One In a Dozen, Maybe?

Facebook has all these silly quizzes. Some sillier than others. All great for wasting time in amusing ways. Terrific displacement activity.

So, this morning, while I was “deciding what to blog about,” which translates as sucking on Starbucks and screwing around on the ‘net, I took a quiz on how common my name is.

There are approximately 171,636 people with the last name Kennedy. This Surname ranks the 130 most common in the United States. There are an estimated 87,363 Females with the last name “Kennedy”. However, the first name Jeffe was not found in our database meaning that you are pretty unique. It is estimated that there are less than 5 people with your exact name in the United States.

Heh. “Pretty unique.” As opposed to “very unique” or “more or less unique.” The thing is, my friend Marin Untiedt got a definitive three women with her name.

No, I didn’t try plugging in Jennifer Kennedy. I don’t want to know. Which is part of the reason I never use Jennifer.

It feels like a constant battle though, trying to use “Jeffe.” People get confused, which they don’t like. I used to introduce myself as Jennifer first and then convert people to Jeffe, but many refuse the converstion and then I don’t know who they’re talking to. So I’ve gone to just introducing myself as Jeffe and forging through the first difficult exchange, which consists of repeating my name back and forth.

[Me] – Hi, I’m Jeffe
[Them] – Confused look
[Me] – Jeffe Kennedy
[Them] – Jeff?
[Me] – Jeff-E. Like Jeff, with an eeee on the end
[Them] – variety of responses at this point:
Like on Family Circus?
Like the peanut butter?
Isn’t that a man’s name?
Jackie Kennedy?
Is that short for something else?

Inevitably if I ‘fess up to that last question that Jeffe is short for Jennifer, they’ll gratefully run for the familiar and use Jennifer. It’s almost pathological. Interestingly, people not from the US are much more flexible about it and will assimilate “Jeffe” without a blink. So I know it’s not that hard.

The other thing I’ve learned is to give people a reason for it. If I explain that my dad made up the nickname and that he died when I was three, that I feel like this is a piece of him that I can carry around with me, they soften and agree. If I say there are ten million Jennifers out there, they act like I’m uppity, trying for a different call signal.

When I was in high school, this group of girls who didn’t like me decided to call one of their own Jennifers by my nickname. I’m not sure how long it lasted and I don’t think that Jennifer liked it very much. Or maybe she was just mortified by the strange and competitive maneuver. But I remember my shock when these girls, who never spoke to me, called out “Jeffe!” and turned out to be calling to this other girl. The cluster of them turned to see my reaction, avidly watching for my humiliation? Horror? Tears, perhaps? Instead I learned that they thought I had some power in my name. They wanted to show me they could take it away.

I suppose we all want our names, like ourselves, to be “pretty unique.” We’re willing to concede that absolutely unique may be asking for too much, but we all want to be that individual, beautiful snowflake.

But really, that kind of thing comes from inside. Which no one can take away.

4 Replies to “One In a Dozen, Maybe?”

  1. I very nearly commented on "pretty unique."

    Because I can picture a flotilla of high school Jennifers in my head, I'm experiencing BIG vicarious delight that someone secretly wanted to be "Jeffe."

    It feels like a triumph of the pretty unique.

  2. Jeffe, Love you blog and your name! Very individual! Don't blame you for not wanting those preppy girls to appropriate you nickname! Kids can be pretty tiresome, I should know, I teach 8th grade.


  3. Thanks Scarlet! Girls can be so cruel — I love Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye for showing that. My daddy was a Southerner — from North Carolina — I should have said that the Southerners do better with "Jeffe" also! I bet you understand.

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