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What’s In a Name

February 18, 2022

Another Way for week of February 11, 2022

What’s In a Name?

Do you know why you were given the name you were given? If you still have the name your parents gave you, is it one you like, love, or just tolerate?

I’ve often been complimented on my name, which of course I had absolutely no part in choosing. But I do feel it was a special name and now that I know more about how my mother landed on my name as Melodie Ann Miller (spelled like that), I’m feeling very happy. It’s kind of a long story, one I only recently got more background on.

Christmas Carol Kauffman

My name can be credited as coming from a well-known Mennonite writer at the time with a much more unusual name than mine, Christmas Carol Kauffman. Her name was so unusual in fact that as a young girl, she pitched a small fit to her mother before she started school, wondering why they had to name her “Christmas” for crying out loud. (“And wasn’t it bad enough that I didn’t have a special day for my birthday?” she complained.) She was worried she would be made fun of at school when she told the teacher her name. She was born on Christmas in 1901, a few weeks early, and that’s why her parents went for what to them was an obvious winner-of-a-name. It became her signature name on all her books—nine novels altogether— although she went by her middle name, Carol.

What delighted me most in reading the book her youngest daughter, Marcia Kauffman Clark, ended up writing about her mother’s life, The Carol of Christmas: Life Story of Christmas Carol Kauffman. Carol got her start in being published in a way similar to mine. While attending small Hesston College (Kansas), a professor sent one of her fiction stories to a Mennonite publication at the time, Youth’s Christian Companion. The editor and readers loved it and over the years she wrote more than 100 short stories published in that small magazine (which teens sometimes read sneakily in church, ahem!). She also wrote longer fiction that was published in serial form in that magazine.

The biography Marcia Clark wrote about her mother.

I got my start being published when a junior high teacher of mine sent an essay I wrote to the local newspaper—where it was published. The encouragement of teachers is often such a pivotal, important factor.

I love this history. My mother had always told me she got the slightly unusual spelling for my name (Melodie instead of the more common Melody) in the book, Unspoken Love where there was a very sweet girl/woman character named Melodie Ann. What I didn’t know was that this book was not published in hardback form until after Christmas Carol’s death at the age of 67. I had not realized, either, that Carol was close in age to my own grandmother Ruth Stauffer, who was born in 1896, just six years after Carol. (Ruth lived to be 95 and died in 1991.) So as I was reading the biography by Marcia, and it stated that Unspoken Love was not published until 1971, I thought hum, that doesn’t add up. I was born twenty years earlier in 1951. So my mother, who is also now deceased, had read the story in its serial form published in Youth’s Christian Companion.

This probably doesn’t matter to anyone else but me but I was fascinated by the history. It also makes me wonder if somehow hearing about this writer might have influenced me to try my hand at writing. Carol Kauffman, I am finding out, was an excellent fiction writer. I on the other hand have yet to seriously try writing fiction.

What I hope this inspires this Valentine’s Day week is encouragement to find out where your name came from—and how it influenced you, if at all. If you were named after a grandmother, father, or other kin, is the connection for you good and positive and life-forming?

Next week I’ll write more about the story found in Ms. Kauffman’s Unspoken Love, and the character that Mom loved and named me after.

***

Do you know why you were named the way you were?

Did your children receive special names? Were there names you wanted to use, but didn’t or couldn’t for whatever reason?

***

Also, please let me know if you have read any of Christmas Carol Kauffman’s books or stories!

Send comments or the story of your name to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

6 Comments
  1. Your name has a lyrical sound: Melodie. Who wouldn’t want a name that sounds musical. I, on the other hand, have never liked my name. Mother said she was trying to decide between Barbara and Marian, but the latter won out because a sweet-faced woman in our church had that name. The name Marian is unique and usually associated with older women and with the phrase “Marian the Librarian,” which certainly fits an English teacher but to me suggests spinsterhood and prissiness. On on plus side, my name, derived from the Hebrew means “precious one.” Also, Robin Hood’s legendary sidekick is named Marian, and I do admire the famous contralto, Marian Anderson. Both Marians appears in my memoir, a fact I haven’t realized until now that I’m tapping out these words.

    As for our children, Crista’s name means “fair Christian,” fair in complexion and born at Christmas time. Joel’s name means “prophet of God,” so both of our children have known from an early age their heritage and our desire for them to walk in the ways of the LORD.

    I can tell you enjoyed researching the history for this post and have inspired your readers to pause and ponder our own. Thanks! 😀

    • A followup: My name is frequently misspelled–or garbled. You can pick one or the other if you recall a blog post I wrote highlighting the problem: https://marianbeaman.com/2015/04/18/whats-in-a-name-2/

    • You named your children well!
      As for my name, I forgot to mention here how often people try to make a song out of it. Which is ok. My dad would often sing “In my heart there rings a melody” if you remember that little chorus. It would sometimes make me mad, especially when I was an adolescent, but I did get over that “oh dad!” teasing. After he found out if made me mad, he loved to tease me with it!
      Thanks for your reflections on great Marians–spelled your way!

  2. Oh yes I remember Christmas Carol Kauffman’s writing. She was famous. As was Edna Eby Glass, another Mennonite woman author my mother admired. My mother had a few articles of her own published in The Gospel Herald and Christian Living magazines, and she gave talks all over Lancaster County and beyond. These forerunners inspired me to think I could be a writer and speaker too, but first I wanted to be a teacher.

    My name Shirley was very popular in the 1950s. In my memoir BLUSH I write about the origin of the name as I understand it (my mother now insists that she did not name me after Shirley Temple, but she also agrees that not getting a Shirley Temple doll when she was a child had something to do with the name).

    The name Melodie fits you, and I enjoyed reading about the history of it.

  3. Thanks for mentioning Edna Eby Glass, I remember her writing as well. But I did not know that your mother was a writer too, and inspired you.
    I do remember the description in BLUSH of Shirley Temple NOT being your namesake. Interesting story about your mother, for sure.
    I enjoy Carol Kauffman’s writing, and it takes me back to another time in terms of theology and understandings of Christian faith. I know my parents were proud of the mission work of the Kauffman’s in Hannibal, Missouri, for they made a point of our family visiting that “mission outpost” when we traveled one time, and Dad impressed upon us how much he respected the VSers working there and how he hoped fervently that “at least one of my children would go into VS.” (If you know my history you know I tried to answer that call with a year in VS in Kentucky. 🙂 )

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