A Name by Any Other Rose

I have a name. There’s not much to say about about the name Andrew, so this will be short.

I didn’t start out as “Andrew.” Growing up my family called me, Andy.  I was Andy for a long time.  In grade school I learned that I actually had three names, Andrew John Reynolds and that Andy was just a nickname, a diminutive, and something I could actually spell as a six year old.  “Andrew” is a long word when you’re six.  I took me a long time to learn to spell Reynolds and fortunately these days my web browser’s autofill feature means that I no longer have to be embarrassed by misspelling my own name.

I’m a bad speller – always have been.  Spelling rules never made sense to me and brute force memorization didn’t help.  Likely the most embarrassing event in my fourth grade year was the first day of class when the teacher had us make name tags for our desks.  We were to carefully write our names on the card stock we were given and then bring it up to the teacher for approval and a piece of tape to secure it to our desk.  She corrected a few of wise guys who just wanted to use a nickname or the kid who insisted that his name was really Spiderman.

Me? Well she quietly said, “You’ve misspelled your last name.” I was sent back to my desk with a blank name tag and my name correctly spelled on a bit of note paper. Years of therapy haven’t erased that badge of shame.  I still cringe when asked to write my name.

My grandfather was also an Andy.  I knew him as Grandpa Phillips and the man who’d give a five year old a full roll of peppermint lifesavers.  Sadly he died when I was nine and I didn’t get another full roll of peppermint lifesavers until I was 12 when I landed a lawn mowing job with my elderly next door neighbor and could afford to buy my own.

Early in life, my father confirmed that I was in fact named after my grandfather.  Father said that mother wanted to name me John Andrew, but father didn’t want a son whose initials were, “JAR,” so I became, Andrew John Reynolds.  Father was greatly satisfied with this as it would be a good business name and gave me a lot of options I could use when I became a major force in the business world.  I could be Andrew Reynolds, Andrew J. Reynolds, A.J. Reynolds, A. John Reynolds or even the simple friendly Andy Reynolds. 

It was shortly after my father first told this story that I decided to learn how to spell my full name. “Andrew” wasn’t too bad as it’s phonetic, but the “H” in John constantly confused me – before the n or after?  It was only as an adult that I learn some “Johns” don’t use the “H” and just spell it “J O N.” I never understood the need for a silent “H” in the middle.  Reynolds has a similar problem with the “Y” – you don’t really pronounce it, but if it’s not there the teacher will make you do it again.  For years I annoyed my brothers with the question, “Why is there a Y?”

I never asked my father this question for fear that he’d actually answer the question with one of his famous two hour lectures on the subject.  

When I entered the working world I waffled over what name I should use in my professional life. Andy or Andrew.  My first job after technical school didn’t make that decision any easier.  That job was as technical support phone dispatcher.  It was a bit of a new idea in ’79 to have a technician answer the phone and see if he could help customers resolve issues without sending out a field engineer.

We were a small company and two of us were teamed up to provide seven day coverage. I worked Sunday to Wednesday and my partner worked Wednesday to Saturday.  We were on 24 hour call and had to leave a phone number with the answering service if we weren’t in the office.  The Wednesday overlap day was intended for training and for me to write up the weekly reports – I was the one who could type.

My partner’s name was Andrew J Rodrigues and liked to be called “Andy.” I liked to be called “Andy,” and it turned out that over the phone we sounded alike.  Our customers were often confused why Andy didn’t remember on Friday what we told him on Monday.  Explaining that there were two Andys didn’t help.  For awhile we tried changing our names, he went by AJ and I went by Andrew.  The he went by Andy and I tried to go by John.

That didn’t work – turns out we had an engineer named John and customers wanted to know why John had be demoted to the call desk.The final solution was to transfer me to the repair depot and hiring a woman named Jill to take over my call shift.

Over time I felt more like an Andrew than an Andy and most coworkers and friends now know me as Andrew.  I mean, Andrew is a dignified name.  The name of Jesus’s first disciple.  Being dignified sounds good.  I’m not really that dignified, but we all have our illusions. My brothers still call me Andy and show no signs of accepting me as Andrew.

While thinking about this essay, I did look up what the name Andrew means and most sources say it means, “strong and manly.” Strange – I’ve never felt either.  Sometimes it seems like I’m strong as I can open jar lids that my wife, Heather can’t or that I seem to be able to move heavy things.  Now I weight over 200 pounds and can move a refrigerator by just leaning against it – never confuse strength with counterweight.  Sometimes Heather will say to me, “you’re a big strong man.” It’s not a complement – it’s an invitation to engage in heavy lifting or deal with a dead animal in the backyard.

As I get older I’ve noted how many other people have the same name.  Turns out that in America there are close to a million Andrew Reynolds.  I never met another one, but there used to be an Andrew Reynolds in San Jose with a horrible credit score that I was constantly having to explain to lenders and credit card companies and once or twice to debt collectors.

Then there was the day I got a letter from a grade school student wanting my autograph and a photo, plus any freebies he could get.  Turns out that Andrew Reynolds is also a world famous skateboarder and this sixth grader had an assignment to write a business letter to someone famous as ask for an autograph.  Actually it was a class assignment and the return address was the child’s school.  Somehow this kid had managed to search public records and found my address in property tax records.

I had the joy of writing to his teacher complementing this student on the quality of his letter, but advising the teacher to be careful about letting the kids find addresses on their own.

According to Amazon Andrew Reynolds has also written a number of books.  Including an interesting one titled, The Children of Harvey Milk: How LGBTQ Politicians Changed the World. Sounds interesting. I might actually read that one.  This one is kind of intriguing as well: The Third Lens: Metaphor and the Creation of Modern Cell Biology.  Now I have to read that book – just to find out what metaphor has to do with cellular biology.  Actually I can see myself writing a book with that title.

Oh and finally, apparently I also teach math at Moorpark College and have a really good rating on rate my professor dot com.

So, there you have it.  Andrew is just a boring old name with not much to say about it.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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35 Responses to A Name by Any Other Rose

  1. My mother was expecting/hoping for a boy who would be named Robert. She go me and tacked on an a to create Roberta. I have always been called Robbie which creates great confusion as the short form of Roberta is usually Bobbie and Robbie’s are always male. It has its upside, at Christmas time I always get the man gift which is usually a bottle of Johnny Walker black label which is vastly better than the women gift. My work colleagues call me Robbie. I use Roberta for my adult books.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Debra says:

    I really enjoyed reading your essay, Andrew. Names are always interesting to me. Your efforts with spelling are touching stories, but I can understand your embarrassment.

    My husband is John, with an “h”, and our son is Jonathan, or Jon, without. 🙂 I was born in the Debbie Reynolds era so I was Debbie until I decided it was too “cute” for me, and decided at some stage that I wanted to be Debra. In high school I insisted that my name be changed to Rachel…I thought it was a much better name, and I was indulged for a little while. You can always tell how long I’ve known someone by which name they call me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • My my mother’s name was Irene, but in high school she went by her middle name, Gloria. Even in her sixties she still had friends calling her Gloria.


  3. Dave says:

    “… so this will be short.” What happened there? 🙂 Love this post. You have one of those cool first names where your nickname can use the first half or the second half. I’m just “Dave” or “David”, and “David Wilson” is brutally common (as I discovered when I joined Hertz #1 Club and thought I was special). You also reminded me of my first job out of college. My colleagues and I decided middle names were underutilized so we started calling each other by our first initials and middle names (i.e. “D. Scott”). People outside of our circle had no idea who we were referring to.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That did get a little out of hand there 😉 I so rarely use my middle name that I’d like not respond to “A. John” . I’d think they were talking about someone else.


  4. It appears that I am ‘collecting’ names. 😀 Even though Keith and I have been together for thirteen years, I am still keeping the ‘Landry’ name. I was getting like a soap opera star – too many last names tacked on to my own name. (I have been divorced twice and had a long(er)-term relationship in between the two marriages) I can only chuckle about it. I used my last-married name (Landry) just as I really started building my business and now there is no way I want to change it. I had kept the hyphen (Bergner-Landry) for probably about five or six years, but dropped that as I feel I have established myself as the name I carry. It is odd when one names their company after themself; especially when they are a woman. I think the rules are a little different.

    I just kind of take it in stride though, and I am grateful I never married the ‘long-term’ guy in between. His name was “Kochendorfer”. That would have really filled up the letter boxes on the order forms!

    Have a great day! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • When Heather and I married, I told her that I didn’t expect her to take my name. She’d been married before and decided to change her last name because she liked it. However, she always signs her art with her maiden, which thing suits her best.


  5. Baydreamer says:

    This is great, Andrew! Love your humor, the two Andy’s, then John and Jill. And the books that you’ve written but apparently didn’t know about. It was fun to read about your name, so thanks for sharing. I have a story behind my name also, which I’ve thought of sharing someday. Maybe you’ve inspired me to do so.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. nimi naren says:

    Loved reading this Andrew, made me smile

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I chuckled over your “Andrew J” doppelgänger on the helpdesk. I can only imagine the confusion it caused; but at least you had a built-in scapegoat: “Nope, it wasn’t me. It was somebody else with the same name as me.”

    In my days as a network administrator, face-to-face and telephone contacts called me by my real name, but for some reason there were a number of tech companies that always addressed me as Dave in their letters. No idea why. A Dave by any other name… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Love the essay, Andrew John Reynolds! Names, like roses are amazing things. 🌹

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Not surprised ‘Andrew Reynolds’ is a common name. Even mine with the odd spelling of the first name finds like-minded people. Good article.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Well, Andy Andrew, I can identify a bit. I started school with Cindy as the name everyone called me, but my real name is Cynthia. A little hard to spell for a first grader. Since I’ve been doing some genealogy research on my husband’s family, I noticed he had a number of German Johanns in his family tree, so probably the Johann got changed to John when they came to America and that’s where the “h” came from?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Fluid enough to capture my attention right through. You might actually make a great author.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. You said quite a bit about it, and even got me to read a longer post. (I usually don’t.) And you entertained me with it, especially the “never confuse strength with counterweight” quip!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. jfwknifton says:

    What you have described seems to me as dyslexia. That doesn’t get you very far forward but at least you have an excuse to offer people!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. pIEdTyPe says:

    Funny how those embarrassing childhood incidents can stick with you … seemingly forever. Andrew Reynolds is a fine name; that’s why so many people have it.

    Liked by 2 people

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