I’ve written Monster Meditations on the significance I give to naming characters in fiction, but lately I’ve been confronted by my own name. Let me back up a bit. My given name is Candida. Pronounced with a subtle accent on the first syllable and the ‘I’ in did sounding like ‘did’—as in “that’s what they did” and not deed.
When I was growing up it drove me crazy when people pronounced it in the Spanish fashion with a long E sound (Candeeda) and a bit of an accent on that syllable. Now that I have many Latin American friends and have enjoyed travels in Spain, I’m fine with the Spanish version. At least there it’s a normal—if not common—name.
My parents named me after the George Bernard Shaw heroine with a slight detour into mystery fiction via the Patricia Wentworth my mother was reading when she was pregnant with me. The protagonist’s name was Candida and that reminded mom of seeing Marlon Brando in the Shaw play as the romantic, young poet in love with the slightly older, married woman named Candida.
The name has been a challenge for most of my life.
Although I enjoy the play and it looks great when I sign it, Candida is not without inherent problems beyond the awkward pronunciation issues. First, my folks found it hard to use such a big name for a small child. I was called Candy for as long as I can remember. Then, since the play is not one of Shaw’s most familiar works, my name is rarely recognized as a tribute to Shaw. The exception to the rule is the periodic smile from an out-of-work actor or playwright working at a New York theater ticket booth.
Scientists and doctors get caught up in the “candida” of yeast infection fame. This is NOT great on a blind date with a chemist. I can assure you of that. My parents also insisted that they had zero knowledge of this connection to my name.
Lately people have started calling me Candice (or Candace). This is particularly annoying as it is NOT my name. Most of these misnomer incidents started with my late mother’s friends—it’s hard enough reading letters of condolence, having the wrong name on them makes me itch. Would Vera enjoy being called Mira? I don’t think so.
For most of my life I shut the name problems down with a simple, “Call me Candy.” Am I too old for that now? Nah… call me Candy!