September 18, 2004

A dare not taken: the name Adair.

I was tempted to say this when Red Adair died recently, but now that I've written about Virginia Hamilton Adair (see previous post), I'll comment on the name Adair.

My middle name is Adair. I've never used the name or the initial other than to fill out forms or to sign checks written by my mother. Only late in life did I start to think I should have used it, when I first noticed that it has the effect of transforming my first name into Anna, which then isolates the second syllable, a homophone for the excellent word "Dare." That it took me decades to notice that proves that, unlike Virginia Hamilton Adair, I am no poet. Now, when I think about the missed opportunity of using my middle name, I torment myself with thoughts like: "You were not daring, you would not take Adair."

Why did I resist Adair? Because as a young girl I sensed that it meant a lot to my parents, and being contrarian, I didn't want that imposed on me. But I didn't think they were trying to define me as daring, or to offer me the chance to give my ultra-plain first name a slight infusion of fanciness. Strangely, I envied three-syllable girl's names, like Alison, and was annoyed at my parents for leaving me with the stark name Ann, and never noticed that AnnAdair was that three-syllable name. The reason I never perceived the feminity of the Anna-creating name Adair, was that Adair was my father's middle name, and that made the name permanently masculine. The homophone "a dare," which I declined to perceive, also felt masculine in those pre-Women's Movement days. I was jealous of my sister for having my mother's middle name, which was a lovely feminine name: Elaine. Don't you think giving me, the second child, the father's middle name, after the first child had been given the mother's middle name, conveys the message: we wanted you to be a boy? Later, they had that boy and they made his middle name my father's first name, which left me stranded as the inappropriately named child in the bunch. If they had known my brother would be coming along soon enough, they might have been able to give me a prettier middle name.

They used to pressure me to appreciate Adair, but always in the context of rejecting Althouse. I was told "Ann Adair" was a good stage name. Just lop off the Althouse and you can be an actress. When I was very young that made me feel that I was supposed to be an actress, and then when I was older that annoyed me. Maybe that was an elaborate parental scheme to keep me from being an actress. In fact, my father had wanted to be a lawyer. World War II and the subsequent drive to start a family redirected him to take good employment which was available to him based on his undergraduate education as a chemical engineer. So maybe in the end, having his name did lead me into law. If so, it was a clever plot indeed, because if he had ever suggested that I should one day go to law school, I probably never would have done it.

Another reason I never used Adair is that I considered the triple initial A ridiculous once I reached a certain age. As a young child, I thought it was great having all As, as if it were a report card. Later, I found out "AAA" was an awfully boring insurance program. The common practice of dressing up one's name with a middle initial was always out, because A before Althouse sounds to my ear like stuttering. And the use of the middle name in place of the first name--A. Adair Althouse--did not seem suitable, because it was so unfeminine and it also had that stuttering A-A effect.

So the opportunity is long lost. I can never claim my own middle name. I look at it with some longing on the cover of "Ants on the Melon." Ah, well! If I had the chance to make the decision again, I'd use the full name my parents gave me: Ann Adair Althouse.

UPDATE: For blog purposes, I've added Adair. One last opportunity, taken.

FURTHER UPDATE: No, I'm not doing that! It just doesn't look right to me.


Ann Adair said...

I just couldn't resist leaving a comment since I did take Adair! I went from the lovely Ann Mills Caldwell to Ann Caldwell Adair, henceforth known as Ann Adair. Excellent name, but I deal with the annoying trap of being called "Anna," which I loathe. It's a fantastic name when people can also see it in print when they learn it. I often introduce myself only as Ann simply to avoid the future embarassment of my new acquaintance.

Embrace the Adair within!

Cora Adair said...

Ah, that's kind of funny. I've always loved being an Adair. It made me feel special because it wasn't a common name.

I also like my name translated: Seething pool, by the Oaken Fjord

I just wish I could sing my checks like that :p

Aiyaruk said...

Adair is a beautiful name. It is the name of my baby son. I know it's usually a girl's name, and more often than not a middle name, but I couldn't resist using it for my son. It strikes me as bold, strong, and.. as you so eloquently stated, daring.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for the comments! I'm only seeing them today (as I'm linking back to this from here.

@Ann Adair -- It's almost freaky to me to see someone with this name. I'm a little heartened to see that the "Anna" effect isn't 100% good.

@Cora Adair I never knew it meant Seething pool, by the Oaken Fjord. That's hilarious.

@Aiyaruk It's funny that you're concerned that it seems feminine when I was always bothered that it seemed masculine. I think it's a very cool name for a boy, who was a baby when you wrote that 8 years ago. I hope young Adair is doing well.