What’s in a Name? 1 Abby Osborne What’s in a Name? Abbit The first nickname my dad ever gave me was simple. It wasn’t as cute as my sister’s, Peanut, but it was a nickname, handpicked by him; a signifier that I belonged to him enough that using my formal name seemed too rigid, almost inappropriate. It was a play on my name, obviously, but also a reference to the big buck teeth that my small mouth could barely accommodate. I don’t ever remember him calling me “Abbit”, but on the back of an old picture of the two of us he’s scribbled in his messy, partially-blocked handwriting: “Me and Abbit, 1994”. Only a few months before my brother came along and only two years Before The Divorce. Abbigail Rosetta I told people I was an “Abbigail” because every other Abby I knew, was. I added the “b” to the traditional spelling of “Abigail”, as a way to remember that this wasn’t really my name, just in case I might forget. My middle name wasn’t really Rosetta either; it was Rose. My very Catholic Grandmother’s name was Rosetta, though, and I loved the way it rolled off of her tongue. She used to sit me on down on her couch, or the davenport, as she called it, and read passages of the Bible to me. I would try to find her Menthol cigarettes, hidden between stacks of old newspapers and her patchwork while she stopped to emphasize the passages about purity and adultery. “Don’t be like your mother. You find one man, and you stay with him. That’s what the Good Lord intended, Abby.” What’s in a Name? 2 Abby Dabby Doo My TV obsessions maturely transitioned from Barney to Scooby Doo when my stepfather entered my life. He would sit down beside me as I watched the silly dog and his hippy friend solve crimes, all in the name of Scooby Snacks and being righteous. Chip did a mean Scooby Doo howl, even pronouncing it in the same tone as the famous dog himself: “Ruby, Ruby, Rueeee”. After one particularly boisterous show, he turned the TV off and clamored: “That’s enough for now, Abby Dabby Dooooo”. I was charmed by his newness and uncanny imitation abilities. My mom smiled from her spot on the couch, holding her full belly, pregnant with my twin half-brother and half-sister. A-hole “Jake can be J-Dawg and Jess can be J-Money,” my dad proclaimed one night, giving my brother and sister the nicknames they’d use for the rest of their athletic lives. I excitedly wondered aloud, “What’s mine, dad?” In the same fashion as the Sorting Hat, he talked through his thought process: “The problem with A is that it shows possession. You can’t be A-Money or A-Dawg because that doesn’t make sense. I’ve got it. A-hole.” He pointed a proud smile at me. I smiled back, my eight-year-old self excited about having a cuss word that my dad decided as my nickname. I used it loudly the moment I was situated in the backseat of my mom’s car. I knew I did something wrong, though, when she slammed her car door, marching back up my dad’s driveway to have a word with her “good for nothing asshole ex-husband”. What’s in a Name? 3 Ab In combination with his intense shyness, my brother Jake also suffered from a severe speech impediment. Whenever he wanted to say something to anyone besides our mother, he would pull on my sleeve, call me “Ab”, and whisper what I should say for him. He whispered to me one day, “Ab. Tell Dad that we want to move in with him because Chip is mean to us. Please, Ab?” Even though his speech impediment can only be found in the echoes of words like “dream” and “pillow”, he still insists on slicing my name in half. Abby Rose Strictly used by my Grandma Jan, usually following the words, “That’s my girl.” Every other holiday that we spent at my dad’s house she would clasp my hand with her arthritis-ridden fingers, clenching them as she whispered in my ear: “You look just like your mother. I still think she’s so beautiful, even After The Divorce.” Biskit My Grandma Rose always took an interest in my compulsive need for words. When she was called to babysit on sick days, she would bring an entire box of Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul books, far above my reading level. We would go through them as the day progressed, in between Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup and Sprite lunches, her characteristically harsh voice lulling me in and out of sleep. Eventually she learned that I was in a prestigious 5th grade advanced spelling group, naturally causing her to enter me in a Knight’s of Columbus Spelling Bee competition. What’s in a Name? 4 I blame my failure solely on the creators of Chicken in A Biskit, a tasty, salty treat defying the spelling rules which I had worked so hard to master. I spelled the word “biscuit”, “bi-s-k-i-t”, forcefully, confidently, with an exclamation point and a smile. The moderator turned to me, smiling at my chubby cheeks, before she shot me down with a brisk, unfeeling, “I’m sorry, but that’s incorrect.” My mom walked me out to the car, and I called my dad. His contagious laugh lifted me out of my funk. “You got out on Biskit, Ab? That’s it. You’re Biskit.” I smiled, told him I wished he could have been there, and that I loved him. Abby Derived from two Hebrew elements; the first, Ab or Abi, meaning “father”. Also the name of a famous star from the soap opera Knots Landing, Abby Cunningham. Mom was infatuated with her blonde, curly locks and charming good looks. “You have to choose your kid’s name based on the prettiest person you know. It’s good luck,” she explained. “And I don’t remember your dad being in the delivery room when you were born to stop me, or anything.” Derived from two Hebrew elements; the first, Ab or Abi, meaning “father”. Abby it was.