Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right. – Warsan Shire
the a is soft, like apple if you’re from the Midwest.
and it isn’t Gay(bri)L. It’s Ga[aaaaaa](bri)L.
It like my mother’s maiden name is French.
Gabrielle, meaning Woman of God or God is my Strength.
I didn’t realize I had a difficult name. Gabrielle. It’s long, but simple enough I figured. My parent’s have called me Gabby since I was a kid, unless I was in trouble and then it was always Gabrielle Ione (a middle name kids teased me over that I’m not even going to try to break down right now). So, for a while I associated my full name with being in trouble. But, I had this teacher in elementary school, Karen Donolan, who always insisted on calling me Gabrielle because it was “such a pretty name.” Thank God for her.
I never minded being called Gabby by the people close to me, the people I loved, the people who loved me. I didn’t even mind it from teachers or classmates, it just felt like my name. But times were different in the late 90s and early 2000s before the true advent of social media. In Michigan, I was and still am just Gabby. Michigan is and always will be home, so I’m fine with that. It’s the place of my birth. It’s the place where I am the most myself. It’s fitting that there is some intimacy around what I am called there. Gabby.
Going to Cornell was the first time I was really confronted with what I should be called. I always introduced myself as Gabrielle, but with time, whether because they asked, overheard, or just assumed, I became Gabby there too. At various points in my Cornell career it bothered me a little bit. “Gabrielle is just so long.” “You seem like more of a Gabby to me.” Reasons I could not or would not be called by my name, my full name, the one on my birth certificate.
It seemed a bit strange that people, some I knew or got to know and others that I didn’t would call me by my Michigan name, but Cornell was and is home too, albeit in a different way, so it became okay. Then there was Philly, and I somehow became Gab/Gabs. There was another Gabby and to have us both be that would be too confusing so I, ever accommodating, shortened my name.
They say that by making our names easier for people we dim who we are. Except, I don’t feel dimmed by having been or being Gab in Philly. Because I got to choose who did and did not call me that, it is and has become a name for myself that I associate with one of the best years of my life (not including anything Penn related except Fisher-Hassenfield). Gab was and is fun. She found two other friends with three letter names. She explored. She lived. She loved. She had the time of her life.
So, you’ll understand why I lost my shit when someone I don’t know called me Gab on Instagram. I get it. My handle is GabGotti, but the name said Gabby (now Gabrielle) so please put some respeck on it.
Here’s the thing, we have to stop being lazy with other people’s names and stop letting people be lazy with our names as they quite literally encompass who we are. Carry meaning. Tell our story. My name is not too long or difficult. It is not even hard to pronounce and I don’t understand why anyone would add a ‘Y’ where there clearly isn’t one.
Gabrielle. I could break down all the ways that I feel I am a Woman of God or times when God has been my strength, but you don’t get to know that information right now.
Names have meaning. They matter. Especially in African/Black/African American culture. So, I’ve decided that Gabrielle is what I’m going to go by. Both because it is my name and because if you don’t know me like that, you don’t and shouldn’t get to address me like that. I know social media makes us feel like we’re all friends in real life, but we’ve got to be careful about just assuming intimacy and comfort with people. You can’t call me Gab just because you saw Maura call me Gab in a tweet (we’re friends in real life fam). No, I will not be Gabs because you overheard Des call me that. You don’t get to call me Gabby just because that’s who I am to Jakira and Kada. And you for certain better not call me Ione because that name is only reserved for Keith and Jackie, or whoever is reading my next diploma.
It’s Gabrielle. I will be correcting people.