What's In a Name?

Per my post last week, this week I'm featuring a guest blogger. I'm so thrilled that my sister, Barb (a fabulous singer, performer, mom, and now--also--writer), volunteered to be my guest. Okay. She didn't volunteer. But since she made the suggestion, I snagged her. See what happens when you have a bright idea? *g*

If any one else would like to guest blog here, just say the word! Meanwhile.... meet Barb!

What’s in a name?

I was born Barbara Jean Miller. My sister Beverly JoAnn and I were named after our two aunts, Barbara JoAnn and Beverly Jean. My parents were so clever weren't they?

Not really.

I understand honoring family members by using their names but you have to think of the children. While everyone around us was getting named Jennifer, Kimberly and Melissa and getting cute nicknames like Jenny, Kim and Missy, I got stuck with Barbara, which of course turned into Barbie and Beverly got stuck with B.J. or Beaver. Ugh.

Does anyone love the name they’re born with?

My sister Brenda Lou named my younger sister Brandy Sue. I think Brandy is a beautiful name (not sure about Sue) but of course Brandy hates it. She thinks it makes her sound like an “exotic dancer”.

My friend Teri is actually Teresa Jo but she hates that, hence…Teri. Even that is changed from Teri-dog to Tressa to Jo Jo and sometimes, Phoenix. (don’t ask)

Later in life, I followed in the footsteps of both Beth and Brenda and started my singing career. I absolutely hated being announced as Barb on stage so I bought a baby book and christened myself Justen, pronounced just like the male name Justin. Don’t ask me why, but I loved that name and thought it made me soooo cool.

Then I met my future husband Larry, who prefers to be called L.J. for Larry Jr. He only refers to people by the 1st syllable of their name. Brenda is Bren, Brandy is Bran, Teri is Ter, I’m… Just. You get the idea. Anyway, he suggested I have my name legally changed to Justen. I was torn. I didn’t want to offend my mother, but I detested Barbara. I compromised. After a quick court session I became Barbara Justen Miller and later Barbara Justen Hisle.

Now I’m starting my new endeavor and following in Beth’s footsteps once again. I’ve begun writing. Of course the thought of a Pseudonym crossed my mind as a way to change my name yet again.


Time for me to be clever! My daughter's name is Logan and my son is Jax, so I thought I would take the 1st letter from each of their names and become Elle Jay. Get it? Like I said…clever. Except it wasn’t. I googled the name Elle Jay and there are a bazillion and two of them out there, so I guess I’m back to the drawing board.

So my question to you is… Do you like your name and if you could change it what would it be?

Oh, and feel free to suggest a pen name for me!


Anonymous said…
I was named after my great grandmother on my mother's side...and two great aunts. Jewish tradition states you cannot name babies after people who are still living...which posed a problem for my parents...all three were still alive. My grandmother suggested they combine my great grandmother's first and middle names. I am so glad they didn't. It sounded like a skin disease: "Hey...what did the dermatologist say?" "Ugh. I have Sarida." "Dude...that's rough." Anyway- my parents didn't listen and named me Sara Rose and I love it. (Because of the Jewish tradition- my maternal grandmother and great grandmother always called me by my first and middle names. I guess that gets around the tradition...) I especially love my name after seeing some of the other names they thought of: Hillary, Tiffany, Heidi. I take naming very seriously. None of my kids had names before they were born. We had to "see" them first. Trevor didn't have a name for four hours; Ryan for two; Katie for one. At least our times got better after each birth. We even had a hard time naming our dog when we had him. I also had a hard time with my radio name. Because of this...I will have to mull over your request to come up with a pen name for you...but I will work on it.
Mary Stella said…
Great post, Barb/Justen. I was named Mary in a time when every third baby girl was also named Mary. There were always multiple Marys around me, many with cute middle names so they were Mary Ann, Mary Kate, Mary Beth, Mary Carol, Mary Alice, you name it.

Since my last name Stella can also be a woman's name, many people over the years have automatically combined my names and call me Mary Stella. I've known some people for months before they realize that Stella is actually my last name. Even after they know, they still use it.

I'm so used to being called Mary Stella that I don't even point it out to anyone. I actually like it. From a professional standpoint, having people at conferences constantly refer to me as Mary Stella builds better name recognition.

Those that get it are often prone to imitating Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire yelling, "Stellllaaaaaa."

Further complicating things -- my middle name is a family name. So, I have a first name for a last name and a last name for a middle name.

It bugged me to be a non-unique Mary when I was younger. The only common nickname is Mare which makes me sound like a female horse. Secret -- I detest being called Mare by recent acquaintances. It's okay from long time friends but if you've just met me, please call me Mary.

As far as pen names, it depends on what you write. If you write mysteries, I think either Justen Miller or Justen Hisle is a good, strong name. Romances - Justine Miller?

Oh, tell your son that at the dolphin facility where I work, we have a young male rescued dolphin who is also named Jax!
Anonymous said…
In some alternate universe, my mother got the idea that C-H-E-R-Y-L should be pronounced CHAIR-UL. Out of sheer embarrassment, I have always introduced myself as SHARE-UL, much to my mother's chagrin (that's SHU-GRIN, mom, not CHU-GRIN). To this day, any time my friends meet my family, all is well until a family member (even the ones that "married in", for goodness sake!)call me by THAT name. First, the friends are aghast then laughter ensues. This is usually followed by the threat "From now on I will call you CHAIR-UL", but this never happens.... although I wouldn't put it past Justen.
Anonymous said…
I found out in my late twenties that my mother named me after one of my father's ex-girlfriends. Now how bizarre is that?

But mom liked the ring of it when coupled with the middle name she chose for me. (Me, I think the pairing sounds rather hooker or showgirl-ish. lol) One thing I do like is that though the first name became popular for a while, the spelling for mine was different. A version of Christine rather than Kristi, or Kristy.

And as for pen names, the sky's the limit. But remember that you may want to maintain privacy while still being able to answer to it when it's shouted out by a fan or friend at conference.

All the best to you.
Hisle said…
Sara, you named your children w/in 4 hours. You have known me for more than a year and see my face 3 days a week and you can't come up with a pen name for me. No worries. I understand. I am a multitude of personalities. However, I do not have a disorder.
Hisle said…
Mary, Mary, Mary...you never told us your middle name. I'm dying to know.

Jax will be thrilled about the dolphin!

Oh...for some reason I thought Stellllaaaaaa came from a Rocky movie. Oops!
Hisle said…

You never cease to make me laugh, intended or not...you are too funny!

I believe I've met your mother and that makes it even funnier.
Beth Ciotta said…
Wow, Barb. You generateda great discussion. I really enjoyed your post as well as every one who commented. Some really interesting stuff here!

Personally, I've never minded my name, although I always wished I was an Elizabeth. (like every one and their brothers asume). I'm not even a Bethany. I think I may be the only plain 'Beth' out there. :)

You should ask Brenda about a pen name. When I wanted to be a rock star, she came up with an alias for me. Ready?

Ruby Gilette.

Hee! I still love it!

For you, I had the exact idea as Mary (go figure!) Justen (which I love) and your maiden name--Miller. I'm asuming you don't want to use your married name becauseyou won't to seperate personal life rom rofessional? Of course, you could go with something exotic. Like... Junsten LeFay. :)

I can't believe you thought Steeeeella! was from Rocky. ;)
Beth Ciotta said…
Crud. Sorry for all of the typos folks. Can you tell I'm in a hurry this eve??
Conflicted Driver said…
Barbara EH?
There's no pen name better to generate book sales than
"Barbie Doll"
I can't believe "Ter" hasn'r chimed in yet!
I hope this helps :)
Anonymous said…
Mary Stella said…
The yell was similar but Rocky screams for "Adriannnnnnn".

I'll tell you my middle name in email, Barb. *g*
Hisle said…
Conflicted driver,

And don't think I don't know who you are!

Ter is lame. She was gonna respond with "cool" and thought that would get the job done, but she looked at other peoples comments and realized she had some work to do. i don't expect to see her here though. Like I said...lame
Hisle said…

I think your name is very pretty. Short and sweet although Mother still calls you Beth Ann.

Brenda came up with a very Italian sounding name for me. It was beautiful but didn't suit me so I sent her back to the drawing board.

Thanks to you, for a while growing up, I thought my name was Bucko!
Olga said…
Great post! As for me, I love, love, love my name. And Mary, I'm one of those people who called you Mary Stella several times before I realized my mistake!
brandy said…
I think it might be more like a hillbilly exotic dancer! Sounds attractive huh?!? I guess I don't hate my name as much as I used to, but I still can't figure out why Brenda cursed me with Sue (thanks)! I agree that Justen is a great name, it's just been impossible to call you it. All I see when I look at you is Barb! Maybe someday I'll give in for you. As for the pen name maybe you should go the exotic dancer route. It might draw a lot of attention!!
Hisle said…

Hillbilly huh? That's a term not used nearly enough. No worries over the Justen thing, I probably wouldn't answer if I heard it coming from you!
Harley David Sonn said…
All this yada yada yada about names. Now, a boy named Sue, there's a tragedy!
Here's the deal, regardless of 1st name, middle name or nick name, it appears you sistas have an unusual amount of feistiness, drive and skills.
As for you MS Barbara Jean Justen, you've become the master of multitasking. Balancing a full time job with motherhood, while still finding time to be the good wife and write. Hmmmmmmmm. Maybe you could squeeze in a few songs and we can add songbird to your list. Has your name made you an over achiever?
How about "Justen Barbee" as a pen name? Kindda has a ring to it.
Hisle said…

One day I hope you can meet some of my family. They are a very crazy group of people.

Re: Justen Barbee????Yeah, don't think so. Try again!
Beth Ciotta said…
Gee, I sort of like Justen Barbee. :)

What about... Virginia Hamm?
Harley David Sonn said…
OH, OH, OH.......I KNOW........

"Justen Tyme"

I think I like Beth :)
Hisle said…

You are too funny! Not!
Hisle said…
Wayne, (oops I mean Harley)

How original...like I haven't heard Justen Tyme a million times before.

You and Beth would get along well...you're both kinda corny with the name thing.

See you tomorrow!!! Too bad we won't be able to converse. That makes me sad. I do thoroughly enjoy our conversations!
flchen1 said…
Wow, Barb/Justen! What a great post! I also really disliked my name growing up. My parents chose it out of a baby name book because my dad liked the meaning, but it's not very common. I wasn't much into being unique then, and wanted something a bit more common that lent itself to cute nicknames. I even had a week in first grade when I asked my teacher to call me by my middle name instead, but had to give up when I never recognized that she was calling on me when she did. I've grown into appreciating my name, but did swing the other way when choosing names for our kids--their names are actually on the top 100 list ;)

Hmm... a pen name? Justen Miller? Ella Jean Justen? Or B. J. Miller? Just Evie? ;p
Mary Stella said…
Justen/Barb said about her sister Beth's name:
Short and sweet

Just like Beth herself. :-)
Hisle said…

Thanks for joining the conversation. I know Beth knows who you are but you're a mystery to me, so I have to ask???? What is your first and middle name? I'd love to know the meaning of it too since your father chose it for that reason.
Jen said…
Great post!

I'm a Jennifer -- and hate it. (but I hate Jenny more). My sister's a Cynthia (which I think is beautiful, but she goes by Cindy).

When she was naming her baby girl I strongly suggested they give her a different middle name because her monogram is ICK -- they didn't listen to me....

Good luck with your writing!
Hisle said…

Seriously? ICK? That's horrible. They really should have listened to you!
flchen1 said…
Oops, sorry, Barb/Justen! My first name is Fedora, which according to the baby-name book, means "gift of God." My middle name is Lynne, which I can't remember the meaning for. I really couldn't stand my name when I was younger for many silly reasons, including the fact that I could never find it on any personalized things, like those goofy mini-license plates ;) Silly, huh?!
Hisle said…

Not silly at all. When we're young, we don't want to be unique in any way. We want to fit in. For what it's worth, I think Fedora is a beautiful name. Oh, and my kids have the same problem, can't find their names on anything that is gender appropriate for them.
Beth Ciotta said…
Loved reading all the talk about names! Thanks for spurring the conversation, Barb!
Justen said…
My name is Justen Tyme Redman. Legitimately. And I am a female.

Thanks for making me feel really cool :)

Always thought it was a bit of a curse myself.
Anonymous said…
I agree with you concerning the name Barbara (Barbarian/Stranger/Foreigner) . It's my name too and I have NEVER liked it. Then I figured I'd look it up and see the Hebrew translation. What is it: Sarida "leftover/refugee".

Just horrible.

In fact, I meet with a group and there's a woman in her 70's who, after I introduced myself as "Barbara" but I go by "Bobbi", disclosed the fact she has absolutely despised her name as long as she can remember. But, on that day, there were a total of THREE Barbara's in the group. She said she believes God is helping her come to terms with it.
Anonymous said…
My name is Barbara too and I very much dislike it too.

Backwards it's not the best either:


Here's some ideas for a Yiddish name starting with "B":

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