What's in a Name?
This has been on my mind lately, the name thing. My name, as many others, runs naturally to a diminutive and, again like many others, a childish one at that (put "ie" or "y" after a given name and you have a child's name, which I've come to find happens in Farsi, the language of Iranians, too, so my guess is that this is likely a cultural rule of thumb of some sort.) In the days when I was a young boy growing up James was invariably turned into Jimmy. I don't recall having a problem with that, and inasmuch as my father was "Jim" it didn't seem out of place to me. Eventually I, too, became Jim, and somehow James was relegated to signatures and roll calls, but otherwise never spoken as a personal identifier. That said, my mother still calls me "Jimmy", a luxury conferred only upon her at this point in my life.
Believe it or not it took my getting out of the Navy to change that. I don't recall when, it was a few years before I actually got out, but I started to see myself more as a James than a Jim. I
can't say what specifically drove me to that, though part of it was a correspondence with a wonderful friend in Saudi Arabia who flat out said, "I can't begin to think of calling you Jim; you're James to me." That declaration got me thinking. Somayya, my Saudi friend, never explained why this was so, i.e. why to her I was a James vice a Jim, but there was no mistaking the fact that the more I thought about it the more I realized that I preferred James over Jim.
So James I became.
Transitioning out of the Navy made this a bit easier as it made for a huge change in many aspects of my life. People I was involved with professionally, who heretofore knew me as Jim, I no longer saw every day and with my traveling and their eventual transfer to other commands
(we military people are a decidedly nomadic lot) I found that I was interacting with fewer and fewer people who knew me as Jim, and new people were introduced to me as James. There are many in my past who know me as Jim and that's how they'll always know me, though my wife and our friends here all know me as James. It sort of creates a split social existence, but that's ok especially since I find that many friends and relatives who once called me Jim (I do not force the Jim to James thing with them, with my seeing it as not their problem given that this is how they knew me for many, many years) begin to call me James when they see that this is what my wife calls me.
You don't run into many James', though today it's more common than 20 or 30 years ago. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's too much a name of King's - the King James Bible. Or too otherwise pretentious in some odd British way; saying you were Sir Jim somehow doesn't have the same verve as Sir James. Whatever the reason it's not common to hear "James" and then from there not take it to Jim; my life is now studded with, "I'm sorry, but I go by James, not Jim." Jim, or better yet Jimmy, is perceived to be more common, more a "people's" name. It's not that I don't see myself as common, or a people, but rather that I more prefer James to Jim and according to my birth certificate I'm entitled to be called what I prefer.
What I find interesting are the number of people who automatically call you Jim. If you write to them and sign off your email/letter as James, they'll respond to you with "Dear Jim". You'll be introduced to someone as James, and immediately they'll respond to you with, "It's nice to meet you Jim." Now the latter I can more easily understand, people do what they naturally do and most take James and turn it into Jim. But when someone signs off their name as James you'd think that the person who's responding would take the hint, take notice of how someone identifies themselves in their sign off --- frequently no, they don't.
I suppose in one respect it's odd for me to decide that I wish to be called something other than what I've normally been called most of my life, especially when given the choice the average person will take James and turn it into Jim - so what if James is your name, the "rules" say we can call you something else. Well, yes, I suppose it's odd, but then it's sort of nice, it's not often you get to re-discover your name, and then find that you prefer it to the one you've been living by for the past 45 some years, and moreover make it the name you go by. I suppose it's never too late to find some part of yourself.