You've Got a Greek Name...
Were you always the last one to look up at the teacher signifying that you were done filling out those little bubbles on your Scantron sheet? Does your full first name not fit on your credit card? Do telemarketers give up trying to pronounce your first name and just hang up on you? Do you go by "Gus," and have no idea why? If so, you're blessed with a Greek name, and you should be thanking your parents on a daily basis.
For many of you out there it was the '70s, when your parents got down to the business of naming you. Sure they could have picked Moonbeam or Rainbow as was the style of the time, but they named you Konstantinos or Anastasia or some other multi-syllabic
Greek moniker. Sure that may have been your grandfather's name or your grandmother's name, but when you're in the 4th grade and trying to figure out which kid comes before you in alphabetical order, just so you can stop the teacher from butchering your name, you may have been wishing that
Pappou and Yiayia were named Billy and Cindy.
If at all possible, there is a cure for all this -- the nickname. Sure, sometimes it makes no sense, like why Dimitris are nicknamed "Jimmy," when they're real first names aren't "James," and when almost every single Athanasios you meet goes by "Tom." (It seems very rare to find a Greek Tom, whose name is actually Thomas.) Greek girls aren't completely immune from having to choose a nickname, although they often make more sense than Greek guy nicknames. It was always interesting to see if the Anastasias of the world went with Stacey with a "y" or Stacie with the "ie," or if the Elenis of the world went by Helen, Eleni, Elena, or Lena. And then there are those Greek girl names out there that don't translate well and don't lend themselves to easy nicknames. We won't even dare speak these names, because there are a few Greek girls out there who have them, but you wouldn't know it. To this day there are a few Greek girls in this area with Anglicized nicknames that keep their Greek names more of a secret than the recipe for 7-Star Metaxa.
Most popular Greek names can be shortened either by using the front end or the back end. Then there are those truly long Greek names that can be shortened on both the front end and the back end. A great example of this is Konstantinos, which can either go Kosta or Dinos.
(Query: Is there anything different about a Greek guy who goes by Kosta or a Greek guy who goes by Dinos?)
There are a few Greek names that not many people run with anymore, like names from Greek mythology and a few of the names from Ancient Greek history. It's especially sad to see guy names from Greek mythology reserved nowadays for really scary-looking dogs. Remember the names of the Dobermans on Magnum P.I. -- Zeus and Apollo? When's the last time you met a Greek guy named Zeus or Apollo? At least the names of the Olympian goddesses have stood the test of time. There are plenty of Athenas and Artemises around, although not as many Aphrodites. There is one drawback to names from Greek mythology or from Ancient Greek history though- the expectation of living up to that name. Could you imagine Hercules, the 5'5", 130 pound weakling, or Socrates, the perpetual C-student, or Aphrodite, the horribly shy, Plain-Jane wallflower?
(Note: These are imaginary people, not based on actual persons living or dead. We don't want to see a slew of angry emails from any Pocket-Herculeses, Slacker Socrateses, or Average Aphrodites.)
One trend that has thankfully escaped Greek names is androgyny. There are no Greek names that we can think of that you can call both a guy and a girl. There are no Parkers, no Hunters, no Staceys, and no Jamies. Sure there are the Marinos/Marinas, Vasili/Vasilias, Georgio/Georgias and other names with a guy and a girl equivalent, but a Greek telemarketer is never going to have to question if they're asking for a man or woman.
As the DC area increasingly becomes more international, there are more opportunities to reintroduce yourself and others to your full Greek name. Put it on your business cards, even better, put it on the placard outside your office, your cube, or on your desk. Answer the phone with it at the office and see how more seriously you're taken at work. Introduce yourself with it the next time you're at a very loud bar or club. If anything, having to repeat yourself gets you that much closer to the girl or guy you're trying to talk to at that moment. Make sure that someday down the road, if you ever have children, that you name them something nice and Greek as well, and be proud of the fact that they more than likely will never have to be known by their first name, last initial.
past feature articles.