Yes, all four syllables, please

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What’s in a name?

On one hand it’s something you have your entire life, so that counts for something, right? On the other, you don’t actually get a say in what you’re named, so that kind of blows. Some names have beautiful meanings — like the name Claire that means ‘light’. Others have more of a biblical history — the name Elizabeth is derived from the Hebrew name Elisheva (אֱלִישֶׁבַע), meaning "My God is an oath" or "My God is abundance.”

According to Dale Carnegie, the author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. There’s probably a small grain of truth to this considering we as humans are all a bit narcissistic, even if we don’t like to admit it.

If you ask my mother, she’ll tell you I was named Elizabeth after one of my great great grandmothers, and she liked it because it was a longer name. My father claims that he was the one who picked the name Elizabeth, because he loves the name Beth. Which makes my next statement a little hard to admit — I hate the name Beth. Loathe it. Just to be clear, I don’t hate people named Beth, and I don’t think it’s a bad name… for someone else. I, however, am not a Beth.

For the first 20-something years of my life everybody knew me as Beth. My full name, Elizabeth, was reserved for times when I pissed off my mother. Even when I was younger I knew Beth didn’t feel like the right name for me, but I was too young and timid to voice this opinion, so I went on being called ‘Beth’ and secretly despising it. It wasn’t until I was 23 and being interviewed on the spot for a job that the boss asked me my name and I replied, “It’s Beth, but honestly I’ve never really like that name.” I’m not sure what it was about this exact moment, one where I would normally be guarded and on my best ‘please like me and hire me’ behavior, but for some reason I felt comfortable in airing this long harbored secret. Maybe it was just that I had finally reached my breaking point and needed to tell someone that I hated my name. He said to me, “You know, you don’t have to tell people your name is Beth. Why don’t you just tell people your full name?” A light turned on; one of those ah-ha moments when you want to slap yourself on the forehead and say, “why the hell didn’t I think of that before?”

So from that point on I only introduced myself as Elizabeth. It helped that the interview took place a few days after moving to a new city, where the only person I knew was my sister. Suddenly it felt like I had an entirely new identity.

Now, of course, even if you introduce yourself by the name you want to be called, this doesn’t guarantee people will actually acknowledge you by it. I get it, Elizabeth is a long name. A whopping four syllables, and ain’t nobody got time for that (apparently). Why is it that people feel the need to shorten your name, even when they don’t know you? For instance, I went back to school a year after I started using my full name and some of my new school friends started calling me ‘Liz’. “Well at least it’s not Beth,” I thought to myself. And besides, it was only a two year program so who cares what anyone here calls me.

After graduation I moved to NYC, where again I found myself surrounded by strangers who only knew me as Elizabeth. It get’s tricky though, changing your name later in life, after you have an entire group of friends established who have only ever known you as ‘Beth’. When those ‘old’ friends come to visit you in NYC and meet all of your ‘new’ friends and then your ‘new’ friends are like, “Why are they calling you Beth?” And then you have to be like, “NOOOOOOOOOO! Don’t even think of calling me Beth. I’ve worked long and hard to get away from that name and I’m not going back!” And then all of your ‘new’ friends think you’re kind of crazy since you have such an adverse reaction to being called Beth. And all of your ‘old’ friends think you’re crazy and you’re going through some kind of identity crisis. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but you have to decide what is worth fighting for in life.

It’s been a decade now since I’ve been going by my full name, and it hasn’t exactly been life changing. But I will say that it just feels nice to be called Elizabeth. Almost like it’s the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Now if I could just get people to add ‘Queen’ to the beginning, I’d be all set.

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All images of Queen Elizabeth II by Getty Images, published by Haper’s Bazaar