What’s in a name?

On Thursday night I had the rare experience of being at a social function where I was introduced to people as Elizabeth rather than Liz. Usually this only happens at family functions where grandparents or aunts have forgotten/been unaware of the moniker that I usually go by. In this case, it was because I was with one of my oldest friends, who knew me best in my Elizabeth days. [We met on our first day of secondary school and became friends essentially because she could fit ‘geography’ into one box on the timetable and I couldn’t.]

One of the reasons I’m called Elizabeth is because my parents felt that a multi-syllable surname you needed a similarly multi-syllable first name to accompany it. I think they had a point, although their choice of boy’s name – George Hezekiah – slightly contradicts the theory!

The bonus of such a name is that there are a myriad of ways in which it could be abbreviated. At home, growing up, the main abbreviation was Lizzy, although I hated being called this at school or by people I didn’t like. Even now, the only people who use that are close family friends – it certainly wasn’t a name I would’ve considered going public with.

Age 16, just as I began 6th form, I had a revelation. I decided that on embarking upon my A-levels I would be Liz, not Elizabeth. To this day I have no real idea where this came from, except that my Music teacher had previously insisted that she call me Liz because the full version was too long. If I’d been a little less timid and a tad more adventurous, I might have gone with Libby – as in the Neighbours character and a nod to my antipodean roots – or gone with something from the second half of the name (Beth/Betty – though woe betide anyone attempting to call me Betty!), but no, I was dull and boring.

Life as Liz has been good. It’s helped shorten my email address for one thing – Elizabeth.Clutterbuck is many characters too long. The thing with the full-length version is that now, 13 years on from my decision, it’s not me…but who am I?

Elizabeth used to get into trouble and got yelled at by her parents, and now writes diligent letters to her beloved grandparents – it’s like a character from a bygone age that I can play if needed.

Liz is dependable, conscientious, a little bit dappy and in the middle of a slightly scary vocational exploration.

Lil is one person’s great friend and confidante.

Eliza writes and writes and writes, but I’m increasingly aware that it’s a very different persona to Liz – especially as she’s a massive extrovert. Incidentally, I love that there’s a small but distinct group of people who actually use this short with me.

This is probably not a great train of thought to be pursuing on a Saturday night after a couple of glasses of red – I don’t want to get too deep and philosophical – but it’s an interesting thought. Do we (or more specifically do I) take on characters according to the different names we give ourselves and are awarded? Can we ever change who we’re meant to be simply by altering our name? Is it wrong to have different personas?

Am I just thinking way too much?

A photographic aside – Elizabeth is also a very common name, especially amongst my friends. At last count, nine Facebook friends shared it with me. Years ago, I lived on a corridor with four other Liz’s (ok, three Liz’s & one Lissie) and on my last night in the building we had a night out at which this photo was taken, consisting of five Liz’s and one Alice – there’s an anecdote too, but it’s too complicated to share.

Alice, Liz B, Liz C, Lissie, Liz P & Liz dG

The things Facebook tries to get you to do…

Sporadically, things crop up on Facebook that are attempts to get people to do random things. Sometimes it’s to highlight a good cause (in a rather random way) – like the recent campaign for women to change their status to the colour of the bra they were wearing (much to the confusion of menfolk) to highlight breast cancer awareness.

I’m not a lemming, so I generally won’t do them. (That, and I like to think that I have enough creativity not to subscribe to mass status updates.) However, some are rather intriguing and others downright hilarious.

Currently there are two doing the rounds. The first is the doppelgänger thing. Apparently, this week is ‘doppelgänger week’ and everyone should change their profile photo to ‘someone famous (actor, musician, athlete) you have been told you look like’. Some of my friend’s photos have been hilariously accurate, like one who bears an uncanny resemblance to Alicia Silverstone or another who (worryingly) looks a lot like Phil from Location, Location, Location. I’ve recently been told (twice) that I look like Kate Winslet (and I renewed love for both those people) but I’m not sure she’s my doppelgänger. Besides, what’s the point of having a photo that’s not actually of you? Hmmm, perhaps I’m just a bit bitter that I don’t have a good lookalike. 

The second is simply to go to the urban dictionary, type your first name in and see what the first three entries are. I wasn’t quite sure what the point of this was, but in a time wasting moment this evening I thought I’d give it a try. The results made me actually laugh out loud, so I thought I’d share. (Though as some of it’s a bit risqué, I won’t reproduce it in full.) 

Liz -Basically the definition of being amazingly cool and fun. Can dance black as hell, whether they’re black or not. Athletic, fun and wild. Gets into trouble a lot. Says stupid things, but people like Liz’s.

[I’d say the first part’s true, the middle part not so much and the last part’s spot on!]

Liz -1. (Verb) The act of being incredibly cool. Commonly misunderstood to mean “one who is attracted to homosexual men.” 2. (Adjective) A positive attribute that one possesses, or can be gained by physical and mental labor, similar to coolness and beauty.

[I like this one a lot, especially since #1 is essentially exactly right…]

Liz – The most beautiful woman in the world. Despite what she may think of herself, she’s very smart, and very, very sexy. She’s also the sweetest person in the world.

[What can I say??]

Ok, essentially very stupid, but isn’t that always the case for the best 5 minute online distractions? 

A pretentious dilemma

In my new job I have a colleague who has exactly the same role as me and we share our workload between the two of us. It just so happens that he has a Phd, and, as our job title uses the word “research” he refers to himself as Dr in his e-mail signature.

This made me feel oh so slightly inferior, not being a Dr myself. So I’ve been trying to come up with a comparable signature that reflects my credentials. However, there’s a fine line to be drawn between proving yourself to those in the outside world that you need to impress, and actually looking like a pretentious arse to your friends and colleagues.

Various options have been suggested by myself, friends and colleagues:
– Using my abbreviated (i.e. Liz) name, with ‘MA’ after it, as I have one.
– Using my full (i.e. Elizabeth) name plus MA.
– Using the fullest version of my name (Elizabeth Lesieli), with both degrees after it.
– Sticking to my normal name and nothing extra.

Or, as one friend suggested yesterday:
“Liz Clutterbuck, Methodist Researcher, Anglican Worshipper and popcultural blogger”
I kind of like it, although ‘popcultural blogger’ may be taking it a bit too far.

As it is, I may just leave my name as it is, and get over my need to achieve, impress and emulate. One friend said she’d stop replying to e-mails if I started using my MA in my signature because it’s stupidly pretentious…I think she has a point.

Common People?

I have an unusual name, this should be glaringly obvious to anyone who’s read the blog for a while. It says a lot (as I’ve mentioned before) that the first page of entries after googling me are actually me.

Today I discovered that it’s estimated that there are 2 or fewer Elizabeth Clutterbucks in the US, thanks to How Many of Me.

Along the way, I also discovered that:

– There are 1,426,305 people in the US with the first name Elizabeth.
– Statistically, it’s the 19th most popular first name in American.
– There are fewer than 335 people in the US with the last name Clutterbuck.

And, weirdly, 99.9% of Elizabeths are female. Where’s the 0.1% of Elizabeths that aren’t? I’d like to meet them!

Over the last couple of days I’ve been bemused by the fact that I’ve had 2 queries at work from people who’ve seen my name in publications and want to know if I’m related to certain people. These queries are not unusual as my parents are known (it gets rather tedious) but the latest ones have been to do with some other Clutterbucks, who are no relation.

It’s a shame really, I’d have loved a great-great-grandfather with the name Basil Clutterbuck. Still, my actual great-great-grandfather was George Hezekiah Clutterbuck, which is pretty cool as 19th century names go!