Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's In A Name?

I am standing at the cashier counter in my favorite shop, Red Orchard, Wildwood Manor, Bethesda (The place is a real heaven on earth for unique gifts.) With the new Square system, the owner asks me if I want my receipt emailed to me, to which I heartily agree: the fewer trees we cut the better; the less BPA on credit card receipts, even better!

Upon hearing my last name “Diligenti”, he asked: “Does it mean the same as in English: “diligent”?” “Absolutely! It comes from the Latin: diligentia, ae…. Which means “haste”.” “And are you “diligent”?” “As a matter of fact, I am.”  Then I said: “It is my maiden name. Because you see, with my married name, I had too much trouble. It is rather difficult to carry around the last name: “Pickup”. You do not know all that I had to endure!” “Your husband’s name is Pickup?” “Yes! A British name… So imagine me on the phone and being asked to spell my name, and I usually say: “Pickup, just like the truck.” At this time, he and his wife started to giggle….

So I went on: “20 years ago, going to the dry cleaners or the photographer’s, whenever they asked for my name and I replied “pickup”, they would say: “yes, we know you are here to pick up stuff, but what is your last name?” My adrenaline usually went up at this stage. But the worst part happened when I went to renew my driving-license. I asked for my maiden name to be added next to my married name. This woman berated me for 30 minutes, telling me I should be ashamed of myself for not wanting my husband’s name, that a wife should always be proud of her husband’s name, and so on and so forth… I tersely replied to her that if she had been called a pickup, she would probably want to change her name too. Especially considering that one time when, after hearing my last name, a guy asked me how would I like to be picked up?” 

By this stage, the owner of Red Orchard and his wife were laughing out loud. I added: “And when I had to go to the main MVA for a car tag a few years later, they asked me for my ID and then told me it was not good… The woman at the driving-license renewal booth had hated me so much for not just using my husband’s name that she had NOT put the three digital numbers along my throat on the picture ID! So for a few years I was unaware that I was driving around with a totally not legit ID!” “OMG! She did not!!! You should have filed a complaint!” “Well, she was looking like she was way over 70 at the time so I gathered she had probably retired, but I must say after all these years I am still wondering what’s in a name that people react so strongly… But at least it does make for an entertaining story…”

Little do they know that my maiden name itself had been the butt of many a joke when I was growing up in France…