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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where Did You Get That Name?

It's kind of odd, really. My siblings, who were all born in Hungary, were given very Hungarian names. Of course, when we came to the USA, their names were Americanized to a degree. My oldest sister is named Margit, and naturally the nuns at the Catholic school we attended in Chicago insisted on calling her Margaret. She put up with it until her adulthood and then switched back to her name as it really is. My brother still goes by John, which is not terribly far from the Hungarian Janos. My sister Liz, due to a spelling error, uses Erzebeth, although the proper spelling is Erzsebet. It is really funny to go shopping with her and watch the clerks tell her that her name is spelled wrong on her card, or ID, or whatever. If it were me, I would probably say something like, "Hey, do I question the spelling of your name, Dawnniece?"

For years, when I have told people my first name, Katrina, they have said things like, "Oh, are you Dutch?" or "That's Russian, isn't it?" When I tell them that I am a Hungarian-American, they look baffled. Well, think about it. Margit, Janos, Erzsebet...how did I end up with such a non-Hungarian name? Is it because I was the only child born in the US? Did my parents have a dear friend or relative with that name? I'm afraid it is nothing quite that glamorous. My mother named me after herself, but a more American-sounding version. Her name was Terez Caterina, so she named me Theresa Catherine. Yes, I know, that still doesn't explain why I am a Katrina now. Bear with me a bit longer, my dears.

After we lost our parents and Liz and I spent some time in an orphanage in Chicago, some relatives in Colorado found out about us. My mother's third or fourth or whatever cousin and his wife heard that there were two girls in an orphanage that were related to them. So W. and A. sent for us to come live with them. And we flew out to the Denver area to begin a new life. As we rode from the airport to their home in the suburbs, A. told me that I could no longer go by the name of Theresa. "I have a daughter named Theresa, so you will have to go by your middle name. Your middle name is Katrina, so from now on you will be called Katrina." But, still, you say, where did she get Katrina from?

Katrina was a very cranky member of A.'s brother's household. An overweight, shorthaired, black-and-tan colored dachsund. Yes, like Indiana Jones, I am named after the dog. The cranky dog. The short, stout, cranky dog. Perhaps it is only fitting since my birthday, July 13th, is the same as Harrison Ford's, and he played the intrepid archaeologist and explorer that I just mentioned. So, does it make you think maybe A. really wasn't too thrilled to have me? Oh, well, water under the bridge, as they say. It is a unique name. And all things considered, I could have ended up with far worse. I could have been a Shep or a Spot, or a Lassie! I wear my name with pride, and had my name changed legally when I reached adulthood. Nowadays, though, instead of people asking me if my name is Dutch or Russian, they simply say, "Oh, you poor thing, just like the hurricane." Pssh. Whatever. I had the name before she did. And besides, I was not named after a storm. I was named after the dog!