My series, The Name Project, showcases excerpts of interviews with the people I meet. Names are my inspiration and I hope to share with you photographs of people and stories about their names.
The Name Project: Jennifer
The name Jennifer first appeared in the English language as a derivative of the name Guinevere. Even though the name has been around since the 1700s, it didn’t really hit it’s stride until the 1900s. I guess some things just take their time building momentum. Regardless of that slow start, the name has since made up for lost time. In fact, according to the US Social Security Administration’s data, Jennifer first appeared on the top 5 most popular names list in 1968 and stayed on that list until 1988, a 20-year reign. Not too shabby.
I had the pleasure recently of speaking to a delightful woman with the name; Jennifer Leal of the blog Savor the Thyme. We met up at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Atlanta and it was there we talked about her name. In fact, she explained, it was the very popularity of the name that caused her parents to select it coupled with the middle name Maureen, after her godmother.
And it was also the popularity of the name that caused Jennifer not to like it so much as a child. “Every other girl was named Jennifer when I was a kid,” she told me. Another problem with a name like Jennifer, nicknames become a part of the landscape, whether you want it or not. Jennifer was no exception. And sometimes the reasoning behind those nicknames was not necessarily well thought-out. For example, in Kindergarten she was called Jenny because the shortest girl in the class was Jen and the tallest was Jennifer.
The name, despite its annoyingly ubiquitous nature, has now become part of Jennifer’s identity. So much so, that she doesn’t even think much about it anymore. Except when her kids speak it aloud. There’s something sort of forbidden about a small child saying their mother’s name. That’s what causes her kids giggle when they say it. And it’s the adorable giggles from her offspring that makes Jennifer like her name even more.
I asked Jennifer if she thought her name had any impact on her life. Here’s how she responded, “Jennifer is a common name and is not memorable. However, I hope I always make a positive and meaningful impact in someone’s life.”
Jennifer is inspired by random acts of kindness, genuine people, her husband, her children, and, probably most importantly, smiles.
I may have to disagree with Jennifer on one point in particular. Jennifer adds smiles to the faces of the people around her each day which was one reason our little name chat was so fun; and another reason that she is so very memorable.