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By Any Other Name (puh-leeez...)

It might be a good idea to have parents go thru some kind of process for naming their kids. Like a name-vetting app: Type in the proposed name and it runs an algorithm calculating how much damage will be done if you persist in giving the child this name.

It could save everyone some difficulty.

I’m speaking from experience.

(No need to even mention the story about the newly immigrated mother who looked at the birth record of her fraternal twins, mistakenly assumed the hospital had already named them, and so she just went with what she thought were their new names: “Male" and "Female".)

I’m only talking about me here.

It's difficult to imagine the amalgam of circuitous thought processes that resulted in my name.

But I am pretty sure my parents did not consider how it would go down in front of other 7th graders on the first day of school…And since my name is at the top of the alphabet, I knew I could expect full-on embarrassment right from the start…

… I am fidgeting in my seat watching this new teacher, the ONE I AM TO IMPRESS, staring down at the Attendance list, eyes wide, and then mouth struggling to form a new mispronunciation:

“BOOONITA ….uuhm….BOOONITA…..BONA… (voice trails off… she’s never encountered a name of this difficulty level before).

<Clears throat>

Boys in back begin laughing.


Teacher is in obvious distress, now looking around the room for the guilty party responsible for putting her in this difficult position…

Boys in back burst into laughter, the cute girls chime in, a spitball hits my desk.

I reluctantly speak up:

“It’s Bonnie please”.

“OH Bonnie? Not BOOONITA? So you don’t want BOONITA???”

“No, Bonnie, please”.

“And how do you pronounce your last name?”

"BO - NA- SEE".*

“Ok..(she is still massively unsure how to proceed and now over-enunciates, REPEATING IT BACK TO ME WHILE THE WORLD WAITS & WATCHES) “NOT BONA CROTCH… No??"

I eventually learned that this interrogation, which always seemed to last longer than necessary, went a little smoother if I sat in the front row, to be able to indicate the correction in a somewhat more private exchange between myself and the teacher.

And by sitting in the front row I could avoid being looked at by classmates sitting in front of me as they turned to look over their shoulder—to glimpse what this strange classmate with the ridiculous name looked like-- and then turn around as their laughter-shook shoulders

let me know from behind that they likely wouldn’t be a friend.

These were kids with recognizable, easily-pronounced names which did not threaten to knock teacher off her poise on the first day of school.

Bonita Bonacci.*


*I told the story about why my parents chose to pronounce our surname like this, to avoid being recognized as Italian, at the 2022 Rochester Storytellers Project which you can watch here.


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2 comentarios

05 oct 2021

I honestly love that beautiful name!

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02 oct 2021

Wish I had been there to defend and befriend you❤️

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