Writing Prompt & Rambling Thoughts on Reivnention

I'm in the middle of a six-week writing class. Each session, we participate in a number of writing prompts with one of last weeks' prompts being, "Tell about a time you chose to change something about your use of language." I had a great time with this short exercise and decided to expand upon the theme in this post.

The idea of changing language along with the broader topic of self-reinvention is an interesting one, and last week’s writing class was not the first time this idea come to mind. As a young child, I first became aware of the possibility that one's self-image was something that could be carefully shaped. While I didn’t think much about how to do this with clothing (that was to come later), I was pretty certain that if I had a different name, something groovier than the enduring and classic Ann, my life would be infinitely more exciting. Any number of names would do the trick, and I recall thinking about all sorts of names including tried and true options in the baby name book on my family's bookshelf to the counter-culture appellations making the rounds at the time. It was the 1970s after all and the pickings were plentiful.

Although I don't remember the multitude of names I considered to be trendy enough to be life-altering, I do remember announcing to my parents that if I could, I’d change my name to Lynn Zeezzer. In my young mind Lynn, a name I now find to be infinitely dull and non-descript, was hip. As for Zeezzer, it was a surname that did not exist, which added sophistication points, but more importantly, it not only started with a Z, but it included two extra Zs as well. Fabulousness would be my birthright with a name like that.

I further became aware of the desire to reinvent ones self in high school. Susans became Suzi and Dannys insisted on being called Dan. I was enamored. The ability to be called something else was so cool. What could one do with the name Ann? Annie, which I was sometimes called, was different but not different enough. I was stuck.

College was the first significant chance most have to really become someone new. I recall people in my first-year dorm that experimented with their name; a young man who wanted to be called by his middle name Basil as he found it so much more dynamic than Adam, and one young woman Andrea returned from winter break insisting we pronounce her name “ON-drea.” 

As time went on I never did feel the need to reinvent myself through my name but to this day, I do like it when people call me Annie. Something about the name, maybe the bouncy “ie” at the end, makes me feel lighter and perkier. It also happens to be my radio person, Annie V, and who doesn’t feel like a different person when she’s on the radio? As much as I like being called Annie, the wrong person calling me Annie is like the wrong person calling me honey, it’s entirely too intimate for anyone other than enduring friend, family members and radio fans.

I have joked during periods of boredom that I’d like to change my name to Anyé, (Pronounced ON-Yeah) as it’s the only hip thing I found to do with the simple name Ann. A web search reveals Anyé is not even a proper name, so I’m on to something. During my volunteer stint in Serbia a few years back, the Serbian volunteers gave all of the foreign volunteers Serbian names and I was anointed Anka. I like it and would adopt it as my name if I ever move to Eastern Europe. For now, I’ll stick with Ann or Annie.

(The idea of name shaping one’s identity plays out prominently in the book and movie “The Namesake” – check it out if the thought captures you.)

As for changing the use of language, that is something I have not experimented with. Perhaps I shall go home and do it tonight. I’ll start by adding a dose of confidence to my language that makes me appear bigger and more powerful than my petite stature would indicate. This dose of confidence would be added with caution. As with jalapeños in a salsa, it’s best not to overdo it.

Next step, carefully cultivate an accent with which to speak these words. Not a strong accent or a recognizable one, but one that, as with my thumbprint, is solely and uniquely mine. With a newfound and entirely singular accent, I’d be a woman of intrigue. Those who meet me for the first time would be left wondering. The know-it-alls among them would claim to be able to identify me through my accent.

“She must be from Grenada,” one might say.

“No, she’s so obviously from Malta,” another would declare.

Folks would guess repeatedly but only a few, the most perceptive among us, would pinpoint my accent correctly as “She’s from Montana and Wyoming by way of New Jersey and Connecticut with the distinction of being a dual American-Italian citizen who has traveled extensively in Eastern Europe,” is the only precise, yet largely unfathomable, response.

Next step would be to use lots of fancy words. Multi-syllable, tongue-tangling, effusive, loquacious words that would roll off my tongue song-like. Truth be damned; if I had to make up a word to keep up appearances, I’d do it.

Finally, I’d never again be at a loss for words. No clichés or phrases would slip from my mouth. I’d speak my mind using nothing but beautiful poetic words. 

Freshly reinvented with a new name and new use of language, my life would be even more fabulous than it is today.