Let Me Tell You Something About Names

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Let me tell you something about names.

I grew up in a family with super easy names. John, Pat, Lorrie, and Mike Nelson. Of course, in middle school, depending upon my mood, I went through many iterations of Lorrie spellings, but I never had an issue with anyone knowing how to spell Nelson.

Officially, my name is Lorraine.  When I was a kid, it was only used when I was in trouble.  “Lorraine Nelson, get in here right now!” 

During my junior year in college, I studied at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.  I was trying to be very sophisticated that year, and decided I’d class myself up and begin using Lorraine. 

When I first arrived, I stayed with a family with two young kids. They laughed every time I was introduced to friends and neighbors. Come to find out, they thought my name was The Rain.  I went back to Lorrie fast, but that was also an issue since trucks are called lorries in England. Little Charlotte and George must have been so confused. She’s the rain or a truck. What is this crazy American who goes by nouns?

When I married Mr. Ronald Tom, I assumed my new last name would be as easy as Nelson.  I mean, how hard is it to spell Tom? 

My first indication that I was wrong happened when I purchased plane tickets for both of us before we were married.  The woman on the phone kept insisting, “Honey, are you sure that’s right?  You do know Tom is a first name.” Well, not if your traveling companion and soon-to-be-husband is Cantonese.

Now, when I know someone has to write or type my name, I say LorrieTomT-O-M as if it’s one long word. It makes life simpler.

Last names that sound like first names also cause confusion with actual first names.  For example, my husband’s first name is Ron, but it’s not uncommon for people to refer to us as Lorrie and Tom.

Ron’s dad’s first name was Baldwin so he got a lot of mail addressed to Tom Baldwin.

Ron’s mom was named Doris Mae, but her nickname growing up was Tommy. While she was a demure Southern Belle, she was also a tomboy, wanting to do everything that boys could do, too. Of course, marrying Baldwin Tom turned Tommy into beloved Tom Tom.

Marrying Ronald Tom turned me into a very grateful and blessed Lorrie Tom.  As a first-time, 38-year-old bride, I wouldn’t have cared if his last name was Potato Chip or Voldemort. I was all in.

I’ve been a Tom for almost 18 years now, and I love that the Tom story is now part of my own, too.  I love that all my Nelson people are connected to all the Tom people, with traditions and heirlooms and histories and DNA getting all mixed together.

Now, our sweet daughter, Anna, is the tip of the ancestry iceberg, just beginning to create name stories of her own. 

Always writing,


P.S. I got the idea to start my piece with the phrase let me tell you something by reading Esma Raji Codell’s book, Sing a Song of Tuna Fish. It’s a memoir about stories from fifth grade, and every piece begins with that phrase. It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing. When I sat down to write this morning, I had no idea I would be writing about names. This is the joyful surprise of the writing journey. Have a great writing week, and be sure to tell me about something!