Nov 22 – Names, Names, Names

In 34 years of teaching and in almost 61 years of living, there are so very many names that have crossed my path. There were the trendy names, the ‘old people’ names, the standard names – and that’s what this blog is about.

Let’s do the hometown names first. I had lots of friends with the usual names of Dave, Steve, John, Gary, Ron, Rob, Mike, Ken … no real out of the ordinary names, unless a guy named Kim fits there. The girls were Nancy, Terry, Barb, Sue, Cathy AND Kathy . . . and again, quite usual names for girls. On the rim of usual were two names that I consider unique to the bunch. “Wendy” was pretty unusual for that era, and one of my best friends – and still is, has the name of Lita.

Then the parents of those kids … well, we went everywhere from standard names to some definitely ethnic names. Here they are in pairs: Irv and Esther, Harold and Gladys, Paul and Annika (there’s that ethnic influence), John and Loretta, Joe and Donna, Matt and Jane . . .

Last names – being from upper Minnesota, you can bet there were the Scandinavians – Nelson, Johnson, Olson, and the like. Then there was the Finnish influence: Jarvi, Ivonen, Kivi, Maki, to name a few. Polish? Why sure, we had that, too. Grevich, Smilanich, Mrachek, Begich, …

One of the fun things we did with names came up at college. One of my roommates had a wonderfully creative sense of humor, so he put together a name for one of the coeds in our group…. He would string as many name prefixes and suffixes together, creating a name that was totally and unbelievably fun … and long. She will forever be:


Let’s see anyone beat that for such fun.

And then into my 34 years of teaching – the names of the kids certainly were trendy over the years. When I started in the mid 70s, there were many Jennifers, Dawns, Brads, Bills, Joes, Jeffs, Jackies and Betsys.

Then we passed into the era of the Amys and Kevins and Adams and Anthonys and Valeries. Aa I ended my career, we started seeing some of the older names coming back like Emma and Emily and Ella, but then there were some unique ones, too. Xavier was probably the ultimate in unique at that point.

And then there were so many last names – and this is gleaned from both teaching peers and some of the students – Greer, Villwock, Casper, Venzke, Strzelecki, Horn, Mattson, Esse, Paulson, Wilson, Freelove (it’s a name, not a lifestyle), Batcher, Dobrzynski, Rahn, Kittelson, Gillson, Anderson, Scheller, Maas, Holsapple, Hannahs, Dingman, Groves, Christiansen … and on and on and on.

Names are so varied. Just when you think names are getting mundane, along come some new ones that brighten the day and the horizons.

Yet, I settle on this. Being a baseball fan, I have seen many names arise out of that category. But I will end with this thought.

I have a book about baseball cards. It is called THE GREAT AMERICAN BASEBALL CARD FLIPPING, TRADING AND BUBBLE GUM BOOK. In it, the authors Harris and Boyd address the wonder of names. They do an entire page of men named BUBBA, and also hint that certain names just don’t guarantee anything. (Picture if you will a baseball card of a man named Jesus McFarlane. The author’s comment – “Naming your kid after anyone famous is no guarantee of success.”

And their ultimate conclusion on names has become my mantra on names. I paraphrase that here:

“Nobody named BRICK has to take no crap from anybody.”