Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Teresa by Any Other Name

My mother wanted to name me Catherine.  My father wanted to name me Tracey.  They compromised.  They named me Teresa.

Women Named Teresa

Teresa?  But your name is Tracey?

Well, yes, and no.

My mother did not like the name Tracey, and also thought that it was a name I would outgrow.  Not a suitable name for a grown woman.  So, she suggested Teresa, the name of her best friend.  And, if my father insisted, they could call me Tracey.  Well, insist he did. So, the name on my birth certificate is Teresa,  but I have always been called Tracey by my family.

Women Named Tracey

I have had to explain my name several times throughout the years.  "Teresa?  I thought your name was Tracey?"  people ask, often with a tone that implies, I have somehow gotten it wrong.  "How do you get 'Tracey' from 'Teresa'?" people want to know.  Shrug, ask my dad.  Cashing birthday checks from my grandmother (written to Tracey) could be tricky.  I even had some brain-dead bouncer outside a bar accuse me of trying to use my twin sister's ID to sneak in.  Even if I were, I'd still be over 21 you dumb ass.  (Pardon my French.)  Or maybe he was just flirting with me.  You can see why maybe I didn't date much.

It would have been simpler if Tracey were a common derivative of Teresa, like Terri or Tess, but it is not.  I've been told it is common in Ireland.  Yeah, whatever.  I didn't grow up in Ireland.  But my high school trigonometry teacher did.  Mr. McGuigan.  He said Teresa in such a way--Trrayza--that the Tracey became quite obvious.  Thank you, Mr. McGuigan, for validating me and my deviant name.

As I understand it, Tracey is also a of bit a derogatory name in the UK.  A girl who is a bit vapid and stupid.  A waste of space or oxygen.  Too many of them I guess. 

It's not a great name.  I don't love it.  I don't even really like it all that much.  It's just my name.  Ho-hum.  But it is my name, so after September 11, I had it legally changed to Tracey, so as to avoid any more (serious) complications.  Only to find out, that on the birth certificates for my children, the State of California requires, not my legal name, but my birth name.  Big sigh.  So now, on paper at least, I am not even the mother to my own children.  Which is going to make it difficult to get them passports.  Maybe they are my twin sister's children.  Ugh!

Bureaucratic red tape aside, I have come full circle. When our daughter was born fourteen months ago, I wanted to name her Catherine.  Hubband didn't really like that name at first, but I talked him into it.  "My mother wanted to name me Catherine," I explained.  "But my father wouldn't let her.  They are divorced now."  So, our little girl is named Catherine.

Emotional blackmail?  Maybe.  I know you have to pick your battles in a marriage, but because of my (and my mother's) history with this issue, I wanted to win this one.  And, Catherine is a lovely name.


  1. I LOVED this post, for reasons I'll not disclose! I've been toying with the idea of changing my legal name to Willow. :^)

    word verification: theasta...hmm.

  2. Yep, if ever I have a girl or even a boy Catherine will be in there someplace. My favourite gran-aunt a courier of armaments during our war of independence was so named.

    It's Traci that marks the idiot in Essex. But Germain Greer thinks that this is an great error. "That while the girl may not be over burdened in the brains department. She figured out very early that the best thing behind her ears is her ankles". This comment is not mine.
    There is however a racial and religious bias to your name. But never mind all that. We have Nora and Noreen and many others both male and female where the 'een' or 'ey' 'ay' is beautiful little.
    Cathy is the Tracey for Catherine.

  3. Oh my...I completely relate to this post! First of all, St. Therese, is very special to me. I visit her website for the insprational comment daily.
    Secondly, my parents gave me a first & middle name. Then they called me a nickname of my middle name. I've had similar confusions all my live...still do. Maybe we are twins separated at birth : ) Why didn't they just name me what they wanted to call me. UGH! I guess..."a rose by any other name" : )

  4. Lady Cat, I thought it was telling that when I looked for famous Teresas I found saints, and when I looked for famous Traceys I found two singers, a comedienne, and a mug shot for a sit-com actress. Sadly, I am much closer to the Traceys than the Teresas.

    Vince, so Tracey is a "nick-name" for Teresa in Ireland? Hubband calls her Cathy, which I do not like. I call her Kitty because I think it sounds old fashioned. But these are used only by us. Most of the time she is Cate or Catie if she is not Catherine.

  5. I got named after tradtion with my first name but always called by my real name--my second name which i love so much that I named my son with it too.

    Wow, changing your name msut have been an ordeal but I can see why you did.

    Tracey is a great name, btw.

  6. Catherine is lovely, as is Kitty (I agree, so charming and old-fashioned). A fascinating naming tale you've got here. We had such a go-round about my daughter's name--she ended up with three names because no one could agree!

  7. LOL, so you put a multiplier on your girl, namewise. Where you had two, she as young as she is, five. And the school names have yet to kick in.

  8. Oh Vince, you have no idea. Catherine, Cate, Catie, Cathy, Kitty, Kitten, Kit Cat, Baby Cate, Catie Magoo, Lumption Magumption...the list is endless of the things we call her. Oh, and Buttercup. That is what we called her before she was born, and it still sticks with her.

    I may need to homeschool her. :)

  9. Sorry the nick-name. Well the answer is no not really. You know the traditional run when you name kids, fathers father and so on. By the time you get to the mothers name you could be at number six. You have the same with some boys names in English, Johnny, Jimmy &co. it's like you have added the suffix little.

  10. Kitty was the name of a character in a V.C. Andrews book. And yes I know you are cringing at this very moment. I prefer Miss Cate. At least your name was somewhat unique. There were 3 other girls with my same name in my gradeschool class.

  11. Wow. My little Katherine was given her shortened name at birth, by us: Katie, to avoid being called Cathy. My parents did the same by calling me Becca since birth to avoid me being called Becky (some people still insist on calling me Becky - argh!)

    My Nana was called two names all her life due to a dispute about naming her at birth. She was called Evelyn by her mother and Mae by her dad. When she struck out on her own she decided to stick with Evelyn, which I think is a lovely name. Her dad died before the matter could be grounds for divorce.

    I think two of those Traceys in the pictures are terrific (Chapman and the Comedienne), by the way, as are you!

  12. Rebecca, the other singing Tracey is Tracey Thorn (I think that is how she spells it.) She used to sing for a great band called Everything But The Girl.