What’s in a Name?

I wish my parents would have consulted an onomastician when they chose my name. They would have learned the meaning and history of the name Adrea with its Latin origin from the Adriatic Sea. Maybe they would have been advised to choose something simple like Mary.

What is the first gift we are given after we are born? It is our name. Webster’s states that a name is a word by which a person is designated, called or known that distinguishes them from others. No question I hit the jackpot with mine.

We all exist independently of our names. When I was in my late teens, I needed a copy of my birth certificate and was in shock when I read what it said. It read that my name was Andrea Joy. As I stared down at the document in disbelief, I felt like an imposter who has been using the wrong name for years with no one correcting me. When I asked my grandmother about it, she told me that my name was misspelled on my birth certificate by the hospital and my parents never had it corrected. To further confuse me, my beloved grandmother showed me my sterling silver baby cup. That also had my name listed as Andrea Joy. When I asked for an explanation, she simply stated “we wanted you to be different. Your name is Adrea”. And so it began. A lifetime of misspelling, confusion and mispronunciation of my name.

I recently researched the US Social Security Administration from 2014 and Adrea did not rank in the top 1,000 names chosen. I suspect it would not appear on any list in the history of names.  Parents choose names after places and their state of mind at the time of birth. From Heaven to Dakota, Serenity to Integrity, names reflect sports teams, food, vacation spots, political parties, and prized possessions. We have Chanel, Canon, Jaguar, Bentley, Diamond, Tiffany, and Amethyst. These eccentric names are from ordinary parents as well as celebrities.

Throughout the years my name has been pronounced or spelled incorrectly: Adrianna, Andrea, Adria, Adera, Adrear, Adreana, Adreaya, Adra, Drea, Adrienne, Adreahana, Aadra and more. Some of my oldest friends call me Ade.

I am forever jealous of people who have songs, books and poems named after them. I have never had a coffee mug with my name on it. Before online conference registrations, I often had incorrect name badges. What I do have is an airline, chemotherapy drug, and a motel with hourly rates in Bayside, New York.

Every time someone I know is pregnant, I ask them to please name the baby after me. The closest I ever came was when a friend’s daughter decided to name her daughter after me. I was so excited that I went out and bought decorative letters to put over the baby’s crib. When the baby was born, the mother decided to use a different name, and said she didn’t look like an Adrea when she was born. I don’t understand what that even means.

My favorite faux pas with my name occurred was when I was honored by the Direct Marketing Club of New York with a Silver Apple Award. The award recognized 25 years of service in the direct marketing community. With 500 people in the audience, the person who introduced me mispronounced my name. She gave me the best opening for my speech. The theme was a letter to my younger self, and reflections over the past 25 years. My opening line was “Dear Young Adrea”. I used the opportunity to ad lib and said “Dear Andrea, Audrey, Adrea. What is Your Name anyway?” The audience was hysterical, as I shared with them this real life example.

Choosing an uncommon name is a sign that perhaps this person is different. Does it mean that I was destined for a greater achievement than owning my own Marketing firm for 30 years, starting my career in selling data based on names? Whether people like, spell, or mispronounce my name is beyond my control. I have come to embrace its uniqueness. Thanks to our parents, North West, Blue Ivy and I have a lot in common.




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