Thursday, July 21, 2011

What’s in a name?

When I was born (in the cold, tundra of Russia….I’m totally kidding, I was born in July in Moscow which is just about as hot as NYC in the summer), my parents named me Ekaterina.  Or, Katia.

 

 

At the not-so-ripe age of 12, we moved to New Jersey, USA.  My parents got some advice about helping us learn English faster by putting us in school almost immediately following our move.  (I’m not going to lie to you, I’m still a tad bitter about this since I already finished 6th grade early in Moscow.)

 

On the first day of school, the school counselor sat my dad and me down and told us that we needed to register.  She asked my dad what my name was and he said, “Catherine.”  I watched them closely, not able to understand a single word being said.  The counselor wrote out about 5 different ways to spell “Catherine” and let him choose.

 

My dad chose “Catherine.”

 

Because it looked pretty.

 

There is no “C” in the Russian alphabet.

 

 

When I finally got to my classroom, the teacher introduced me to the class (while I stood there, not understanding a single word) and wrote out some nicknames.  Apparently there were 4 other Catherines in the room and she needed to differentiate us.  My new nickname was “Cathy.”  I sat down in my new seat and introduced myself to my designated “buddy.”  She was Russian and translated the whole thing to me.  I was too confused and overwhelmed to say anything.

 

In seventh grade we moved to Massachusetts.  My new school-mates automatically called me “Cathy.”  I was already beginning to resent that name.

 

By High School, a lot of my friends started calling me “Kat” after listening to me complain about my name and its spelling.  “Kat'” was short for “Katia.”

 

Side story - I don’t go by “Katia” because I love my name, but have very little patience for its mispronunciation in the American language. (It’s Kah-tya not Kah-tee-a). 

 

By the time I finished High School, I decided that I would start over in College.  on my first say I introduced myself to my roommates as “Catherine.”  Then one of my friends came by and asked for “Kat.”  It stuck.

 

I tried again on my first day of work, but Jon (the hubs, then friend from college) called me “Kat” on the first day.  I had to explain the whole “Catherine with a C” and “Kat with a K” fiasco.

 

When we got married, I thought it would be the perfect time to (finally) change my first name to “Katherine.”  Apparently it takes a court date to change your first name (and only a marriage certificate to change your last name).  I bailed on the process.

 

So, Hi, I’m Kat, short for Catherine….it’s a long story.

23 comments:

  1. wow, what an interesting story! I have an interesting story on my name as well... maybe I'll share it sometime too.

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  2. You've probably already blogged this, but what brought your family over here from Russia? My old lab had a bunch of Russian immigrants who all came here to work in science. They explained the naming system to me a bunch of times, but I admit I still find it confusing. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I always wondered and guessed it was something along those lines. I'm Katherine, shortened to Katie by my parents, changed to Katy by me in 7th grade, and, yes, was even Katia in my Russian classes ;)

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  4. I've never heard that full story! I knew the last parts but it's fun to hear the whole thing. Isn't it scary how easy it is to change your last name? I was disturbed by that in the whole marriage/name change process.

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  5. Love that story! Do you still live in MA?

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  6. What a great story! I have the same pronunciation issue with my name, but unfortunately I can't shorten it anymore than it already is!

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  7. How crazy!! That would drive me nuts. My grandfather gave every single one of his nine children a nickname and my mom refused to give us names that could be formed into any sort of nickname, so lucky for us ours are easy to say and spell. My husband however goes by a nickname of his middle name.. what a disaster.

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  8. This was a fascinating story! And since I'm (relatively) new here, I had no idea that you were 12 when you moved here. That must have been so hard. I can't imagine!

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  9. It may be a long story, but it's an interesting one! My name is Casey, short for Casey. Sometimes people call me Case. Whoa.

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  10. What a story! Thanks for sharing :)

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  11. I always wondered too! Such a neat story :)

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  12. Good story. And, for the record, I like Kat :)

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  13. Interesting story! I love your given name, but I could see how having it misprounced would just be frustrating! I have that problem a lot with mine!

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  14. Ha love it. I'm Katie with "K" short for Catherine with a "C" too... got me in a mess when I already worked at my University in high school then had to apply there as a student and ask for financial aide... they didn't get that although it's the same SS # and address, I was obviously two different people.

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  15. Ekaterina and Katia are so pretty and different, it's a shame your dad didn't give them that name or Katia from the start! Plus Kat still works with it! So what's on your driver's license and social security card? Catherine?

    I actually did the whole court date thing to change my name after I got married. It was expensive and a pain but I have always used my middle name and really wanted to get rid of my first name since nobody really knows it and it's a pain to HAVE to use it on EVERYTHING. So now it's gone but "Jessica" (my old first name) is on a few of my diplomas and in a bunch of my old yearbooks. Strange, huh?

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  16. That's so telling of what "matters" to the gov't. Change your last name at leisure (how many people view marriage these days) but you're stuck with a first name although you didn't even choose it.

    By the way, I have shared your "what language do your animals speak" story so many times...yet I have still not mastered my Russian dog imitation! Haha

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  17. I was surprised to read that people wouldn't know how to pronounce Katia. I would never think Kah-TEE-yah. Interesting.

    I can only imagine how disconcerting it was to go from Katia to Cathy. I'm glad you changed it back - I'm sure it felt great.

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  18. Love it! What a great name story!

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  19. Love this...my favorite Russian name is Ekaterina.

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  20. My mom and her sisters also had a hard time with names when they moved to the US. My mom's name is Else but is pronounced "Elsa" and one of her sisters in "Anke" pronounced "Unka" and she had to go by Ann.

    Ekaterina is a beautiful name by the way :)

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  21. I really love Ekaterina and Katia...both beautiful! But Kat works! This was a great story to learn about your name. You're definitely not a Cathy!

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  22. What do you mean"there is no 'C' in the Russian alphabet"? How do you write Moscow, what´s for the c?

    I could never imagine being left somewhere as a kid where I don´t speak the language... isn´t that scary?!

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  23. Thanks for sharing this story! I love the name Katia and completely understand how frustrating it would be to not have it pronounced correctly. I had the boyfriend (who took a few Russian classes) pronounce it for me so I'd know should I ever meet another Katia. Moral of the story: I'm officially a crazy lady!

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