I’ve actu­ally always liked my name, Glo­ria, except for a dif­fi­cult teenage year when a friend men­tioned that my name was for “old” peo­ple. She was prob­a­bly cor­rect since I couldn’t think of any­one else I ever knew who was named Glo­ria. But it still hurt and it could have been worse.

My par­ents were mar­ried in 1943 and as soon as the Sec­ond World War was over they started a fam­ily. My brother was born in 1946 and 16 months later I joined the fam­ily. My par­ents were Joe and Mary Smith. No kid­ding!! Being cre­ative they promptly named my brother after my father adding on the Jr. so pop­u­lar at that time. He became Joe Dou­glas Smith, Jr. and for­tu­nately he used Dou­glas, his mid­dle name. Then I arrived and appar­ently there was some dis­cus­sion about what to name me. From what I under­stand the first choice was Mary Josephine Smith or Mary Jo. My par­ents thought this was great as it included both of their names. How­ever, my mother real­ized that mak­ing me another Mary Smith would be dif­fi­cult. So in another bright moment of cre­ativ­ity, they named me Mary Glo­ria Smith. The fact that I was born close to Christ­mas gave my mother the idea of Glo­ria. And I have always used my mid­dle name which really con­fuses orga­ni­za­tions such as Social Secu­rity and the DMV, not to men­tion my passport.

Glo­ria has always been good for me. There have been some fun songs using my name, such as “Glo­ria” by Laura Brani­gan and “G-L-O-R-I-A” by Van Mor­ri­son which was always one of my favorites. Of course, I love Christ­mas since most every hymn or carol includes my name and what could be bet­ter than loudly and hap­pily singing your own name.

When I was in col­lege I hap­pened to have a biol­ogy teacher whom I also had in my high school years. She saw me when I came into the room for the first class and couldn’t under­stand why she had not noticed that I was on her class list. As she read the role out that first day, she called out Mary G Smith. It took her a cou­ple of times call­ing out that name before I real­ized that Mary G was me. As a lov­ing, yet con­tin­u­ous joke, she called me Mary G dur­ing the entire semes­ter. That was and has been the only time in my life that I have answered to the name Mary. After all, I’m really Glo­ria and always will be.

One Comment

  • Gloria’s essay high­lights the impor­tance of asso­ci­a­tions to names—a phe­nom­e­non dis­cussed at length in the book. In Gloria’s case, it is pri­mar­ily asso­ci­a­tions she makes to her name which are tied to Christ­mas and, espe­cially, to music, both old and new. In the Chris­t­ian ser­vice her name is linked with the hymn, “Glo­ria in excel­sis deo,” among oth­ers. As a name for a woman, it first appears as “Glo­ri­ana” in asso­ci­a­tion with Queen Eliz­a­beth I. “Glo­ria” is actu­ally a lit­er­ary name first used in E.D.E.N. Southward’s 1891 novel, “Glo­ria.” (South­ward became a writer to sup­port her fam­ily after her hus­band deserted the fam­ily.) “Glo­ria” is a lit­er­ary name, dat­ing back only to the 19th cen­tury. It would be inter­est­ing to dis­cover why E.D.E.N (the ini­tials of her given names spell Eden) named her hero­ine “Glo­ria.” Does music play a role? (A quick inter­net search sug­gests the Prob­a­bly. How uplift­ing to have one’s name asso­ci­ated with glory, praise, light—with the divine and music.
    Glo­ria also dis­cusses the phe­nom­e­non of not rec­og­niz­ing her dou­ble name when only the first name and the ini­tial of the sec­ond name is used because she iden­ti­fies with “Glo­ria” but not “Mary”—a feel­ing she makes quite clear when she ends by say­ing, “I’m really Glo­ria.” Dou­ble names are a com­plex issue dis­cussed at length in the book.

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