Nov 13, 2006

What's in a name?

Some of you might have observed that in the "about me/debriefing" box my given name is Athena. Greek, mythological, helmet-wearing goddess of wisdom, protector of Athens, owned an owl and remained a virgin.

The similiarities stop at Greek.

I was named after my father's mother which is the traditional way of naming babies here in Greece. No need for the hassle of searching in baby-name books AND make the in-laws happy in one stroke.

Statue of LibertyAthena was the name on my passport when my family crossed the Atlantic and immigrated to the US when I was just a toddler. Permit me to digress a bit; one of the few scenes I recall from my very early childhood was seeing the Statue of Liberty from our cabin's porthole and the tugboats blowing their horns to greet our big cruise ship, the "Anna-Maria". Not to be confused with the "Santa Maria" accompanied by the "Nina" and the "Pinta" in 1492.

We settled in the Midwest and everyone called me Athena. The neighbors, the mailman, the ice-cream truck driver. I crossed the threshold of my first institution of learning, kindergarten, as Athena.

As soon as I graduated kindergarten (with honors, mind you), my brother and I were flown back to the motherland. We had adopted a head tilt to the side, like monkeys, when they spoke Greek to us. Afraid that we'd never be able to communicate in our mother tongue again my parents opted for homeland schooling. Mom and Dad, however, realized that maintaining one's language and culture is
(a) financially draining and
(b) awful lonely without your kids,
so we rejoined them back in the States as soon as schools let out, after nine months.

It was time to go to second grade. The school registered me unremarkably as "Athena". But when I was promoted to third grade, a typo put me down as "Atena" (dropped the h and sounded like antennae). I was too young to realize my goddess status was being jeopardized to protest.

A year later, my fourth-grade teacher decided that the A in Atena was redundant. School administration agreed that Tina sounded better, so "Tina" it was. This cost me a few "Tina-Hyena" jokes because I giggled like one. My parents shrugged it off as a cute American time-saving custom of minimizing words and names (hi, thanks, bye, Tina).

I was apprehensive about the future of my name. At the rate things were going, by the time I'd finish grade school there would only be a letter for a name.

Goddess AthenaThankfully the snipping stopped after Tina. However, I was no longer in the Ancient Greek Pantheon and everyone assumed that my nickname came from Christina. My high school diploma and all my US documents recorded me as a Tina.

Fortunately, I have recovered my original name (I'm still working on the goddess status though). My mother forgets herself and occassionally belts out a Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiina. Some people find it kooky for trimming such a mythical name to Tina.

Ha! They think Tina is a nutty deduction, wait until they find out about Flubberwinkle...