Monday, June 20, 2011

What's in a name?

***WARNING: this post is not a slam against any name but an observation on 18 years of teaching and my choice in naming my daughter***
Ask any teacher, "are there any names that you would never name your child?", and we would all answer yes. You know them - those particular students that have taken a perfectly good name and attached to it angst, aggrivation, heartache, tears, and fear. For me the names James, Patrick, Stephanie, Brittany, Nick, and Marcus bring an instant cringe and heart palpitations. There was the year where I had 14 Brittany's and 12 Ashleys throughout the day (average 3 to a class), and in one class add to that 3 Dustin's, and 4 Blake's. Last year I had a class with 4 Breanna's all spelled differently with Dontavier, Daeveon, Devon, Dervon, and Demitrius who all insisted that they sit at the same table together. I've had some students with interesting names: Zenobia, Precious, Eunique, Ravi, Darkayan, Emprince, King Solomon, and my FAVORITE Excedrine. I've had twins named Lazarus and Lazorus, a student who only went by his nickname - Critter - and I never knew his real name, and students whose name I could never spell apologies to Dominyque Ja'bree and Teresa Machejeweski (still not sure if they are spelled correctly). Sigh....we teachers' have a hard time naming our children.
When I began my quest to name my daughter, I had an uphill battle. I didn't want to go trendy, I didn't want to go unique. I just wanted a classic name, spelled in the classic way, and have it be a name that was not so common to avoid the problems previously stated. Having grown up with a name that was not common, I didn't have the problem of getting my work mixed up with others or being mistaken for someone else. That was until Shannon Blair moved here and was placed in my class....but that is a whole other story. I wanted a name that was just for her. I spent many an afternoon looking at baby name books, looking up names on line, and reading the birth announcements in the paper. I finally got a list together and started prioritizing my favorites.
I started with Chloe and Lily - but after looking at adoption announcements and finding that over half of the little girls adopted from China were named these two names, they were eliminated. I tried on Lydia, Lilah, Eliza, Emmory, and Josslyn. I looked at family names, biblical names, and historic names. I considerd Scottish names like Caris, English names like Phillipa and Camille, and floral names like Ivy and Poppy. None of these seemed to fit and my list got shorter. What a found on that shortened list was two of my favorite names Audrey and Tess. I've always like Audrey and Tess was from a character in a made for TV movie - I always remembered it and loved it. The name formed and it was perfect.
Audrey \a(u)-drey, aud-rey\ as a girl's name is pronounced AW-dree. It is of Old English origin, and the meaning of Audrey is "noble strength". Also the root, via Saint Audrey, for the word "tawdry", due to lace and goods sold at Saint Audrey's Fair in England.
Tess \t(e)- ss\ as a girl's name is a variant of Teresa (Greek), Tessa (English) and Theresa (Greek), and the meaning of Tess is "late summer".
I named my daughter 4 years ago without knowing anything about her. I then had no idea how old she would be, what she would look like, where she would be from, I picked and hoped that these names would fit her - and I think they do! I always planned then on adding her Chinese name to the names I had given her and that plan has stayed in place - but with a twist. My daughter has a Chinese name ( Xiao Wan) as well as an English name given to her by her foster home (Sally). These names have been added to the above and I think it is as unique as she is.
Sally \s(al)-ly\ as a girl's name is pronounced SAL-ee. It is of English origin. Variant of Sarah (Hebrew) "princess".
Xiao /she-ow\ comes from the Chinese origin. In Chinese the meaning of the name Xiao is: Early morning.
Wan /waan\ comes from the Chinese origin. In Chinese the meaning of the name Wan: Tender
Audrey Tess Sally Xiao Wan Norris - I like it! I hope that when her teachers call her name that they have good feelings towards her. I hope they can spell her name corretly. I hope she can live up to the meaning of all of her names.
Here are some famous people with her names:
Audrey Hepburn - actress

St. Audrey - Saint

Tess Daly - actress

Sally - Charlie Brown's sister

Sally Ride - astronaut

Sally Field - actress

Xiao He - hero for early Han dynasty

Xiao Wen Ju - super model

Obe-Wan Kenobi - Jedi Warrior

Shangguan Wan - concubine and secretary


  1. The Obe-Wan Kenobi made me laugh out loud! I love her name. It is---classic, and perfect! I think it's great that you're incorporating Sally and her Chinese name. Lovely, Shannan!

  2. My boyfriend Tom was a TA at the Univ. of Iowa and he taught freshman Rhetoric...when he didn't know a student name he would guess Brittany.

  3. Great choice! My daughter is Audrey Claire. We receive a lot of compliments.