this time (since I sometimes look back in the comments and realize I replied to two Elizabeths without specifying who I'm talking to). I'm totally going to go look up the naked pictures now, by the way.

KD, I do like that as your pen name! Kaydee and Kadi are also very nice (though I can see why people would be unsure how to pronounce the latter).

Karla, I'm trying to persuade my husband to legally change his name to Pythagoras. No luck so far, but I'm still working on it.

Kristie, the first time you commented on my blog, I remember thinking, "wait, isn't that a country singer?" I actually had to check to see if you were the same person :)

Sydnee, I think Sydnee Steele is an excellent porn name. Have never heard of her (not that I'm a porn fanatic or anything).

Geoffrey, yours IS an interesting name! I have a friend with the same spelling on the first name, though he generally just goes by Geof.

Kelly, you can have my name if I can have your advance :)

LR, good memory! Yup, Donna is indeed "Hot Lips."

Sierra Godfrey, no kidding, Google Analytics is weird sometimes. It occasionally sends me emails about random tweets I've sent like, "having potatoes for dinner." No rhyme or reason.

Delia, there's a clothing chain with your name? I'll have to go check that out!

Editor Mouse, that would be interesting to have such an uncommon last name. Is it more common in another country?

Larissa, I wonder which author would borrow your name like that? Crazy!! :)

Michelle, a clue in the #2weddings1husband hashtag game?! I've got to start writing these down!

LadyGenette, you ARE doubly special. I like your name, too.

Piedmont Writer, I have a lot of trouble with people pronouncing my first name. About 50% of people try to put a "Y" in there and call me "Tawnya."

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Kristen Lamb said...

Ha ha ha ha. Yeah, when I first started this whole author social media thing, I googled my name and actually called the "other Kristen Lamb." She happened to be a media mogul who took up the first 2 pages of the search. So I went all Highlander on her. I told "the other Kristen Lamb" that "there could only be ONE." Lucky for me she is a great gal with a great sense of humor.

...and I knocked her out of all the top spots--mwah ha ha ha ha ha!

Love the blog. Glad you posted on mine so I could be blessed with yours!

Kristen

Elizabeth Ryann said...

This is actually one of my favorite posts of yours, and the comments have been so fascinating. But if you're serious about looking my naked lady up, my real name is Elizabeth Rojas, and that lady is very artistic with her nudity. She wears a lot of painted on clothes. Don't let the illusion fool you. She is actually naked. And not super attractive. But definitely naked. You're welcome.

Summer said...

I've always been neurotic about names, since my parents gifted me with a particularly, erm, unique name: Cherokee Summer. Everyone always asks why the name, as if I named myself. Obviously, I go by Summer--except to my paternal grandmother, all her friends, and my oldest cousin. I'm Cherokee to them. I answer to both, however.

My maiden name was Bishop, which worked fine with a name like Summer. There could have been some real problems in the marriage department if I'd changed names, though. I remember having a crush on a boy whose last name was Summers...so I could have been Summer Summers. Memorable at least, no? I was always grateful my last name wasn't Camp...or People (for the first name).

I'd love to use a pen name--in my mind, "Summer" elicits the image of a blond, bubbly bimbo, which couldn't be further from me and my writing. But I guess we'll see. :)

Summer said...

Oh, and I meant to add that like Pythagoras, I also developed a sixth sense of knowing when my name was being said versus, y'know, discussion of the season or saying any word that starts with "some"--

Ruthanne Reid said...

My name (Ruthanne, from my great-grandmother and mother's names combined) is almost always spelled wrong, but when it is spelled right, nine times out of ten it's someone over 80 years old. I'm not sure what to think of that. :D

Bookewyrme said...

My real first name is absolutely unique and unusual. As in, throughout the entirety of the world, there may be 2 or 3 other people sharing my first name, but it's hard to tell for sure. I've met a few people who use it as a nickname. But googling my name will most often bring up the animal which it is most properly the name of, and a few hospitals and clinics with the name in the title. I really love my name (people always remember me, even if it's just because they can't pronounce my name) and take a lot of pride in it. But at the same time, it is a large part of the reason that I use a pen name to write with.

Lynne Roberts said...

My first name is Shawna, and while it's not exotic, I've only encountered 3 Shawnas in my lifetime. Every time we'd look at each another, our body language very clearly said, "You've got my name."

I like having a fairly uncommon name. The off side of that is I can never find a keychain with my name on it.

I haven't decided if I should use my name or my intitals, SJ, when I publish.

Suz said...

I never even knew about the Google Alerts thing, but I've stuck my own name 'Suz Korb' in there now.

Suz said...

I never even knew about the Google Alerts thing, but I've stuck my own name 'Suz Korb' in there now.

Tawna Fenske said...

Kristen, maybe the other Kristen Lamb and the other Tawna ran off together somewhere?

Elizabeth Ryann, OK, I looked. Um, wow. I think Elizabeth Rojas probably hangs out with that other Tawna I liked to (I think the last name was Eubanks). Maybe they'll star in a movie together?

Summer, LOL at the idea you could be "Summer Summers." We have a male friend whose last name is "Christie." For awhile, he was dating a girl named "Christy." We all feared the worst.

Ruthanne, taking special care to spell your name right :)

Bookewyrme, now I'm dying to know your real first name! Might have to do some detective work.

Lynne, I totally know what you mean about not being able to find key chains with your name! That was the only thing that bothered me about my name as a kid!

Suz, you'll have to let me know if you find anything good using Google Analytics!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Janelle said...

While there are other people with my name, it is sufficiently unique. ie, when i was a kid and wanted to get a license plate or snowglobe from some random touristy place with my name preprinted on it, i was usually SOL...

So, I'll keep it! ;o)

Patty Blount said...

Ah, what's in a name?

I was born Patricia Ann Moreno. My mother pronounces my name as pah-trish-ah. Yet, countless teachers insisted on saying pah-tree-sha.

Moreno is pronounce ma-ree-no and should be spelled Marino, but got lost somewhere in translation.

When I was a kid, Patricia was VERY COMMON. There were always a few in all my classes until high school, where there were 8 of us. It was so hard to differentiate among us, classmates began calling me PAM, an acronym of my initials and luckily, not in use by anyone named Pamela.

Then I got married. Blount is a single syllable, pronounced exactly as it's spelled. Rhymes with count.

Yet the whole world insists it's "blunt."

Sigh.

I have not heard of any babies named Patricia in many years, nor have I met many.

Tawna is a lovely name, though I suspect you wouldn't be pleased with how I pronounce it. I have a niece named Dawn. People outside of NY say her name like "Don". I do not. If you pronounce your name to rhyme with Donna, you're gonna hate me.

abby mumford said...

i'm a little late to the party, but here i am. let's see, my name is not that common in humans, but man alive, everyone seems to name their dog abby. and then tell me about it. what am i supposed to do with that information?

in other naming news, all of my siblings have pretty common first names and so their high school friends called them by their last name. mumford. or some incarnation of that. mums. mumsy. you can imagine the confusion when their friends would call and ask for "mumford". well, which one do you want? we've got a houseful of 'em!

JJ said...

My real name is Sarah.

Yeah.

I hate it.

(If I had known when I was younger that Sadie was a nickname for Sarah, I'd totally be Sadie and not JJ by now. Although I like JJ.)

My very good friend is apparently a very famous border collie if you Google her.

Posey said...

You have no idea how many people have my name. Some of the most inappropriate people have my name.... Like my husband's EX. Oh, the jokes we've heard. I shudder every time I hear my name, because I like it. I like being "Crystal"! I just hate everyone else who has my name. My name needs to be a one member only club.

As far as publication.... Crystal Posey. Meh. I just don't see it. It's not the name. I love "Crystal" and I definitely looooove "Posey". But on paper. It just doesn't look right, it doesn't do it for me. Sigh.

CKHB said...

There are DOZENS of other women named Carrie Kei Heim just like me. Yep. That's why I added my husband's name on as a fourth name when we married. To distinguish myself from the herd.

Seriously, I often wonder what the few other Carrie Heims in the world must think about the fact that when they Google themselves, the first 10 pages are me...

Tawna Fenske said...

Janelle, I've never thought about your name being so rare, but you're right -- it doesn't seem like on that would be printed on a lot of key chains. That's a good thing though, right?!

Patty, wait -- how do you pronounce my name? *sharpens knife*

Abby, oh man, I'd never thought about how many dogs share your name, but you're right -- I know several! Er, sorry about that.

JJ, one of my good friends goes by JJ (short for Jennifer) and I named a heroine in one of my novels after her. Suffice it to say, I'm rather fond of that name!

Posey, I was never sure if "Crystal Posey" was your real name or a pseudonym. I think it has a nice ring to it!

CKHB, LOL, I imagine you have the easiest time in the world finding your name on key chains and pens at tourist traps :)

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Claire Dawn said...

My last name is super rare. Every one in the world that has it, has a connection to one of two Caribbean islands!

Posey said...

Awe, thank you! I do love my name, I've just never thought it pretty in print. Shrugs.

Damien Walters Grintalis said...

I have an uncommon name for a girl and love it, but I've discovered there is another writer with the name of Damien G. Walter. He's a boy, though, so it's all good.

:)

Karen said...

My name is much too common--practically screams "I was born in the 50's!" There have always been multiple Karen's in every class I've taken with people of my own age. I've dreamed of having a different, more unusual name--but I've never been able to come up with what I'd switch to. So, Karen I am.

When I had children, I wanted their names to be Irish and unusual. I named my daughter Caitlin. I didn't know anyone named Caitlin. (this was back in the mid-80's) Within two years, everyone was naming their daughters Caitlin. If you take into account the spelling variations, Caitlin is one of the most popular girls names of the past decade. The same thing happened with my youngest son, Liam. He was the only Liam we know, the only one in his school--and now there are two year old Liam's popping up everywhere!