Sweet Carol(yn)

My last post about my occasional New York accent mentioned my name Carolyn. I was named after my father’s Great Aunt Caroline, aka Aunt Clara.

I loved Aunt Clara – she was my godmother too – but she often told me I looked like her. I didn’t want to look like Aunt Clara. She was in her late ’50s, overweight and had a habit of talking with her mouth full. Her face was heavily powdered and her hair was orangey red.

Growing up as a little girl in the ’60s, you dreamed of one day looking like Ginger from “Gilligan’s Island” or Jeannie from “I Dream of Jeannie.” You certainly didn’t want to look like your father’s rotund aunt. At least I didn’t.

Little girls love when they share names with beautiful women, but I was always hard pressed to find a pretty Carolyn. I enjoyed the fact that John Kennedy’s beautiful wife was named Carolyn, though I think she pronounced it “line.” Hey, you can’t have everything.

If you don’t think people associate names with famous people with the same name. consider this random conversation with a tennis pro. “Hey, Carolyn Murphy is on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. It’s a good thing you look like you do or we wouldn’t be able to concentrate.” Gee, thanks for that observation. Do you want to know how I think you stack up to Raphael Nadal?

Beautiful women (and men) stop us in our tracks. You  pause to take in their beauty, sort of like a show dog at the dog park. This happened to me and my dog Cali when two perfectly groomed afghans showed up one day. We both stared at them. I’m not sure Cali recognized them as dogs.

There are lots of pretty Carolines: Princess Caroline of Monaco; Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg; Caroline Wozniacki, and Carolina Herrera. I even know a stunning woman named Caroline. Neil Diamond extolled the virtues of Carolines with his classic, “Sweet Caroline.” So did Fleetwood Mac on the album “Tango in the Night.”

I’ve never heard a song about Carolyn, but I understand there’s one by Merle Haggard. I’ve never heard of it, have you?

If you doubt what’s in a name, consider there are websites devoted to the sexiest and hottest women’s names. I’m not sure parents had this in mind when naming their daughters Lexi (rhymes with sexy), Brittney, Ashley, or Alessandra, but these names are smoking by those who compile such lists.

Aside from its spinster connotations, Carolyn may be one of the most butchered names on the planet. After playing golf with a man who called me Carol all day, he asked if I preferred being called Carol or my nickname Murph (long story.)

“There was only one person who called me Carol and that was my paternal grandfather,” I told him. “He got away with it because he was old and I loved him.” Actually, my first landlord, who is now my handyman, calls me Carol too, but it sounds charming with his Portuguese accent. There’s nothing wrong with the name Carol. It just isn’t my name or nickname.

My hero Dale Carnegie, who wrote How to Win Friends & Influence People, said that “there is nothing sweeter than the sound of one’s own name.” He urged us to pay close attention to names because people cringe when you say the wrong one. I know I do.

You see, Carolyn is not Carol or Marilyn, just as Stephen is not Stephan; Maura is not Moira; Joanne is not Joan; Diane is not Diana; Janet is not Donna; Patty is not Tricia; Marianne is not Marian; John is not Jack (unless you want it to be); Bob is not Rob; Bill is not Will; Cynthia is not Cindy; Rich is not Rick, and Margaret is not Peg, Peggy, Margie, Marge, Meg, Maggie or Mags.

Our names are part of us and it sounds weird or disloyal to yourself when you answer to the wrong one. I’ve known people who’ve changed their names – Lisa became Lindsey and Stacy became Alexandria, but I would never do it.

I’ve gotten this far with it. I couldn’t bear starting over again.


13 thoughts on “Sweet Carol(yn)

  1. Well Clara, as someone with the blandest name on the planet (John) I dig your blog. I’ve been called Joe, Jack, and Jim many times, and you’re right, I’m slightly offended when it happens. Most of my friends today call me Johnny, Johnny B or JB, and those monikers seem not to get butchered as much. Or maybe, because I’m hard of hearing, I just don’t hear the butchery.


    • Well, don’t forget you kept calling Peg (Big Red) Pat. I think I corrected you 10 times. We all goof sometimes. I really don’t like when I do because I don’t like when someone calls me the wrong name.


  2. You are such a good writer! What’s funny is that our daughter Caroline is frequently called “Carolyn,” including by the pastor at her baptism and as recently as the CMU Homecoming when she was introduced on the field. Both are beautiful names!


  3. I never deviate if I’m introduced to someone by a certain name. A co-worker of mine named Susan once complained about another person in the office who shortened her name to “Sue.” She hated that, so that’s always my milepost for names. Only refer to them by their given name unless directed otherwise. – Marty


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