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The Name Therapist by Duana Taha

In addition to British period drama, I also enjoy following celebrity and entertainment gossip.  Years ago I discovered the celebrity gossip blog,, and I've been reading it ever since.    Duana Taha, in addition to screenwriting for TV, also writes a column for in which she offers advice for prospective new parents in naming their children.  Taha has been writing this column for a very long time, and I've been reading it for (probably) as long as she's been writing it.

Like Taha, I too am a name nerd.  When I was in middle school I received a book of baby names from one of my aunts for Christmas one year because she knew I liked names.  I read that book cover to cover (and I still have it).  When this same aunt was pregnant with her first child I may have given her lists of names for girls and boys, and when her second child was a boy, I think his middle name came from one of the lists I gave her during her first pregnancy.  While I still consider myself a name nerd, I'm not as much of one as I was then--I mean, I'm not reading baby name books like I did then.  And I think Taha's name nerdiness is on a whole other level from mine.  I mean, the woman has commandeered for herself a career that is partially based upon her expertise in onomastics.

Taha's book The Name Therapist: How Growing Up with my Odd Name Taught Me Everything You Need to Know About Yours is a lot like her column on steroids except she's not doling out name advice.  Instead this book is a long meditation on names and their effects on our personalities and lives.  Taha writes about what it's like to grow up with a given name that no one else has and no one else has heard of.  While I can't really identify with this part of the book, I do have a cousin and another friend who can.  I have a cousin who has a name no one else has (literally no one else has her name), and people always have trouble pronouncing it.  This cousin's name struggles are also wrapped up in people wanting to know 'what she is' or 'where she comes from,' and Taha touches on this too in the context of ethnic names that sound unusual and 'exotic' to Anglo ears.

My name is not as unusual as Taha's given name; however, I was the only Angela in my class until junior year in high school when another Angela moved into our district.  Now that I think about it that Angela was a senior, and we only had one class together, so technically, I was still the only Angela in my class.  I can think of maybe two or three other Angelas that were in different grades at my school.  Reading this book has caused me to ruminate on my name and the representation of other names in my high school class.  So I turned to my high school yearbook as a data source (I told you I was a name nerd).  In the year I graduated there were six (!) Jasons and five Ashleys in my class; five Matthews too.  Four each of Amanda, Rebecca, and Jennifer.  Three each of Jessica, Nathan(iel), Christopher, Michelle, Rachel, Holly, and Michael.  There were a handful of other names that 'only' had two people wearing them and others represented just once (one of which is that friend who has a name no one else has).  So what does this data tell you about when I was born and the names that were popular then?

--Reviewed by Ms.  Angie


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