What’s in a Name?

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the young lovers meet and fall in love. At one point Juliet says: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”

I grew up not liking my name. Never really enjoyed any part of it, truth be told.

My full name is Darrin Lee Mossor.

Obviously I took no part in the decision surrounding my name but oh, boy do I wish I could have.

Let’s break it down.

My last name which was the part least up in the air, comes to me from my father and my father’s side of the family. My beef with my last name really only comes from the fact that folks find it hard to pronounce and/or hard to spell.

If they see it written down without knowing me it’s pretty inevitably pronounced “Moe’-zer” or “Moe’-zher” and sometimes “Moe’-sir”. For the record, at least the record I’m privy to, it’s pronounced exactly like it looks (to me). Moss like the fuzzy green stuff. Or like what you have left over at that point. Moss’-Or. Okay, actually, it’s probably closer to Moss’-er.

I’d hoped for years that there might be some interesting family story around my last name in terms of what it means or where we came from. As best I can tell, it likely means nothing more than “from the place where there’s moss”. That’s pretty literal. And uninteresting. And German.

The spelling has always been an issue. I have actually seen folks misspell my last name, as I spell it out loud for them! It’s as if while I am spelling out M-O-S-S-O-R their brain gets in the way and says “No, I’m pretty sure that ought to be E-R”.

Interestingly, it turns out that where my dad’s family comes from back in West Virginia and Ohio there’s a mix of Mossor/Mosser. It’s roughly one third/two thirds.

Here’s how deep the rabbit hole goes. Apparently when my father recently got his passport some years ago he had to provide his birth certificate as partial proof of identity. Much to his surprise, his birth certificate, which is the official document identifying who he is from birth, has his last name spelled MOSSER. Now, mind you, his father is MOSSOR. According to him, his sisters both had birth certificates that say MOSSOR. Additionally, all other identification that my father had has his last name as MOSSOR.

As a result, in a slightly bizarre twist of fate, I don’t actually have the same last name as my Dad. Close. But not the same as what he has on his birth certificate.

So my last name has always been a bit of a challenge for me.

My middle name is short but apparently carries no real meaning from a family perspective and it never really felt like part of me. I stopped listing it in documentation and identification once I became an adult. I just never felt in any way a Lee.

Which brings us to my first name. Darrin. Not Darren. Nor Darin. Nor Darron. Nor any of the umpty other variations. It’s Darrin. Two r’s and an i. Just like it sounds. In my head.

The story I heard when I asked my mom why I ended up a Darrin is that a friend of hers from when she was pregnant with me was planning on naming her kid Darrin when he was born. But when the time came, he was a she and suddenly the name my mom liked when she heard it became the name I was going to have when I was born.

So, when the fateful day came, Darrin Lee Mossor entered in to the world.

My mother told me a story once about when she was in the hospital that I’ve never been able to verify and because I like the story so much I’m not sure I want to try hard to verify it in case it’s not a true story.

She said that when she was in the hospital in the nearby bed was a lady who was also getting ready to have her baby. As they talked it came out that she was the wife of a doctor. As it turns out, she was a bit further along and had her baby before I decided to make a showing. Once her baby was born (a daughter) my mother found out that they named her Heidi. That’s nice but the part of the story that I love, the part that makes this a story that I SO want to be true is that supposedly the family name, the name of the doctor who how had a daughter named Heidi was … wait for it … Jekyll (or maybe some close spelling variant). Now THAT’S a name to be proud of. At least until your kid grows up enough to hate you for it. Of course, if SHE grew up to be a doctor, it would be the best name EVER!

Anyway, as I was saying, I came out a Darrin. If you happen to look up the popularity of Darrin in terms of boys names (as I did) it has what I find to be an interesting profile which you can see below.

nameDarrin

Prior to 1959 there were no more than 30 Darrins born in the entire country in a given year. In that year it jumped to 103. Between 1959 and 1963 it climbed from 103 to 311 in 1963 then 862 in 1964. Then it leapt from 862 to the all time peak in the history of Darrins to 3255 in 1965.

Now I’m not cultural historian, but I don’t think you have to be one to figure out what happened here.

On 9/17/1964 the pilot for a show that would run until 1972 aired. That pilot was Bewitched. For those who did not grow up with television in the 70s and in to the early 80’s where it was on pretty much every afternoon after school, Bewitched was a show about a young witch named Samantha (played by the very attractive Elizabeth Montgomery) who meets and marries a mortal named Darrin Stephens and the show was about their wacky adventures.

It’s an open question to me where the writers grabbed the name Darrin from. There were probably less than a couple hundred Darrins over 20 in the entire country in the early 60s.

At any rate, Darrin peaked as a name for a boy at 3255 in 1965 and proceeded to slump back in to relative obscurity after the show left the air. I suspect it was re-runs that kept Darrin in circulation through the mid-70s and 80s. By 1990 we were back to 376 Darrins born and the latest numbers have Darrins down to less than a hundred in 2011.

So, the high point for my given name is based on the popularity of a 60s sit-com. Yay.

My issue with Bewitched doesn’t stop there. If you’ve watched the show you know that Samantha had a mother named Endora. Endora loved to show up and butcher Darrin’s name to show that she didn’t like the fact that her daughter had married a mortal. There is quite a list but they include gems like: “Durwood”, “What’s-his-name”, “Darwin”, “Dum-Dum”. Kids being kids, of course, I got called those names as well growing up. No one likes being called names. I really didn’t like being called those names. It made me angry.

As I get older I don’t find myself any more attached to my middle name than I ever was, so I have effectively disowned that part.

I’m pretty sure only my mother ever called my be all three names and that was only when I was in BIG trouble. So, if I go the rest of my life not being called all three names, that’s fine.

As an upside, as far as I know and can tell, I’m the only Darrin Mossor in the world today. The combination of both an obscure last name and first name will do that.

In and Internet world, a unique name can be a good and a bad thing.

I work with a guy with the last name Smith and a common first name. Googling his name just results in noise. Googling my name you pretty much get me.

Given that things live forever on the Internet, I’ve always tried to remember that and behave (at least to the Internet) accordingly.

I’ve tried to pass the same caution on to my kids.

A name is a funny thing. It identifies us. It can become a short-cut for folks. When they hear a name they have a reaction, positive or negative, to that combination of sounds in association with how that name makes them feel.

Mine is unique whether I loved it or hated it growing up, at this point I own whatever it means to anyone out in the world.

I think Kermit the Frog said it best:


When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder, why wonder?
I am green and it’ll do fine
It’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be

 

 

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