Saturday, 19 September 2009

rising incidents of 'penelope-istis'

All my life I've had to lug around the name 'Penelope'. 
When I was growing up there was Lady Penelope from the Thunderbirds, posh girls from hoighty-toighty British novels/films/TV serials, and the general feeling that I was in trouble if I got called by my full name ('Penelope go to your room!'). 
I am a child of the 60s and 70s so I was surrounded by Janes and Susans and Kathy/Cathys and Debra/Deborahs*. Every class I was in seemed to have at least two, if not more, of all these names. Funny how these supposably radical times bred a whole pile of really mainstream monikers and I always had the weird feeling of both my name being unusual for its time and proud that I didn't have a name that everyone else had. Of course at home my family-name, if I wasn't in trouble, was always Nel or Nellie (even more unusual and old-fashioned) and it wasn't until I changed schools at about the age of 7 that some 'bright' teacher decided to shorten my name without even asking to 'Penny'. I hated the spelling and, anyway, my mother's nickname amongst family and old friends was 'Penny' (her maiden name was Penn, which incidentally is not why I have been given this name, I was named after a childhood friend of my mother's whom she admired) so it was just not something I have ever felt I owned in any way. 
A few years after getting the 'Penny' label a Greek friend suggested 'Pene' and it kinda stuck. And I have that great Australian habit of shortened names to a single syllable so 'Pen' it became.
So I tootled on through life with a name that wasn't very common. 
Once upon a time no one had trouble pronouncing it. 
I avoided getting it 'out' as much as possible, tried to keep it short and sweet.
Had an annoying boyfriend who insisted on calling me by it (I should have put two and two together there!).
And if people asked about it I told them it was my stage name.

Then I opened a shop and suddenly every Penelope around has come out of the woodwork!
It's quite funny really.
We compare notes. 
And very weirdly (thanks Google!) there is another person out there with exactly the same name as me. First name and surname! For someone who has gone through life with a slightly 'different' name than is the fashion and a rather uncommon surname, you can not believe how weirdly confronting that is. Never really having had to share a name and then this! 
As they say- names define us.

'It's giving girls names like that', said Buggins, 'that nine times out of ten makes 'em go wrong.' It unsettles 'em. If ever I was to have a girl, if ever I was to have a dozen girls, I'd call 'em all Jane.' 
H.G. Wells. (Referring to the name 'Euphemia', Kipps Bk 1, Ch  4)

(and thanks to Elise for sending me this 1932 knitting and fashion magazine she found in France...... thanks lovely!)

*I also forgot Lisas and Jennys and Louises


  1. I too have found my once unusual name becoming more common a little unsettling. I was named Lara in the late sixties - when I grew up there was no-one called Lara. I spent a lot of time correcting people who called me Laura. Now there are Laras everwhere. I was named Lara thanks to Dr Zhivago - now it's due to Lara Croft, I suspect. I hated having an unusual name when I was a kid - now I don't like it when other people share my name!

  2. ok ok I know you had it rough, and shula well you win hands down it goes without saying - but consider this - my current moniker doppleganger was a bitchy 17 year old contestant on Australia's next top you can imagine the hilarity when people try to find me via google.

  3. Back in the deep dark mists of time, I have an ancestor whose first name was Icyphenia. My aunt, who has seen the ancestor's gravestone, says that she used the nickname Icy (it says so on her gravestone).

    Me, I would've fit in just fine with your classmates.

  4. Hello fellow "Pen". Yes, I too have grown up with the name Penelope. I am younger, but it still wasn't the "norm" when I was going to school- and most people couldn't pronounce it properly.. I mean, really, is it that hard?
    It's funny though, when I was younger, I hated it, and cringed whenever someone said it, but now, I love my full name, Penelope. I even use it as part of my business name: Penelope Red. Its a fashion label, and it somehow works!

  5. I always have problems with my name, I answer to almost everything from Caroline to Sharon! Even googling 'Charlyne' only throws up a few results. I like to just say that my Mum was creative. I think the kindest thing would be to say that an unusual moniker is 'character building'

    Your name is well loved these days though! My cousin makes crochet necklaces and she has a 'P' edition -


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