I have to admit, it’s not been easy being named Eliska Counce. I get away with nothing as there simply isn’t another “Eliska Counce” in America, nay, perhaps the world. If an Eliska did it, well, then, I did it. It’s a family name I was saddled with, and I am fated to spell and explain it every time I meet someone new. It makes me sound quite exotic, despite my actually being a redneck white girl from Texas by way of Mississippi.
My unmarried name was Davis, so I used to at least have one I could give to the pizza guy. Confession: sometimes I still do use Davis at places like Starbucks, because I’ve been sick of people mangling “Eliska” since I was five. And my middle name was no better: Ward, also a family name, brought onslaughts of ill-fated Leave It to Beaver references. I jettisoned that one half-way back down the aisle and took on Davis for the middle. After marrying that Counce guy, I wanted at least one un-flubbable moniker at my disposal.
At jury duty, I was “Elska Coonse.” I kind of liked that; it made me sound like a Russian emigre ballet star or something. I am still considering adopting it for a stage name. I’ve been called Lisa, Elise, Alicia, Elshka, and many, many other variations of my given name. And if I hear, “Oh, Eliska, like Alaska, ha ha ha” from one more person, be warned. I might just cut you.
Indeed, what’s in a name? A hell of a lot, as it turns out. Y’all familiar with Johnny Cash? Of course you are. I have a special connection with Johnny Cash as he was arrested my hometown of Starkville, Mississippi in the early 60’s and spent the night in lockup there. He liked to say it was just for picking flowers. And it was. But he happened to be really drunk and naked at the time. The yard he picked flowers from belonged to a friend of my grandmother’s. He wrote a song called “Starkville City Jail” about the time. You can check his performance of that song here:
I bring up Johnny Cash because he also wrote a song called “A Boy named Sue.” I have managed to embed the video to this song at the end of this story. If you have not seen it, you should, as you will be much cooler for having done so.
Now, the jist of “Sue” is basically thus: your name helps shape your life whether you like it or not. And trust me, being “Eliska” has been an adventure. Perhaps not as adventurous as my brother’s. He is named Muse. We’re both in therapy. Just saying. At least I don’t have an emo band named after me. But in the end, like Johnny’s Sue, while I appreciate my name reflecting my uniqueness and making me tough, I did end up naming my first kid Jack. On account of the scarring.
Think about it. Names matter. Most every kid I’ve met who’s named after a Texas street, county, or city, as well as those named after Texas sports heroes (see your Landrys here), has an automatic DSM diagnosis. I’m not sure if girls with “y”s in the middle of their names aren’t destined to be on the pole. I’m looking at you, Madyson, Hayley, and Kaytlin.
So, if you are pregnant or thinking about having children, please. For the love of all that’s holy, think of your child as an adult when you name them. Is it the number one name for the year? In 1974, “Jennifer” was the most popular name, and this is why I know eighteen Jennifers I must subset to remember. When I am in the nursing home, I just know I will be attended to by a 143 Emmas and Isabellas. Sad.
Is it a trendy or quirky name? I know someone who named there daughter Eowyn after the Lord of the Rings trilogy character. Really? At least they passed over “Gollum.” Name your son Oliver by all means if you want, but go ahead and set aside money for therapy and boxing lessons. He’ll need both to survive the playground. Trust me, you don’t make enough money to name your kid Apple like Gwyneth Paltrow. And Pilot Inspektor, Jason Lee, will be the one choosing your assisted living facility. So tread lightly.
What’s in a name? Everything. Just do me a favor and think about your sweet baby trying to get a job with a name like “Memphis Eve” at the top of her resume (that would be Bono’s daughter, but then again, he chose an incredibly stupid name for himself as an adult, so this was expected). If the job’s not at a gentleman’s club, she may struggle. Oh, and watch out for initials, too. Presley Isabella Gomez is gonna smother you in your sleep.
One day your baby will want to be taken seriously. Perhaps. For me, it’s enough to know that when I’m rich and famous, everyone will know exactly who Eliska Counce is without confusing me with anyone else. It makes a great autograph. In the meanwhile, I’ll take it. It is as individual and stand-out as I am. I’ll just be happy as long as no one calls me any four- or five-letter names instead.