Monday, April 04, 2011

Call me Alice

The other day one of my patients persistently called me "Alice" and I didn't correct her because I thought Alice was a nicer name than my own.  It was almost like becoming a new person.  I felt like Alice the nurse was free of all the unhappy nursing baggage that Aileen (my real first name) carries.  I could be calm and cheerful and efficient as "Alice" and not get overwhelmed and cry in the bathroom like Aileen does.  Alice would never accidentally knock her patients' cell phones to the floor or spill full cups of ginger ale or get her legs tangled in her patients' iv lines or crack her head against the overhead traction bars or drop the Percocets on the floor where they roll under the bed where she can't reach them or forget that she left her portable computer cart plugged in and walk away with it and pull the electric faceplate right out of the wall, to the great amusement of several bystanders.

I did an image search for "Alice the nurse" and this is what I got.

Cute, no?  I dig the cape.

I've never liked my name, which people always mispronounce (it's pronounced like "Eileen" and NOT "Ay-leen") only it's so wearisome to correct  people  that I don't bother.   On my unit, when we switched to computerized charting every nurse got a little laminated yellow star with her name on it, to put on our portable computer workstations and mine is spelled AILENE.  Whatever.  My mother had planned to name me Hannah, and at the very last minute--I believe I had already emerged into the world--changed her mind and went with Aileen.

Actually, I can live with "AY-leen" but I can't deal with "Irene," another common way of mispronouncing my name, and I am practically apoplectic over "Arlene."  Do I LOOK like I'm 68 years old and watch The Price is Right in a polyester housecoat?  PLEASE don't call me Arlene.

I've thought about going by my middle name, Elizabeth.  I feel like as "Elizabeth" I would be instantly chic, smarter, and ten pounds thinner.  But talk about getting sick of correcting people!  I'd have to move to another state.  My sister succeeded at dropping a name she didn't like.  Her name is Margaret, but we always called her Peggy, which, once she reached adulthood, she decided wasn't sophisticated enough.  She began to introduce herself as Margaret and now the only people who still call her Peggy are immediate family.

You'd think I would know better, but  I went and gave three of my four children difficult names.  "Ian"seems fairly straighforward, but there are people who think it's pronounced with a long I.  Or who hear "Ann."  When my father told my uncle that I had named my new baby "Ian" my uncle said, "I thought it was a boy."  "Brigid" also seems simple but no one can spell it--she's Bridget and Brigette on most invitations and birthday cards, and Beehive persists in calling her "Brittany."  "Seamus" is problematic.  It's the Irish version of James and it's pronounced "SHAY-mus."  If I hear you calling him "SEE-mus" I may have to hurt you.  Grace is the only one of my children without name issues.

Anyway, it was fun to be Alice for a day.  Do you think if someone randomly assigned you a different name, you would become a different person?


  1. Oh Alice, I would love it. But what would I go with? Julia? Frankie? Lila? Alexandria? Any name sounds more interesting than Nancy. I do like that the name might come with being 10 pounds thinner!
    I'm pretty sure my mom and dad got all of our names from the Dick and Jane series... Ann, Jane, Mike, Dan, Susan, Gloria, Patty, and Nancy. We are sooo blah!


  2. I find my real name intensely boring. I really think it has contributed to my self-loathing. The only thing more boring than my first name is my middle name. I used to wish my name were Veronica. I think my life would have turned out significantly different if I had been named Veronica. But it's too late now.

    Of course, my sister (bythelbs) has an unusual name, and she could tell you some stories. And probably will.

  3. I was going to name my daughter one thing until my mom suggested Georgia three days before I gave birth. My late pregnancy brain thought that was the greatest name ever, and I named her that. I still love it, but I wish I had given more thought to the fact that we live in GA. I can't tell how many times I've heard "It's Georgia from Georgia." Anyway she hates her name. She wishes we had named her what her brother wanted to name her - Alice!

    I did have success with the boy - Noah. He rarely gets compared to that other Noah.

    I love the name Seamus, but I bet it is absolutely murdered anywhere but Ireland and Boston.

  4. "I feel like as 'Elizabeth' I would be instantly chic, smarter, and ten pounds thinner."

    You'd be in for a sad surprise.


  5. Amazing the power of a name. I don't care for mine and never have. Who would I be instead? Certain names have a great "feel" to them, don't they? Lydia sounds sophisticated, Claire sounds stylish, Josie sounds girlish. My name sounds flubby.

  6. But I bet no one has ever called you Lasagna. (10th grade substitute gym teacher-true story.)
    They even mispronounced my name at my high school graduation. My mother was pissed. I spelled it out phonetically for my college graduation (Lor-zsha) and they said it perfectly. It was nice.

    No one has ever pronounced my name correctly without assistance, which I completely understand and don't mind. I can forgive phonetic mispronunciations--it's the tossing in of random letters which are nowhere to be found and the transposing of letters which are actually there that I find intensely annoying. It's like they see this "new arrangement" of letters and they become so flustered their brain ceases to function and they just spit out the first thing that comes to their now functionless mind.

    I tried to give my kids easy, familiar names with the most traditional spellings, but people very rarely spell them correctly.

    I think Aileen is lovely. I would have never in a million years guessed that was your name, but I like it. I also like your children's names very much.

  7. Lasagna? LOL. No one has ever confused my name with a casserole.

  8. Okay, I had no idea that I've been mispronouncing your name. Will fix that.

    Up until I was in college, I was Jenni and, even though I've been Jennifer and Jen for over 20 years, there are people who still call me Jenni. I. Hate. It.

    One of my girls is Grace and it drives me batshit crazy when people call her Gracie, even though she doesn't like and we've corrected those people time and time again.

    And, if I could do it again, I'd call my younger girl her given name, Eleanor, and not Ellie.