top of page

What’s in a Name?

What name do you answer to? Is it your birth name, or a nickname? Does it allow you to show up as your full self and how you want to be referred to?

My maternal grandfather Aaron Dicks, Jr. was called by a nickname growing up, which followed him into adulthood.  In fact, most of his siblings and friends had nicknames.  Before he died, he made everyone quit using his nickname and refer to him as Aaron or Mr. Dicks. 

He explained that people needed to know your true name to get an idea of your people and your history.  He also didn’t want his nickname to be on his grave stone.  He said that he was an adult before he knew the birth name of one of his brothers and that was unsettling to him.  I’ve been thinking about the impact of one’s name lately and I wrote a statement to the members of the Forbes DEI group on the subject, which I lead.  I’ll share most of it here as food for thought for you:

I had an epiphany recently concerning my name versus what people tend to call me:  Kimberly vs Kim.

When asked what I prefer to be called, I used to always say "Kimberly" because I always sign my full name on documents that way.  However, when I moved to Texas 10 years ago, everyone automatically shortened my name and began calling me "Kim."  I shrugged my shoulders and said "okay, Kim is fine."

You see I wanted people to be comfortable and Kim seemed to put them at ease a bit.  Recently, I was recounting the story of my birth and how I got my name and it hit me like a ton a bricks that I was dishonoring myself and others by allowing people to shorten my name for their comfort and convenience.

I was named by the doctor who delivered me.  He was a visiting physician from South Africa.  It was September 2, 1964 and my parents had been ill-treated at what had been the "white only" hospital in town, the Medical University of South Carolina.  Just a few months earlier on July 2nd, the Civil Rights Act was passed which made it illegal for a person to be discriminated against due to their race, the color of their skin, sex, religion, or national origin. 

When my parents were ignored, my father picked up my mom, who was hemorrhaging with me (a breached baby), put her in a wheelchair and ran down the street, in the pouring rain, to the "black hospital," McClennan-Banks.

The visiting doctor performed the C-section on my mother and named me after the Kimberley (different spelling) Diamond Mine that had been discovered that same year in the town of Kimberley, South Africa.

My name is significant, it speaks of a time in history on three fronts, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the discovery of the Kimberley Diamond Mine, and my birth.

So, from now on when asked what I go by, I will enthusiastically say "Kimberly," and if they stick around long enough I will share with them why.  It's a piece of history that needs to be told and respected.


Do you have a story about your name? Perhaps you do, and you just don't know it.  If your parents or older family members are alive, ask them how you got your name.  Your name is tied to who you are, who your family is or it could be tied to a place or time in history.

21 views0 comments


bottom of page