A Daffodil By Any Other Name...

What's in a name? Well, when the name's Daffodil, and if the past is any indication, people usually want to know. Hippie parents? Did you rename yourself? What's your middle name? (The three most popular.)

So, to diminish the questions, a little background juice: I was the product of a couple who wanted to celebrate their children by giving them wild, musical names that had no connection, as it turns out, to their particular cultural history or first language. They weren't hippies or academic intellectuals. There is no family legacy or history to my and my siblings' names (yes, there are more). My parents were curious, imaginative. They met in San Francisco. They learned English. They loved the flower. They liked the sound of the name. And my middle name held a magical old-world gypsy allusion for them, despite its actual Old Testament roots. They decided the names of their children would tell stories, theirs and others (my sister: Nefertiti).

But there were problems (and signs of what was to come) with the name before I was even old enough to say it. When I was newly hatched, my nervous Catholic baptismo priest refused to douse me with holy love unless my mom changed my middle name from Jemima (that's right) to Maria. Maria! Seems the first name was so problematic for the church and its coterie of old priests that instead of receiving a new name, as tradition has it, my middle name was replaced. So Daffodil Maria it was. Since then, I have left the Catholic church and gone back to my original old school branding.

Since I've started at the Weekly, already I've been asked: Am I speaking with someone from India? Is that your real name? Daffodil? Now, how do you speak Spanish and have that name? And have been incorrectly addressed via email: Thank you Mr. Altan.

I considered eliminating the thing completely and going with my initials, D.J. Altan or just D. Altan, which I've experimented with before. That way, no daughter-of-hippies allusions, no gender specificity, no questions asked, no need to explain. But then I reconsidered. For one, the name (and secret weapon, the middle name) are two of the best interview ice-breakers I've got. But more importantly, by dumping the vowels and double ff's that were slapped on me the minute I popped into the world, I would be doing a disservice to the young couple who had the nerve, and the sense of humor, to go against the grain when the nurses asked for my name. I'm sure there were some double-takes. And I imagine they smiled: That's right, we said Daffodil Jemima.

Image: Original Speedy Signs


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