Whatever the reason, it seems I'm not alone in my struggle with the name game. In the last two weeks I've read no less than four different blog posts about people struggling to name both babies and characters.
My name is the subject of rampant mispronuciation. A colleague and friend of mine once called me YoHannah for an entire year before I corrected her.
"You know it's actually Johanna, like Joe and hanna put together," I said after she'd used the Swedish version once too often in casual conversation.
"No," she gasped. "I didn't know. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I always thought you were joking."
And this little exchange underscores the problem with names. Too exotic and you risk sentencing your child or main character to a lifetime of correcting people's pronunciation. Too boring and you risk them having to differentiate themselves with a last initial.
Or more precisely, does the person make the name or does the name make the person? Watching Madonna perform in the Superbowl this weekend, I realized that until she stepped into the spotlight with her lace gloves and crosses, the only other Madonna I knew was the religious variety.
Would Madonna, as we know her, have become an icon if she'd chosen a different name?
I think the answer is yes.
Maybe the true power of a name doesn't lie in its combination of verbs and consonants but in the person behind it. I'll take comfort in that thought every time my daughter rolls her eyes at her own name (so carefully selected, so clearly despised).
And on a final side note to the many, many slightly stoned men in bars who have asked me whether I'm familiar with the Bob Dylan song that features my name in a title role.
Yes, I do know that song.
But wait! Just because I know it and was, in fact, named after it doesn't give me automatic hippie cred. If you're looking for someone to hit on you should probably go find my mother. After all, she's the one who picked the name in the first place.