What’s in a Name?

by | May 27, 2012

This post was imported from an old wordpress.com blog I used to have.


THEM: Amanova. What kind of name is that?
ME: What do you mean? [I know exactly what they mean]
THEM: Where is it from? What nationality?
ME: It’s not from anywhere, I made it up.
THEM: You what?!
ME: I made it up.
THEM: So, it’s not your real name?
ME: No, it’s my real name. It’s my legal name, I just made it up.
THEM: Huh?
ME: It’s a long story.

And it is, but I enjoy telling it. Just not in the checkout line at the grocery store.

In 2002 I was engaged to be married. It was kind of strange, considering that I wasn’t one of those girls who cared about getting married, but I loved my boyfriend, and could see myself spending the rest of my life with him, so when he surprised me with a proposal, I got caught up in the idea and said yes.

We had a year to figure out all of the details, and one that was extremely important to me was the name. I was willing to call myself his wife, but I did not want to take his name. I had a few good reasons:

  1. I’m a feminist
  2. I think it’s important to question and challenge traditions
  3. His name is very ethnically-specific and hard to spell

Let me try to explain that last one, because it really just makes me sound shallow. I spent the first 27 years of my life as Marsha Jones. One of the most common surnames in the English-speaking world. I had no cultural connection to my last name, in fact, I always thought it was embarrassingly boring. I’m a woman and an only child, so my parents had never concerned themselves with the idea that there would be no one to carry on the family name, so there was no worry there. His was a different story. The Onuczko family is Ukrainian and proud of their background. I think that’s awesome. So it was a lot harder for him to just walk away from his surname. Although I always felt that I was a welcome addition to their family, and I appreciate, respect and enjoy their cultural heritage, I never felt that it was mine, and to take their name as my own didn’t feel right to me. Plus, I’m a bit shallow and didn’t want to have to spend the rest of my life spelling out my last name. Fortunately, my future husband agreed with my reasonings and together we explained them to his family. They were incredibly understanding, and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that they had a younger son who probably wouldn’t marry someone as challenging as I am.

My dilemma was that I didn’t want to keep my name, I didn’t want to take his name, and don’t even get me started on the idea of hyphenated last names. How is this a good idea? Which name do you give your kids? Both? OK fine, so now they have a ridiculously long last name. What are they supposed to do when they fall in love and want to marry another poor kid with a hyphenated surname? 4 names?! So, that wasn’t an option.

And here’s the thing, I may not have been dreaming of getting married since I was a little girl, but I am a romantic. And I really liked the idea of us having the same last name. After all, we were starting a whole new limb on the family tree. So we decided that we would both change our names. The perfect solution. But now the task was to find the perfect name.

We started out trying to combine our two names into something new and awesome. We failed. Miserably.

Jonesko. Onones. Nescko. Ozone? Cojones? Um, no. We even tried adding our mothers’ maiden names to the mix, but we still didn’t find anything we liked.

OK, how about we just find a really great name and go with that? This approach was inspired by a couple whose wedding a good friend of mine had attended. They changed their names to Skywalker. I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

– – –

We searched everywhere for the perfect name. We would each compile a list of possibilities and then get together to discuss them. I focused on literature and everyday words. His fondness for fantasy novels and video games produced a few interesting possibilities, but nothing was quite right. We wanted something that would be meaningful for both of us, sounded beautiful and combined well with our first names. It wouldn’t hurt if it fell near the beginning of the alphabet. We began to talk about not just claiming an existing name, but creating our own word, our own unique name. He had done this for characters in the RPGs he played. I was taking a Latin class at University, and was impressed by how many words come from Latin roots. I wanted to try to create something that would have a deeper meaning.

Amare verb: to love
verb: to create or make new
= Amanova

We scoured phonebooks and googled it. We didn’t find much. A professor in San Diego, someone in Kyrgyzstan. We wanted something unique, but were willing to accept that there aren’t too many completely original names. We decided that the few we found were acceptable. We were never concerned that someday someone from the Amanova family would track us down and try to claim us as their own.

Of course, I’m no longer married, but I’m still Amanova. He changed his name back after the divorce, but I wanted to keep it. It’s who I am now.

Anyway, that’s the story of my name. I think it makes for an interesting tale. Most people seem to enjoy it, but I don’t think I’ve inspired anyone else to do the same. There have been a few minor bumps along the road, but nothing that would make me regret my decision. I did have a relationship with one guy who never liked the idea of me keeping the name I created with my ex. And I met one person, a Czech woman, who upon hearing my story was convinced that what I’d done is akin to blasphemy – stealing a name! Fortunately, my irreverence doesn’t keep me up at night.

Every once in a while I’ll search google just to see what comes up: a French musician, lots of Polish pages. I haven’t tried it for awhile, but today ‘s search found something new that’s a bit strange and made me laugh out loud:

I wonder how much it would cost me to buy that domain?