Inspired by the Victorian Librarian’s post What’s in (your) name? I’ve temporarily abandoned Thing 4 to write this PS to Thing 3. I was actually going to include most of it originally, but cut it out because the post was too long. I totally identify with her difficulties with the multiple ways people can get your name wrong. I’m Anabel but also get Annabel, Anabelle or Annabelle, and sometimes even some completely unrelated fancy name beginning with A. (That’s the only advantage I can think of – a teacher who was convinced my name was Annette, and whom I could therefore safely ignore when she shouted at me!) I used to be uncomfortable about the name, because I felt it conjured up an image of someone more like a Disney Princess than me, though I’ve long got over that. I also thought the spelling was unique, but I now know there are many others around, particularly Spanish language speakers where Ana and Anabel are standard. However, when I Google myself, it suggests Annabel as I’m typing then mixes up the results. Even when I write to people, the reply often comes back misspelt. It’s irritating and not very polite.
I’m third generation – my great-aunt was Annabella, always known as Anna or Annie, my aunt is Annabella but goes by Annabel, and I got the fully reduced version. My Mum’s theory was that it would be simple for me to spell and the single “n” would mean it couldn’t be shortened. Kids don’t care about the spelling, just how it sounds, so that never stopped them. That’s my sister and me in the picture – I’m on the right. She’s called Elspeth, so we spent a large part of our primary school days being known as Annie Walker and Elsie Tanner. Elspeth once wrote an essay in class – I can’t remember the exact subject, what I did in my holidays or some such title – in which, as her only sister, I figured largely. It came back from the teacher with each mention of Anabel corrected in red pen. How arrogant to assume a child does not know how to spell her sister’s name!
So what does this mean for my identity, or brand? A name means a lot – your self is bound up in it. I used to get very annoyed when people got mine wrong, now less so and I often let it pass. When I got married, I kept my own name for a very short while before I changed to Marsh, which made me very uncomfortable to start with, a sort of identity crisis which underlines my point. I certainly hope these things make me more sensitive to getting other people’s names right. However, I’m also difficult to find if you don’t get the spelling right – typing Annabel Marsh will certainly not prompt Google to suggest Anabel, and this obviously has implications for the “brand”, so maybe I need to go back to correcting the spelling every time someone gets it wrong. It’s my name, after all, and I have a right to have it right!