Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Playing the Name Game

Originally published in The Baytown Sun on November 10, 2004

Well, this presidential election was a little disappointing. I didn’t get to read about my husband in the news every day. After the 2000 election, during the highly organized attempt to figure out Florida’s electoral votes, my husband became quite famous. In every newspaper, news broadcast and late night talk show monologue, my husband was described as hanging, dimpled and even pregnant.

“Hey, better you than me,” I told him at the time.

I’m sure my mother-in-law, when naming her newborn son “Chad Alan” after a soap opera character 29 years earlier, had no idea the 2000 election would make her son’s first name a household word. Naming a child can be quite stressful because it’s something you have to get right the first time. And your child has to live with your decision long after you are dead.

I think we did OK with our oldest child’s name. Her name is Julia, which means “youthful.” I’m a firm believer in the importance of retaining one’s youth well into old age, and I hope Julia does just that. I didn’t check out the meaning of Jenna’s name until after she was born. Then I consulted my baby name book, which said the meaning of “Jenna” is “little bird.” That’s cute, I thought. Then I turned to the listing for “Carol,” which is the middle name Jenna and I share. Surprisingly enough, “Carol” means “man.”

I gasped and slammed the book shut. “Honey,” I told my husband. “I just gave birth to Little Bird Man.”

I’m sensitive to names parents give their children because my own name has given me grief over the years. It’s actually a nice name. “Deana” is derived from “Diana,” who was the Roman goddess of beauty. I think that’s great. I need all the help I can get. The problem I’ve had with my name is not its meaning, but its pronunciation. It made perfect sense to my parents to add an “a” to the boy’s name Dean” to get “Deana” — pronounced like “Deena.” But a lot of people don’t see it that way. I’ve been called Dee Anna, Dee Ann, Diane, Diana, Dana, Tina and Gina. And really, after 33 years of having to explain my name to people, it really doesn’t bother me when someone messes it up. I even let the higher-ups at The Baytown Sun call me Dee Anna for a while. I guessed they’d figure it out eventually. They did.

The one exception, however, is my obstetrician. When I first started going to him, he mispronounced my name all the time. If he had been my dentist or something, I wouldn’t have complained. But as you ladies know, your OB isn’t just a doctor. He’s someone who, over time, becomes very intimately acquainted with you — especially if you’re pregnant. Basically, when you’re paying someone to grope you, you at least want him to get your name right. “Then I wouldn’t feel so cheap and used,” I explained to him. He understood. Now he pronounces “Deana” like a champ.

My last name is trouble for an entirely different reason. And I married into it, which means I won’t be shaking it in this lifetime. My husband is a wonderful person. But put his last name with just about any first name and it sounds like a drug. It’s true. Say “Deana Nall” fast. Sounds like a sedative, doesn’t it? At least our girls can marry out of it. I’m taking it to the grave.

Other than the name thing, we’re a pretty good match. It’s not every day a dimpled piece of paper gets to marry the goddess of beauty.

Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is


  • At Wed Nov 10, 07:05:00 AM, Blogger Mae said…

    I confess, I've been mentally mispronouncing your name and wondering if indeed it was pronounced "Deena". This is so funny!

  • At Wed Nov 10, 06:29:00 PM, Blogger Holly said…

    This is too funny, Deana, because every time I think of you, I remember the first time you made that comment about your name combined with your (then new)husband's last name. I think you added a line about Tylenol, too! Funny!!!
    I cracked up when I read your list of mispronunciations because I grew up with two different families whose daughters could have all been your rhyming buddies. Family #1: Deena, Tina & Gina (twins). Family #2: Jan (the odd one), Dina (pronounced Deena), Gina and Rena (pronounced Reena). They lived less than a mile from each other.


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