Would a Jane by any other name still be plain?

May 21, 2018 — Naming a child is one of the most important tasks parents have.

Think I’m being dramatic? Ask anyone with a name like Bernhard or Albertina, and they’ll confirm it for you. Something that sticks to you forever should not be taken lightly.

As a child, I found my given name rather dull. Not only did Jane sound boring, it only contained one syllable. What kind of impression could I make on people with a one-syllable name?

The variations of my name came from adults, who often said things like, “Me Tarzan, you Jane”, or who called me Plain Jane or Lady Jane, or referred to the children’s book characters “Dick and Jane”. I don’t recall kids teasing me about my name. There were many days I felt grateful that Jane didn’t rhyme with anything disgusting like Icky Vicky or Smelly Kelly because kids are relentless. “Jane the Pain” was the worst I got, and that came from my family.

Instead of Plain Jane or Jane the Pain, I imagined myself as an Angelique, just like the character in “Dark Shadows”, or as someone with a musical sounding name that ended with an “a” such as Melissa or Johanna. Both of my sisters’ names end with “a” and because mine did not, I believed I was destined to be a tomboy. Or a nun. Nun’s names, which were often masculine, rarely ended with an “a”.

In fifth grade, I decided to take on Angelique as my confirmation name. That would give me a little flair. My father told me if I shortened it to Ann, I might get a dollar from my grandfather, since that was my grandmother’s name. She had passed away years before, and I never knew her, so decided to go for it. The Bishop called me Ann, slapped my face as a reminder of the hardships I might face in my Christian life, and I became Jane Marie Ann McMaster. Notice none of those names end in an “a”, and I don’t recall getting that dollar.

Jane was also my mother’s name, although she confessed she never cared for it. She wanted to name me Diane and might have if my father hadn’t been persistent. The year I was born, Jane didn’t crack the top fifty for girls’ names, so my parents did not go the popular route. That privilege belonged to girls named Susan, Linda, Karen, Donna, Lisa, Patricia, Debra, Cynthia, Mary, and Diane, the top ten girls’ names that year. My sisters’ names are on that list, while Jane placed at #54.

Any baby name book will tell you that Jane is Hebrew in origin. As the feminine form of John, it means God is gracious. It’s not on the list of royal names, yet two English queens, Lady Jane Grey, who ruled for nine days before the king executed her for treason, and Jane Seymour, who died shortly after childbirth, giving Henry VIII his much-anticipated son, held it proudly.

Today, I am rather glad my parents did not name me Angelique. Jane fits me and I have grown accustomed to it. I like that it is not common, and it slides off the tongue easily when I have to introduce myself, especially in business situations. Angelique McMaster has an odd sound to it, and the six syllables it contains are a bit too much to get through.

On occasion, people still call me Lady Jane; however, gone are the days where people mention “Tarzan” or “Dick and Jane”. Sadly, they are characters from generations long gone. Just like Angelique.

6 thoughts on “Would a Jane by any other name still be plain?

  1. I got a lot of people singing my name! Which bugged me to no end. But I never hated my name. I just wished people would forget about those songs.

    I’m glad you like your name now. I do think it’s a pretty name. Very classic and timeless.

    (And too bad you didn’t get that dollar!)

  2. As one of your sisters, I always thought it was nice to have a “family” name. There are 4 people in the family named Jane that I can think of. No one else has my name. Also, I am the only child that wasn’t given a middle name….why?

  3. Cousin Jane W. here, who also does not have a given middle name. The younger me also did not particularly like my name (does Jankie Pantarunni ring a bell!) but grew to love and appreciate its simplicity and also sharing the name with the great “Big Jane”.

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