Elocution: The Naming of People

The Naming of People

I was always Amber K.—the hard-hitting full stop of the ‘K’ sound on my teacher’s tongue. The harshness of it, the period following the ‘K’ seemed to be lodged between the fat veiny part under the tongue of Mrs. Lassion, Mrs. Hickman, Mrs. Stomps—[K.] was inextricably tied to my first name. In high school the ‘K’ shape-shifted into Koski—knighted by my friends—a nickname they thought, but not really. And spell check keeps telling me it’s wrong. Koski is not a word. Spell check suggests: Kiosk, Koki, Kooky, Kaki, Bosky, Koi, Kook, and Kidskin. Any of those would suit while also being real words.

My girlfriends have attempted to name me, bless me with a one-consonant carrying pet name of sorts. Christine called me Ber, the broken end-piece to my birth-name. But it didn’t sound right, Ber, the ‘R’ ran roaring whirlwinds around my poised and puckered mouth. I missed the AM. Then Dezi coined me Bean—like, coffee bean. Named/ discovered/ invented from my excessive, indeed daily, longing for coffee. Three flat-pictured beans line the tender wrinkled space under my anklebone, here to stay, long after their innovator has gone, along with all of my other silly titles. My mother wanted to name me Nichole—if she had, that loud ‘K’-full stop wouldn’t have bogged me down in school, wouldn’t have pushed me into the piles of Amber D. Amber S. Amber T. And Koski, in its unpredictable pronunciation [KEY-OSK, COS-KEY, KOO-SKI] wouldn’t have to have been parroted back to unsure tutors, doctors, bosses. How they said it in that uneasy, embarrassed sort of way hoping I’d nod smiling that they had got it right the first time. How proud they all seemed of themselves in handling the English language. Nichole—but with that ‘H’ straddling the middle so no one ever gets the spelling right. NicHole written in all its unconventionality. The ‘H’ another loud sound [Nic-Hole] here again with these multiple consonants. Kristen and I fought the most, and she would type out emails and text messages Amber Nicole! – trying to command attention, but she always forget the ‘H’ and then I just stopped listening. NicHole—the harshness in all my names.

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