Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On Names

Humans categorize, label and name everything and everybody. The question, "Who are you?" is generally answered with our given name. Names help give us  sense of who we are. I was thinking about that because recently someone asked if my name was Gunnar or Neil. "Which one are you?"  Well, I think of myself as Gunnar, but even that is gray.  I was called Gunner with an E (I think) by everybody in my world until I entered school. My mother told me that at school they would be calling me Neil. This was a bit of a shock, as Neil Berg was my grandfather. I was Gunner. Everybody knew that.

For years I lived parallel lives, Neil in the classroom, Gunner on the playground. In high school my friends, obvious tired of dealing with it, just called me Berg. To this day my brother, two years my junior, still calls me Berg. Later on at work some people called me Neil, others who knew me better, Berg or Gunner.

A few years ago people started shooting each other. A lot. And with the internet I started getting spam and emails that made assumptions about me shooting - being a Gunner.  It suddenly seemed like a more violent name than I was comfortable with. It wasn't so much a name as a label. I decided as it was an unlisted name anyway, I could spell it anyway I chose to. I became Gunnar. I became Gunnar with an A.

Recently I noticed on Facebook when Lorna made references to me she still stuck with Gunner. The old Gunner. I thought, well if she prefers to be married to Gunner, I had better be Gunner.  I changed everything online, Facebook, Gmail, Google, everything. As soon as she noticed it she informed me that she much preferred to sleep with Gunnar. I may be confused about my identity, but I ain't stupid. I'm Gunnar again.
-Gunnar Berg

18 comments:

Mrs. Berg said...

You are and will be Gunn*r to me always. I tried calling you Neil when we were engaged 42 years ago, but I couldn't do it. I like the Scandaniavian connection with Gunnar. You are my Gunn*r no matter how it is spelled.

Gunnar Berg said...

Aw....shucks.

Gunnar Berg said...

I remember Bueller, the preacher who married us, had to ask what my given name was, and he'd know me for years. I know when we said our "Repeat after me. Do you ________", it was Gunnar, er Gunner.

Mrs. Berg said...

Really, I don't remember that. I guess I would be surprised if he said Neil. But I am sure is was published in the paper as Neil. I remember hated being called Mrs. Neil Berg. I still had my first name. Mrs. Gunnar Berg would have been better. :D

Gunnar Berg said...

Soooo, you ain't coming home for dinner I take it.

Silk Hope said...

Ok Gunner my good friends call me Gabus.

Gunnar Berg said...

Can I call you Jack?

Mimbres Man said...

I like Gunnar. Cool name.

Oldfool said...

I wrote a post on this subject exactly one year ago today. Been thinking about doing it again. Birth names, real names and legal names all are important as we are our names. Anyway here is that post.
I like Gunner.

Old Toad said...

Yeah ...spelling of names can be troublesome. For too many years, everyone spelled my name, "Toed". Made me grumpy all the time when they did that.
Then, once I made my way to St. Ollie (a long, very long hop), a guy named "Gunnar" started spelling my name correctly. So I've been "Toad" ever since. There's a lot of power in that little "a" instead of an "e" ... as we both have learned, especially now that we are "old" guys.

Gunnar Berg said...

Fool,
Like your link. My great-grandfather was John P. Nelson. The third - sort of. He had two older siblings of the same name that died in infancy out there on the isolated 1850 prairies of Iowa. Apparently it was important to pass the name along.

Adena said...

Well, aren't you too lovlies sweet. I feel like I should cover my eyes.
Oh and by the way, Mr. Berg, it should be noted that you passed on your naming identity crisis to your daughter. Who will never know if it is more appropriate to identify herself as Adena or Addy Berg.

The English Woman (aka Becky) said...

You may think that Becky would elicit no problems at all, but actually I have spent my life assuring officials that, yes my name really is Becky, no it really isn't Rebecca, or alternatively I find people just alter it themselves to Rebecca. I guess my parents were ahead of the game in the 60s as I've never actually met another Becky (just Becky, not Rebecca). I'm also Beck, Becks or Bex to various people although I don't let my students call me that as I feel it's too familiar, so Becky it is to them.

Another thing: when do you know someone well enough to call them by their 'friend' name and how do you make the transition? Do you discuss it openly or just take them by surprise one day? Over to you Gunner, er Neil, er Gunnar...

Gunnar Berg said...

Addy.

Silk Hope said...

yeah Jack is fine with me. I just want to know and Scandahoovians want to know?

Is it...

Gun nar or is it Goon nar.

Just want to get this spot on.

Gunnar Berg said...

Gun ner.

'Cept for one of my girlfriend's father who insisted on calling me Gunther.

Mrs. Berg said...

Oh, so now you admit that she was your girlfriend. I also suspected so. You said she was just a friend. And Addy, you said when you became famous your stage name would be Adena Beth. I still like the name Adena.

Gunnar Berg said...

Define "girlfriend".