Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I AM Winnie Woo-hoo

My dad pretty much refuses to use people's real names if they're related to him. (Hmmn, looks like I inherited more than brown hair from the guy...) He calls my mom "Frau;" he calls my brother "Fritz;" he calls my nephew "Eli;" he calls my sister "Monkey." He always calls me "Winnie," and when I was a little girl, he loved to call me "Winnie Woo-hoo."

Now, I didn't mind Winnie Woo-hoo until we moved to the town of Bonanza, where my sister attended high school with a boy whose last name was Wu. Then my whole family decided to tease me about marrying this guy so my name really would be Winnie Wu. I freaked out. (Nothing like being 5 to make you grossed out by the very suggestion of matrimony.) And after that, I refused to be called Winnie Woo-hoo, going so far as to give one snarky 9-year-old a bloody nose in retaliation.

But my dad's nicknames have a strange kind of rightness about them. For example, unbeknownst to my family, my sister was born in the year of the Monkey, and I was born in the year of the Horse (which whinny, in case you didn't know). That seemed striking enough, but recently my reading took me into the realm of Chinese names, where I learned that the surname "Wu" comes from a Chinese word for witch. And the woman's name "Hu" means tiger. As someone with a lifelong interest in the occult and supernatural, it seems like a remarkable coincidence.

And so I wonder if somehow my father's name for me steered me toward my path in life. It definitely contributed to my dream of being a bad ass (still unfulfilled, but a dream, nonetheless). And it gave me a secet identity, one that only my family knew, which I think is no slight contributing factor in my interest in character and identity. Important interests for a writer!

On the other hand, I hope there's nothing deeper to these silly nicknames. After all, what on earth could a handle like "Fritz" have done to my brother?

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