What's in a name, besides trouble?
March 4, 2004
Have you ever typed your own name into Google just to see what comes up on the Internet?
I did this and discovered that not only am I a newspaper columnist, I’m also a medical doctor, a Junior Olympics winner and a rather competitive Decathlon winner who seduces people onto a Web site by saying, “I’m not nice or innocent, even though I pretend to be. So ... don’t feel bad about losing to me, you should be used to it by now...”
I am not that Helena Rodriguez.
It’s kind of strange, though. There are other people going through life with the same name as me. Hope our identities never get mixed up.
But what’s in a name anyway? We’re given a name at birth and have no say in the matter, and yet we have to carry it with us to our graves.
No offense Mom, but I’ve always hated my name.
It started when I was little. My family called me “Nena,” which is short for the Spanish pronunciation of my name. I didn’t seem to mind my name for the first few years of my life. After all, it helped me get what I wanted.
“Are you hungry, Nena?”
“Do you want an ice cream, Nena?”
“What’s the matter, Nena?”
I really started to mind my name, though, when my cousin Mark started calling me, “Nena, banana!” Next thing I know, Mark and Ricky, the kid down the block, are calling me Nena Banana. I cried. I was emotionally traumatized. Really.
I never really know how to say my name either. If I pronounce it in Spanish, some people cannot say it correctly and it sounds awful. It’s suppose to be pronounced Eh-leh-nah. And I hate it when people call me things like Heleeenna or Helene. If I just say Helen then I feel like I’m selling myself short and get accused of being ashamed of my Hispanic roots.
To make matters worse, I have a hard time pronouncing my own last name correctly. With the “d” and the “r” so close to each other, it’s a trick for my tongue to roll these two syllables together.
I’m not ashamed of my name, I’m just not comfortable with it, so I think I will just change it when I publish a novel someday.
There are actually several good stories behind my name to make me proud of it. Mom says I was named after her two bosses that she worked for at a beauty shop. They were named Helen and Anna. On the other hand, Mom and Dad have also told me I was named after my great grandmother, Elena.
Personally, I like to think I was really named after the town Helena. Not Helena, Mont. I’m talking about the old Wild West town of Helena in South Texas near my dad’s birthplace of Karnes City near San Antonio. This infamous place, which is now a ghost town, was nicknamed “Hell-ena, the toughest town on earth.” In fact, Helena was so tough it was said to have killed itself off from one too many gun fights.
Is it any wonder Helena was also located near Kenedy, Texas, a place known as “Six-Shooter Junction!”
Yeah, I think that’s where my name came from. I can be a rebel at times. One of my former editors, Scot Stinnett, called me Hell-ena, with emphasis on the first letters.
Even my nieces have had trouble saying my name. Anisha and Stephanie both called me Haleigh when they were babies and my family calls me that now. My youngest niece, Marissa, plain refuses to even attempt my name. She says “TV,” “phone,” “SpongeBob”and “Chips” but can’t say “Helen.”
I’d like to change my name to something like Monica Zapata. Monica is a word easy for me to say with Spanish pride and I like Zapata. Not only is it also easy to say with Spanish pride, but Dad says we’re related to the famous Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata.
I’m not sure if I’d ever really change my name, but I like to talk about it and see people go into shock. Don’t be surprised, though, if you call me one day and I say, “Helena who? There’s no one here by that name!”
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: