what’s in a name

giles doesn't know his name

Why would Giles think his name is Archie? I have been a fan of Archie Comics since I was seven-years-old and happen to have an Archie bobblehead doll that Giles loves to play with. He runs around the house carrying it, shouting, “Ah-chee, Ah-chee!”

One of my nicknames for Giles is “chonchy.” This is something our mom called my sister and I, one of her little pet names for us. I probably call Giles “chonchy” more often than I call him “Giles.” It’s possible that “Ah-chee” is his attempt at “chonchy.”

I wonder what his friends will call him. What all the nicknames of his life will be.


My full name is Anna Gene Moriarty Lev. Anna comes from my dad’s aunt, lovely and gracious, who died young. Gene comes from my mom’s uncle, who also died young and had her sticking-out ears and big smile. Moriarty is my mom’s last name– one she chose for herself in her early twenties, at a time when she needed to make her own name. She chose it from her favorite literary character, Dean Moriarty, of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. My sister and I are the only living people who carry it now. Lev is my dad’s last name, brought over from Russia, meaning “heart” in Hebrew. There are only four of us left using that name: My dad, one of his sisters, my sister, and me.

When Greg and I got married, most people who know me well already knew I wasn’t changing my name. I am publicly proud of this name, and would never change it. There are some people who assume I added Howard onto the end, or who call me Mrs. Howard. I try to correct them politely. Now that we are having a baby, they’ve started asking what the baby’s last name will be.

“Moriarty-Lev-Howard,” I say, “or Howard-Moriarty-Lev.”

“I can’t believe you’d do that to your child,” most people respond, shaking their heads.

Yes, it’s a long last name. It’s three words. It has two hyphens. But so what?

I get really bothered when people judge this choice. It’s like they’re asking the question with the expectation of a certain answer (that we’re only giving the baby one last name, most likely Greg’s), and they aren’t ready to support another answer. It makes me angry.

My name is special. It is a huge part of my identity, and I want to pass that onto my children. I want to tell them about their Meme who they will never meet in person, Viola Rose Moriarty, who’s chosen name they carry in that unwieldy double hyphenate. And about the Levs who escaped Europe with that name meaning heart. And Greg can tell them about the Howards, and all the history that comes with his name.