Odd names are curse or blessing to kids, mostly curse

October 22, 1992|By The Kansas City Star

What's it like to go through life as Bailey Sherry?

Bailey's mother glimpsed the future when she entered her daughter in a baby contest several years ago. The woman at the registration desk insisted that there was no Bailey Sherry entered.

A Sherry Bailey, yes. But Bailey Sherry -- absolutely not.

"I argued with a woman for 10 minutes over my own daughter's name," recalls Linda Sherry, who lives in Kansas City, Kan. "She told me it should be the other way around. She said, 'I have Sherry Bailey written down.' "

Such is life for the Bailey Sherrys out there -- and the Zaculyns and Zolindas, Collistas and Adinas, Irmgards and Siobhans and Nijuanas.

The Kansas City Star recently published a story about some parents' quest for unusual children's names and invited readers to call in with more. Here are some of them:

The first day of school each fall is an anxious one for every child. But for Ashley Neal Vaughan, there was an added -- and awful -- burden: his name.

"At the beginning of each school year, I'd try to get to the teachers before they called the official school roll," explains Neal, a seventh-grader. He wanted to instruct them to call him by his middle name and to never mention his first name.

Usually, however, he didn't find his teacher in time. When the news of his name leaked out, his schoolmates treated him harshly.

"They were calling me a girl," he says. "I hate my name. It's ruined my whole life, almost."

In the fifth grade, he instituted a policy of identifying himself as Neal.

Although he's "heard of that 'Gone With the Wind' guy," Neal says he's never met another boy named Ashley.

Zaculyn Wilson says she was "supposed to be a boy" -- a boy named Zachary. Since she wasn't, her mother conceived a feminine version of Zachary. Zaculyn, it would be.

Like many people with unusual names, Wilson remembers hating hers as a youngster.

"My mom told me when I was in first or second grade I didn't like it, and I was going to change my name. I got teased in elementary school. They called me Zacky Wacky and Zacula Dracula.

"As I got older, I liked being different. Now everyone just calls me Zack."

Nijuana (rhymes with Tijuana) Bellamy has nothing more than the luck of the draw to credit -- or blame -- for her first name.

"I know my mom made up a whole bunch of names," she says. "They put them in a hat and drew one out, and that happened to be the one they drew out."

The teasing bugged Nijuana in her early years. But now she says her name "has been great, because I get a lot of attention, and no one forgets it."

One job required her to work on a dock "with 40 guys. They'd sing a song: 'Nijuana, do you wanna '

"They did that constantly. They'd get on the intercom, even. It was fun."

Having a name like Modesty Caudron can change a girl, although not necessarily in the way her parents hoped for.

"I'm not at all modest," says Modesty, whose new married name is Rymer. "Maybe my folks had high hopes I would be."

Although modest she is not, Rymer contends that her unforgettable first name has made her more resilient than she might be as a Mary or Barbara.

"It helped me develop my personality," says Ms. Rymer, who lives in Basehor, Kan. "With a name like that, you have to take it."

Modesty presents a world of possible variations, such as Mod Squad, for the old television series, or Mod Bod.

Siobhan Kean-Weber has never been one to compromise on her name.

She remembers that back in kindergarten, she and her classmates were assigned to write their names if they knew how.

Siobhan knew how, all right, but had trouble persuading her teacher of that.

"She said, 'This can't be right," Ms. Kean-Weber says. "I got real insistent. I got reprimanded."

Fortunately, her grandmother was the school secretary and straightened matters out.

Ms. Kean-Weber still takes a lot of pride in her Gaelic name and has heard it slaughtered in every conceivable way. Since Irish rock singer Sinead O'Connor arrived on the scene, however, the mispronunciations of Siobhan have been slightly less bloodcurdling.

Siobhan is correctly pronounced "Sha-von." One of the most common rearrangements is "Sigh-oh-buh-hahn," Ms. Kean-Weber says, and quips: "In no language would that be a name."

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