What’s the story behind your name?

What's behind your name?Enthusiastic and jazzed about a writing workshop she attended, a friend told me about one of the exercises she did during the class. The participants were asked to write about the story behind their name. The instructor explained that “everyone has a story associated with their name.”

As a copywriter, upon hearing this my first thought was “sure, there are stories behind the names of products – detailed processes that go into finding just the right name before bringing a product to market.” However, a story behind one’s own name? I don’t have one.

Well, that was my first reaction, but my friend urged me to take off my marketing hat and think about it some more. She was convinced that her writing instructor was right – “everyone has a story behind their name” – their given name, a name change they made, their nickname, etc.

So I pondered a bit longer and remembered, though brief, there is a story behind my name.

I’m told that when I was born my name was going to be “Leslie.” My grandmother (my mom’s mom) did not like that. “Leslie, is a boy’s name,” she said. So, my parents chose “Debra.” Don’t know that there’s a story behind why “Debra” was the chosen name, but I’m pleased with it. Even though I was “Debra,” throughout my childhood everyone called me “Debbie.”

Wanting to be unique, I didn’t change my name, but I did change the way I spelled it. It started out “Debbie,” then for a short time, “Debi,” and finally “Debby.” Each time I tried to be unique my father would remind me that “Debra is your given name.” However, it wasn’t until I was an adult, out of graduate school (where two friends gave me the nickname of “Dzebbie” – there’s a story behind that), and out on my own in the working world that I began to introduce myself as “Debra.” It’s a beautiful name and of course, I thought it more professional than the childhood version.

What I found most amusing, once people started calling me “Debra,” was that my dad – the one who reminded me of my given name – continued to call me “Debby.” I was absolutely fine with that – it was a term of endearment.

I wasn’t one of those folks, who changes their name and says “don’t call me Debby any more, it’s Debra now.” I’m still fond of “Debby” as the name brings back many wonderful childhood memories, not to mention, it reminds me of my inner child.

So, what’s behind your name? Are you still using the one given to you at birth, a new version of it, or have you changed your name to something absolutely different? And, if so, why? Write about it, won’t you?

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day. “At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. My grandfather emigrated from Norway as Bernard Jonassen. There were so many Jonassen people in New York that he couldn’t get his mail reliably (so we were told) so he took his father’s last name, Meboe. His father was Jonas Meboe and in the old Norwegian style, his son was named Jonassen – son of Jonas.

    “Meboe” had two vowels we don’t have in English – the a/e combination and the o with a slash. It was transliterated to Meboe, a very rare last name. However, due to my efforts (did my wife contribute??? (grin)), there are 11 Meboes descended from us and two daughters-in-law and three from two of my brothers.

    Joe Meboe

    • Thanks for sharing your story Joe. When I wrote this post I was thinking of first names – forgot there are many interesting stories about our last names as well.
      I like the easy translation of Jonassen as “son of Jonas.” How fortunate that the Meboe family has grown to carry on the family name. Any grandchildren coming into the picture in the future?

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge