What’s in a Name?
I suppose all families have members who, for one reason or another, are not fond of their names. In our nuclear family, I guess I was the first one to do something about it. I was christened John, but I now go by Jon. And thereby, as they say, hangs a tale.
When asked why I changed my name, I often joke that it was my older brother Reg, or Frank depending on the audience, who was responsible. For years during our shared life at home he would tell me: “Get the h- out!” And then he would slam the door. Oh…you mean, he wasn’t talking about my name?
The truth of the matter was that I was tired of being one of a pack of Johns. I went to a small school for my elementary and junior high (grades 7-9) years. So small that it only had one class per grade. It was a great school that I look back on very fondly. Except, in my class, year after year, there were two other boys named John. Of course, at that time it seems half the boys in the world were named some variant of John, and I have worked with many of them over the years. Nevertheless, my first experience of commonality was school. Worse, both of the other Johns were more popular. So while they vied for the name John 1 or John 2, often switching around, I was always John 3.
When I was a young teen, 13?, I watched a science fiction cartoon show called Jonny Quest. I think was drawn to the same but different name. For one thing, Quest sounded heroic and Jonny was firmly linked to that idea. But also, I felt the spelling caused the name and therefore the person to stand out, to be an individual, and at that time I was just starting to want to stand out and be more independent. In any event, the spelling stuck in the back of my mind for the next four or five years and when I applied for university, I decided to apply as Jon not John. And I’ve been Jon ever since. Some have wondered if I ever regretted it. I’m pleased to say that I have not. The best years of my life were lived as Jon.
You may wonder how mum and dad felt to have me change my name. By that time, dad was not able to participate fully in our family life, so the subject never came up. Mum much later told me that she had preferred Jonathan over John all along but that dad objected. So she was secretly pleased at the change. I hasten to add though that I did not change it to Jonathan, but just Jon. Which reminds me of another story, but I’ll save that for another time.
So, in these pages, you may see me referred to as John for my early years or in the family tree and you will also see me referred to as Jon in stories of my adult life. I’ll answer to either.