Radiogurl a la Carte

Thursday, Oct. 06, 2005
The Name Game

I'm sort of expanding on and lifting from a post by smedindy. He was talking about his kids' names, and the impressions you get from certain names.

As anyone who's read here for any period of time knows, my real name is LeiLani. I won't post my real last name online for safety reasons - ditto won't use my real last name on the air, same principle. There's another reason I don't use my real last name professionally, though. The sucker's got eleven letters. Now, when your first name is LeiLani, add to that a marginally un-pronounceable surname and it becomes a challenge just to figure out when the heck somebody's talking to you.

When I was pregnant with my oldest son, at my first appointment with the doctor, I didn't even realize it when the nurse called me back into the office. My first name had been bastardized to something along the line of "Lou-weeny" and the last name was even worse. My then-hubby nudged me and said, "I think they called your name."

The desk clerk repeated her mangled version and I figured the first letters of each name matched, so must be me. That's become my standard approach to life any more.

When I was in school, I remember the first day of school every year. I don't think there was a single teacher who didn't stumble over my name. My maiden surname, thank God, was pretty simple, though not especially common. That didn't prevent a massacre of "LeiLani" at every opportunity. Generally speaking, the first day of the new school year, I'd watch the teacher do the standard roll call and when a wholly perplexed expression drifted across her face - often accompanied by the soundless flexing of the mouth as she attempted to make some sense of the jumble of letters written on her book - I would just raise my hand and explain, "I'm LeiLani." It was one scenario where I never once was reprimanded for speaking out.

To their credit, most teachers eventually learned to pronounce my name, which is better than one of my aunts and uncles can do to this day. Ditto for one of my best real-life friends. Fortunately after nearly a half-century of hearing umpteen mispronunciations, I'm pretty forgiving. If you're in the ball park I give you an "A" for effort.

However, when I gave birth, I swore I would never saddle my kids with such a God-awful moniker, and I didn't. They have the same eleven-letter surname, so I hoped they'd eventually appreciate the fact that people didn't have to ask, "What the hell is THAT?" in reference to their names.

One of my boys is named Daniel. And he's never been Danny, despite his paternal grandmother's best attempts at forcing him into that diminutive. From the time he was three or four, if anyone called him Danny, he would correct them and let them know his name was Daniel, not Danny. Nowadays he goes by Dan. But still not "Danny."

I also stuck with the old standards in terms of spelling. No stylized "Leeza" for my kids. Just David, Lisa, Daniel and Laura.

I haven't heard the boys gripe about their names, but girls being girls, both of them have whined ceaselessly about their names. One of the girls is named after my sister, a fact that only cut me a little slack in her eyes. Both complain that everybody has their name and they just plain hate it.

Also thanks to the fact that the girls loath their respective names, my grandchildren were each given an uncommon name. At least, thank God, they're both relatively short names and while one is not commonly used as a name, it's a familiar word. The other's not anything remotely familiar, but the spelling is simple enough that the teachers won't do a double-take when seeing the name on the roll, and I doubt it'll take more than one try to figure out how to say it.

I'd have to agree with sociologists' assessment that your name has humongous impact on what you do with your life, though it isn't nearly as bad as it used to be. Now every kid on the planet has a name that's derived or modified from the ones in my classes in grade school. But if a boy's name is perceived as wimpy, the kid will be perceived the same way. I'm a little fuzzier on how girls' names work out - I think in our case perhaps a unique name is a double-edged sword. I didn't have to dredge up some weird air name when I went into radio. I was born with one. I have made peace with it over the years, but I still can't say I especially like it.

If my name had been Debbie or Mary, would my life have taken a different turn? Probably so.

Even more interesting, I see a lot of folks whose surnames end up tied to their occupations, whether or not there's an intentional tie. I had a shop teacher in junior high school - his name was Mr. Boardsen. My algebra teacher in 8th grade was Mrs. Behnke - pronounced "Bank-ey." My afternoon guy's surname is Watts. Which, considering he works in radio, figgers.

Of course for those of us who don't have a name that fits into any sort of niche, we spend our lives trying to figure out where the heck we fit. My name belongs to a porn star, for crying out loud. And I ain't a porn star nor even close. (My professional name is LeiLani Dawn, which is also my real first and middle names.) I guess that would fit for a meteorologist or maybe a forest ranger. Though if I were a forest ranger, I think my first name should be Bambi.

But that's another story.

Performing a quick 90-degree turn here... I just got off the phone with Lynn Frances Anderson, a singer recommended to me by iambucket. (Thanks mucho, Bucket!) Our station is all about promoting music and one of the things I love most about this job is introducing new musical talent. While Ms. Anderson is preparing to release her third of fourth album, she's still a relative unknown. I hope that changes soon - from what I've heard so far, she's extraordinary. And in talking to her, she impressed me as both being warm and intelligent. I expect to add her to the station playlist and hopefully to do an on-air interview with her in the relatively near future.

Most of the musical folks who contact us are marginal to atrocious. Some show promise - I need to get back to a friend who is part of a U.K. group known as Helen's Evil Twin. Not sure of whether it will work with our format or not, but I would like to hear one of their acoustic works without the digital "hiccups" and evaluate it.

My boss has asked me to start integrating some appropriate contemporary tunes into our rotation, though we'll still be looking at a combination of singles and album cuts, with plans to keep it fairly sophisticated. Our listening audience skews older - but given that this is a community where the population skews older, that's a good thing. We also roughly double our population in summer when the folks head here from the Phoenix area to escape the heat. We have had people who literally told us they moved here because of our radio station, so I'm trying to really be careful when making any significant changes to the music. I don't want to muck up the format.

EDIT: Since I've thrown out there the fuss about my name and someone asked me how to pronounce it, I'll take the lazy way out and put a sound file here. It's a very small file, only about 13K, so shouldn't lock things up for those on dial-up.

<BGSOUND src="">

Before - After

In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )