Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What is in a Name?

Sometimes my mother bemoaned the fact that she had such a plain name.  The name “Betty” seems to be a vanilla type of name and there was nothing “vanilla” about my mother.  Mom got her name because her mother’s name was so unusual…but then so was her great grandmother and great great grandmother.

Buena Vista Bailey Dollar
When I first heard that my great great grandmother’s name was Buena Vista – I had to wonder where that came from.  This was a child born in the late 1800’s in North Carolina.  Buena Vista seems to be a name that should belong to a Hispanic girl – not a girl born in the Appalachian Mountains.  Her parents (Jasper Bailey and wife Margaret) were both most likely of Irish descent so you have to wonder where that name came from.  They also had children named Colorado and Ninevah – so perhaps Buena Vista isn’t so bad.  Buena Vista married John Dula Dollar and had three children very quickly.  Their first two children had the fairly normal names of Bessie and Claude, but their third child received the name of Sophia Vestelle.  Sophia Vestelle is a very elegant name that doesn’t seem like it should have come from a little house in Shingletown, TN.  In fact – there wasn’t really anything all that elegant about my great grandmother.  She was always referred to as Sophie…because Sophia really didn’t fit.  In fact, for much of her life she was referred to as “Mom Friddle” by all of her family and many of the neighbors and friends.  So…when I think of her – I think of Mom Friddle!
David Carl Friddle & Sophia Vestelle Dollar - abt 1908

Mom Friddle gave her sons names that must have had some family meanings.  Her oldest son was named Jasper James Friddle.  Jasper seems to be from her maternal grandfather’s name.  The James probably came from my great grandfather’s older brother.  It didn’t really matter where the names came from – because Jack didn’t like either name.  When he turned 18, he had his name legally changed from Jasper James to Jack.  Mom Friddle’s younger son was named Carl Claude Dean.   The Carl was my great grandfather’s middle name (David Carl Friddle) and the Claude must have come from Mom Friddle’s only full brother, Claude.  I’ve no idea where the Dean came from.  Throughout his life – I don’t know anyone who ever called him Carl and within the family he wasn’t always referred to as Claude.  He was called the nickname of “Buddy!”  I know that is what my mother referred to him as for the most part.  My great grandparents got really creative when they named their only daughter.  I suspect that the name came from Pop Friddle more than Mom Friddle.  My grandmother’s name was Capitola.  I never really heard her referred to by her full name – it was almost always “Cappy!”  Mom said that when she was a kid and someone would come up to my grandmother on the street by a classmate she was referred to as “Tola!”  Mom thought that name sounded a little too close to "toilet."
Capitola Ester Friddle - High School Graduation  - 1930

So, when my mother and her sister were born, my grandmother decided that they needed plain ordinary names.  Mom’s older sister was named Joan and Mom’s name was Betty.  Pop Friddle tried to get Grandma Cappy to name my mother “Bettina” instead.  Mom was rather glad that that didn’t happen.  My grandmother had the best intentions thinking that my mother already had the unusual last name of Tannahill – I don’t think she ever foresaw my mother marrying a Johnson.  So started the numerous name issues.  A neighbor lived exactly a block over with the same address but different street number with the name of “Betty Johnson!”  Mom’s bank information even got messed up at one point.  There were a few too many Betty Johnsons…but I have to say that my mother was definitely unique. 
Gene & Betty Johnson holding me (Carmen) at my baptism

When it came time to name her children, my mother was a bit more creative than Betty.  My sister was named Gwendolyn after her grandfather; my brother was named Russell after my mother’s first boyfriend.  I’ve no idea where the name Christopher came from – but when he was born it wasn’t a common name.  Mom told me that she named me Carmen because I had black hair and looked like a little Carmen.  Of course my hair fell out and came in very blonde.