January 30, 2012

The summer before third grade, Grandpa Roll fell off a ladder and shattered his hip. He didn’t just break the sucker–it literally blew up in a cloud of dust. The doctors were stunned. “His bones disintegrated like powder,” they told Daddy.

And thus began years of hospital stays, physical therapy appointments and doctor visits for Grandpa Roll.

Okay, just so you know, it’s not Grandpa Roll (as in dinner roll) it’s Roll (rawl). Just had to clarify that, although either variation is, admittedly, pretty weird.

Grandpa’s full name was Rolla (rawl-ah). I never could really wrap my head around that. Who the Hell names their kid something as jacked up as Rolla?

I thought my name, Dana, was bad enough.  Boys could be named Dana, which I found hugely shameful. When I was in kindergarten, there was a boy in my class named Dana, and he was a glue-eater. It was traumatic.

I never knew if Grandpa Roll minded his name or not. It’s possible he just never remembered it, because Grandpa Roll was horrible with names. He messed them up with stunning regularity.

Sometimes he’d call me Dana, but just as often he’d call me my sister C.’s name or Rita, my aunt’s name or my mother’s name, Mary. I just got used to answering to whatever name he threw out.

Grandpa Roll’s doctor, who we took him to at least twice a month, was a little Italian man with the last name Cerrone.  Grandpa Roll never learned to say it right in six whole years.

I irked the doctor a little, I think, because soon he was deliberately mispronouncing grandpa’s name, smirking as he did so.

We’d walk in for our appointment and Grandpa Roll would say, “Hello, there, doctor Cir-coney.”

And Dr. Cerrone would slap him lightly on the shoulder and boom, “Well, I’m just fine, Roller. How are you?”

I’d always have to chew my gum extra hard to stop myself from laughing.

Roller. Roller Coaster. Steam Roller. My sister and I thought that was a screech.

Once, in a moment of particular malice, my sister and I even made up a song:

~sung to the theme of “Rawhide”Roller, Roller, Roller/Here comes slow-ass Roller/ Rawhide!

I am not proud of this, because grandpa used a walker and was, indeed, slow-ass, but my sister and I thought our little ditty was genius.

Eventually, I couldn’t help asking Mama about grandpa’s strange name. “It’s so gross,” I said. “Who names their kid Rolla? Is that even a real name?”

Mama laughed a little, sitting at her sewing machine. “I think it’s a real name, but who knows? Actually, believe it or not, your Grandpa Roll got off easy. You should hear the names of his brothers and sisters–now that’s some serious weird.”

“Weirder than Rolla? You have to tell me.”

“You know, why don’t you let your father answer that one,” Mama said, returning to her sewing project. “They’re his family, after all.”

Mama probably thought I’d forget all about it by dinnertime, but I didn’t.  I pushed my green beans around my plate and said, “Hey Daddy. Mama says you have weirder names in your family than Grandpa Roller.”

He shot my mother a wry look, thought a minute, and leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, I guess that’s true.”  He ticked the names off on his fingers. “Let’s see…there’s Rolla, Mata (pronounced “mate”), Myrtle, Oleva, Aleen, Leta, Martha and Richard.”

“What’s with ‘Martha’ and ‘Richard’?” my sister said. “They totally got off easy.”

Daddy laughed. “No idea. Maybe my grandmother just wore out by the time the last two came along.”

“Unfair, man,” my sister said.

“Don’t forget your cousins’ names, Dear,” Mama said, smirking across the table at him.

Daddy rolled his eyes. “Jesus Mary. You just had to go there, didn’t you?”

“Come on, Dad.”

“All right. My aunt Aleen named her boy Loyal and her daughter Lorelle, and aunt Leta’s boys were Linford and Arlo.”

My sister and I howled, shaking the table with mirth. ” Whaaa? Linford? Loyal? Loyal is what you name a Labrador Retriever!”

My sister gestured with a fork. “The worst is Mata. ‘Mate?’ Gross. Who wants to be named after a word for reproduction?”

Daddy grinned and pointed at my sister. “You can laugh all you want, Missy, but you dodged a bullet, yourself. Mary was obsessed with The Sound of Music when she was pregnant with you. She was all set to name you Leisl.”

“Leisl? Agggggg!” My sister recoiled. “I totally would have changed my name.”

“Leisl was a perfectly fine name,” Mama said, feigning affront. “At least it was unique. My mother named us John, Mary and Patricia.” She harrumphed. “Talk about lack of imagination.”

“I’d take Mary over Oleva any day,” my sister said.

“Olivia isn’t a bad name,” I said. “Why turn it into Oleva?”

Mama lit a cigarette, blowing smoke. “I don’t know. Maybe they thought those names were fancy.”

She considered for a moment. “You know, grandpa Roll grew up on a farm and they didn’t have two cents to rub together.”

She looked at Daddy. “Remember how he had to quit school because the horse died? They didn’t have money to replace it, so he had to leave school in sixth grade and work the farm. Without a horse to pull the plow, it took three times as long to harvest anything, so they couldn’t spare him.”

“Well thanks. That’s depressing dinner conversation,” my sister said.

“Maybe fancy– ‘weird’–names were their way of trying to make the kids feel special, because they had a really hard life,” Mama said, rising to empty the ashtray.

“But you know what’s worse?” Mama replaced the ashtray, sat down and looked at Daddy. “What your mother’s parents did to those girls.”

Now this was interesting.

“There’s something worse than being named Mata?” my sister said.

Daddy shook his head, closing his eyes briefly. “Ugh.You’re right. That was bad.”

“My mother came from a big farming family, too. Seven kids in all. My grandfather desperately wanted boys, because boys could help with the farming and the heavy labor. But the first six children were girls. Each time, he’d get all excited, and Bam! out popped another girl.  He was so disappointed; angry even. He refused to call the girls their given names–he made up nicknames for them.”

We waited.

“Let’s do this in order,” he said slowly. “First was Grace, who he called Bob. Then Alice; she was Jim. Then Inez; she was Jake. Frances–poor old Frances–she got called Shorty. My mother, Helen, was Bill. Bernice was Bernie…and Seeny, too for some reason.”

“They called them boy names?” I said.  Heck, ‘Dana’ was getting better by the minute.

“Well, at least they gave the one boy, George, a nickname too,” Mama said, and Daddy laughed.

“They called him Rastus.”

“Rastus? Oh my God. Maybe the girls didn’t have it so bad,” my sister said.

“Count your blessings, girls,” Daddy said, eyes twinkling across the table. “Believe me, it could have been worse.”

*Hi Gorgeous Readers! I’m still frying fish, but not so many as last week, so hopefully things will pick up around here soon. If you have any weird family names (or if you were almost named something horrid), I’d be so excited to hear about it, so do tell. Love to you all.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey January 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

I almost had a fabulous name: Dana. Love that name. xozo


TKW January 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Ack! Another Dana! I’m glad you liked the name though, and the androgyny…but then again, the best thing to happen to Fleetwood Mac was Lindsey Buckingham, so I guess we both came out winners. xo


Paula (Salad in a Jar) January 30, 2012 at 10:59 am

Love this one. My mother-in-law’s maiden name was Jowena O’Rear. She married young and went by “Jo”. Can’t blame her. The only saving grace? She was beautiful and did not have a big rear, but it didn’t stop all the teasing.


TKW January 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm


How about my second cousin? Her name was: Fannie Tapper. No lie.


Samantha Angela January 30, 2012 at 11:30 am

I’ve heard of a friend of a friend with the last name Wall. First name Brick.

… but, it could be an urban legend.


TKW January 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm


At least the last name wasn’t “House.” :)


Erica@PLRH January 30, 2012 at 11:47 am

Yep, everyone in my family got off easy. Whew! I’m also thrilled to have married a last name that’s easy to pronounce, easy to spell, and a conversation starter. Who doesn’t love Bacon???


Jenna January 30, 2012 at 11:49 am

Wow–those are some crazy names. I don’t think we have any weird names in our family–except calling our grandparents “Big Jake” (Jacob) and “Mama Kitty” (Katherine) which is more endearing than out-and-out weird.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon January 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

Oh dear, and to think I used to get all bent out of shape about never being able to find personalized crap because my parents decided to spell my name Wendi. Seems like I got off easy, all things considered.


Jennifer January 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I don’t know of any off the wall names in our family, but that does not mean that they do not exist. My mother almost named me Natalie, but she chose Jennifer because she thought it was “original.” Yeah.


Dana January 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Dana, I feel your pain. Out of a teeny tiny country school, there were 4 Danas. I was the only girl Dana, so that was years and years and years of “How come you have a boy’s name?”

I mostly like my name now. My Baba, who had too many granddaughters before me, can never remember my name, so she calls me “Precious.” That name, I could live without.


Kristen @ Motherese January 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm

For years when I was little, I wanted to change my name to Leisl. I loved that movie, loved that character. I think Mama and I would get along just fine. xo


BigLittleWolf January 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Dana, Dana, Dana. You can spin a story like no other… I’m in awe.

My mother had a weird name. Every. Single. Part. (And I’ll leave it at that.)

I always liked my name! Not to mention the occasional (Wolf) whistle to go with it… oh, for those days to not be entirely over!



TKW'S DAD January 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm

TKW did a real good job on remembering a lot of this one. However, Lorelle was Loyal’s brother, not his sister. My Mother sent a congratulatory card to my Aunt Alleen, and she straightened the situation out pronto. Anyway, when I was in high school one of my classmates was named Harry Organ. You can imagine the nickname we gave him!


TKW January 31, 2012 at 8:08 am


Lorelle was a DUDE? Ack, that makes it even worse.

And poor old Harry Organ doesn’t even necessitate a nickname. Eek!


SuziCate January 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Geesh, my name isn’t so bad after all!
My father’s side has all those weird nicknames, too! And both my parent’s families have some strange names, but I think your dad’s family names have them beat!


Patty January 30, 2012 at 7:48 pm

OK, we all got standard Irish Catholic type names – saints all. But the neighbors across the street brimmed with excitement: Kimberly Blanche, Camden Daisy, Chesley Claire (boy), Shane Adam, and Heidi Helen. Camden and I were born with in two weeks of each other and used to wave to each other from our respective play pens in the front yards. I could never pronounce it correctly, so poor girl went through life as “Candy”.


Patty January 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Oh, I almost forgot. My aunt Gladys went by the nick name “Happy Bottom”. I didn’t get it until I was much older (… glad ass = happy bottom)! No wonder she drank so much!


TKW January 31, 2012 at 8:09 am


Cracking up at Happy Bottom!


Melissa Gay January 30, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Oh I could probably write a post similar with all the crazy names in my maternal grandmothers family. Her name was Verla O’Neal. Verla… I guess when you have 18 kids you run out of names. She had a brother that every one called Uncle Judy. (the story was that when he was born their mother said he was born in a ju-ju patch. Whatever the hell that is?!).
My ex husband had grandmothers by the name of Zula, Zora, and Bama (bama named herself when she was 6-7 bc she didn’t have a name!!!)

Of course. I am not much better. I named my kid Beck. After my aunt Becky. And his last name is Gay. And his initials are BIG. He’s a school yard target if ever there was one. Ha!


TKW January 31, 2012 at 8:10 am


Bama didn’t have a name until she was 6? What did they call her, “Hey you?” Too funny.


Heather January 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm

My mother was almost named after both of my great grandmothers – one on my granny’s side and one on my papa’s side. She would have been called Pearl Harbour… No joke!
I work with children every day and have for more years than I can count. I shake my head and cry for some of the names these children have. Satan, Shithead, Tanquary, Female, Miracle, Special, Nimrod… just to name a few. I wish I was joking, honest I do…


TKW January 31, 2012 at 8:11 am


Shithead? That is terrible. Now Tanquuary, I can get behind. ;)


Papa Guy January 30, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Now that was a wonderful story. it had me sittin’ across the table from my 2 older brothers and mom and dad in Odessa in 1957. I love your stories, fry those fish and come back soon. I missed ya last week.


Privilege of Parenting January 30, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I pretty much hated my name growing up. It was the punch-line to some gay joke that never actually knew because it was before my time, and before I knew what gay even was, and long before I’d have openly gay friends (and lose a few to AIDS along the way) and become prone to take angry offense at homophobia.

By the time Springsteen came along I was thrilled to have someone who could finally represent, as I too had been born to run—or so it seemed.

Now Leisl… I’m with Kristen on that one. Sure I’d have gotten my ass kicked, but to be a boy named Leisl… you’d be like practically an honorary member of the Sex Pistols, virtually singing with Sid (a very cool name for boys and girls), or perhaps Mr. Vicious to me, and Johnny Rotten. Certainly Leisl is no Nancy boy.

You keep them stories Rawlin KW.


TKW January 31, 2012 at 8:12 am


The boss changed lives for Bruces everywhere, I imagine. :)


Katybeth January 31, 2012 at 12:02 am

Well lets see….I was named Carole Elizabeth but always called Katybeth…so eventually we made it legal. My mother was named Marsha but when she moved to New York she changed her name to Marcie. My mother’s sister hated my name and refused to call me anything other than Katie and my so my mother got even by misspelling her oldest son’s name. Coles name was changed 4 times before we got it right on the birth certificate. My mother’s side of the family is very small but we have have 5 Mike’s. My mom’s brother Mike, a cousin married and divorced a Mike and then remarried another Mike, two other cousins named their children Mike. Talk about lack of imagination. Oh and I have an uncle who called Uncle Dickie Bird from birth who grew up married his high school sweat heart had three children grown children, 4 grandchildren… hit 60, got hooked on cocaine and ran off with a stripper nicknamed…Mikie. Shall I go on…? When you said your grandpa’s name all I could think of was that chocolate candy. Your mama did a good job picking out her daughters names–strong and pretty.


idiosyncratic eye January 31, 2012 at 5:32 am

Names are great fun, especially when you’re not on the receiving end! I was going to be a plain Edward because my mother knew I was going to be a boy and my brother definitely a girl called Rebecca. My grandfather on the other hand wanted to call my mother after some battleship or other, I think it may have been a Corbetta. And of course in the Italian and Irish sides of the family, there’s plenty of repeat names too. There is a town called Rolla which is derived from Raleigh, is that a connection? :)


TKW January 31, 2012 at 8:14 am


Interesting about the Rolla thing. I have no idea. He was born in rural Illinois…

And Corbetta is BAD!


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes January 31, 2012 at 5:42 am

Sam Wich. I kid you not!
And I also know a guy who is called Peer. Which is a nice Norwegian name, but only in dutch peer = pear in English. He lives in Boom, boom = tree. Not funny in English but hi-la-ri-ous in Dutch.


TKW January 31, 2012 at 8:15 am


Ah, those rascally Dutch. I love it.


Jane January 31, 2012 at 6:19 am

Bo Jo. My dad wanted to name me Robert John if I was a boy so he could nickname me Bo Jo. Thank you God, I was a girl.


Maggie S. January 31, 2012 at 9:06 am

Aunt JoBeth is Shorty. Uncle James Dean is Butch. Cousin, Duncan…you guessed it: “Podunk” by Terry, whom he called, “Po-Ter.” My cousin, Cindy, was known by all as Lester. Here sister, Debbie, “Skullivan Grundy”. These two called me,”Maggot.”


TKW February 1, 2012 at 8:51 am


Not sure which is worse, Po-Ter or Maggot. Skullivan Grundy sounds like a villian in a cartoon, don’t you think?


Tiffany January 31, 2012 at 10:52 am

I’ll say it again…you have the best stories. Those names are awful. Are you ready for what my Dad wanted to name me? Wait for it, it’s bad…Roberta Good. So he could call me Bobbie Good. Thank GOD my mom fought for Tiffany. Dodged a bullet there.


elizabeth January 31, 2012 at 1:50 pm

My crazy PA-Dutch side boasts some crazy names (but then again, if you saw what some of the towns in PA Dutch Country are called, it kind of makes sense). Like my dad had an aunt Olney. I don’t even know how to spell it so I’m just using the spelling you would for the neighborhood in Philly. And I think he might have had an Ooona too, but I’m not sure.


TKW February 1, 2012 at 8:52 am


Ooona? That sounds like something Tarzan says to Jane.


Kate January 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Archibald might be a ‘real’ name, but I find it cruel. (poor uncle of mine!)

But a friend beats that – her grandma was named after the man who raised her mama. Her legal name – Harry. Really.

And in college, there was a girl named Raisin Cain. (again, not kidding)

Of course, my husband has cousins named Kale and Park. So… Um… And his grandma really wanted us to name our daughter after her, but Gertrude is not happening. Sorry.


TKW February 1, 2012 at 8:53 am

Raisin Cain? Horrible.

Bad as Alison Wonderland, who went to my elementary school.


elizabeth February 1, 2012 at 8:41 am

The best ones in my family are Cornelius and Palagia (female). I liked to throw those out as options when I was pregnant, but my dear husband would just roll his eyes.


Lana February 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

Well, Dana is perfectly nice and respectable girl name in Serbian, with a nickname of Danica (pronounced Duh-ni-tsa), if that comforts you.
We don’t have any weird names in the family, but my husband has been extremely dangerous. His daughter from a previous marriage is Victoria Abra Dara, and he was adamant about naming our girls Xaviera (hello, Penthouse?) and Artemis (would-be Xaviera ended up as Natalia Zoe, but she calls herself Meesus – maybe I should have greenlighted the name?)


Mary Lee February 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm

My mother’s name was Gladys. I had a friend who would refer to her as “Glad-ass” which made me angry, so she switched to “Happy Bottom.”

Incidentally, when I took dance lessons as a child, one year there were only two girls in the class who WEREN’T named Mary. The instructor didn’t have any difficulty though–it was the South, after all, and we were all called by our first and middle names.


Arnebya February 2, 2012 at 8:29 am

OK the little ditty y’all made up about Grandpa Roll was evil! And hilarious.

I have two sisters. My father wanted each of us to be a boy. So he called us each Zeke for three years until the next one came along. My oldest sister, Ardis, was called Zeke until Arkieva came along. She was called Zeke until I came along. I used to hate my name. Now I kinda like not knowing another Arnebya (Ar-ne-bya, no bee-a, so 3 syllables, not 4). My mother’s name is Carlene (which has always sounded countryfied to me. Just like saying countryfied). My father’s name is Pernell. Which is funny to me b/c my oldest sister’s mother in law is named Pernell too.

Our family has a tendency to name siblings with the same initial letter (until it got to me; I ruined it for everyone!). There are Valorie, Vanessa, and Victor. Germaine, George, and Gia. Janae, Jamal, and Justus. Barry and Brandy. Jade, Jasmine, and Jordan. And then I go and throw out Chobe (Cho-bee). She’s named after a river in Africa. And then Zoe (Zo-ee). And then Zaid (Za-eed). What can I say? We’s fancy. Also, my nickname was Boogie.


NCMountainwoman February 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Our neighbor has a new grandson. Her daughter’s married name is Rocz (pronounced Rots). They named the baby Reece Jordan and will call him Reece. (My neighbor will call him “RJ” and hope it sticks.)


TKW February 4, 2012 at 11:10 am


“Rots?” Oh, I feel for that child.


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