real life

The five things I wish people would stop saying about my unusual name.

Ah, names, we all got ‘em. However, not all names are created equally in terms of the amount of discussion they generate or the level of apparent offence they cause to the general public.

If you’re a Sarah or a Jessica or a Parker (well, not so much the last one but I couldn’t resist going there), you’re probably accustomed to going through life informing someone new of your name and then proceeding to immediately, well, get on with your day. But for people like me, my name comes with a FAQ and often a raised eyebrow or two.

My name is Holley, which is usually completely inoffensive and unassuming when simply verbalised. However, when seen spelt out, things can often go a bit pear-shaped. The 411 according to my mum is that since I was born 10 days before Christmas, she didn’t want people thinking that she only bestowed me my name because of my birth’s proximity to Chrissy.

Apparently this was something that had been well thought-out and planned in advance, although I still quietly question whether the decision was influenced by the 30 hours of labour she went through to pop me out.

Either way, there are a few side effects of an unusually spelt name that I don’t think mum could have anticipated 21 years ago. One biggie is that due to the combination of the additional letter in my first name and also just having an uncommon surname, when you Google me you can practically find my family tree, footage from my grade two school play, my Medicare number and the name of my first kiss. However, the factor that plays the largest part in my life is the multiple questions per work shift I receive regarding that extra ‘E’.

I work at one of the biggest retail stories in Australia, where a name badge is mandatory and serving hundreds of customers per day opens you up to analysis from shoppers while you scan their deodorant and strawberry-shaped pillow. Within the last month alone I have had enquiries ranging from whether I know what Netflix is, from a child no older than seven, and how I managed to nab the “day off school” to be at work at midday. Considering the attending-school ship long since sailed in 2013, that one was definitely grimace-inducing.

You thought this name was weird? You haven’t heard anything yet. Listen to Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright discuss baby names on our parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.

So here are the five key things I wish people, budget retail shopping enthusiasts or otherwise, would stop saying about my name:

1. “Why did you choose to spell it that way?”

This one is all about the tone in which it is said rather than the question itself. I am perfectly happy to answer a curious soul who is wondering whether there’s any special significance to the ‘E’ in my name. What I am not entirely perfectly happy (although of course, as a sales assistant I have to pretend to be) to engage with is people who follow up this question with a scoff or an eye-roll.

Just like Apple Martin (Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s daughter) and other equally-unusually named celebrity kids, believe it or not, we didn’t get to weigh in on name choices while we were in the womb. I am not saying my ma and pa should be obliged to answer this question either, however it would be nice if people kept in mind that generally humans are not capable of making decisions you know, pre-birth.



2. “Is your dad a rev-head?”

To be fair, this one isn’t at all offensive, just plain confusing. Unbeknownst to me until a very excitable man purchasing car oil or a jelly-belly car air freshener or something asked, apparently ‘Holley’ is the name of a car part. Again, or something. The only reason I wish people wouldn’t ask this is that the conversation about cars in general then opens up and I am as confused as well, a 21-year-old who may or may not still be on their L-plates.

I must admit however that this conversation alerted me to something that has since brought me great joy- the fact I actually share a name with something/someone. Aside from an actress who was on three episodes of Gossip Girl who I’ve been imaginary BFFs with for around five years, I’ve never encountered anyone who spells their name the same way I do. This was, until I googled “Holley car part” and discovered that there is Disney character (!!!!) named Holley, who appears in Cars 2.

The Cars franchise is arguably everyone’s least favourite Disney-Pixar creation and I probably wouldn’t even have watched it if it weren’t for this connection, but I’ll always have a soft-spot for the flick now.


3. “My cousin’s daughter’s neighbour named their kid Chocolate Muffin, what will be next?”

Believe it or not, I don’t plan on pursuing a career as a “baby name trends” psychic. I’ve had several people seem to deduce that given my extra letter, this means that I am in kahootz with each and every parent who has the desire to diverge from the baby name book. I can’t predict other peoples’ baby name choices anymore than I can predict the winner of The Bachelor.

If anything, having this additional letter has merely led me to have a heightened sense of empathy to kids who have been given a name out of their control, so please don’t expect me to join in on your rant about non cookie-cutter baby names.

4. “You’re disrespecting Christmas by spelling it that way.”

Okay, so this has only been said to me one time, but I thought it was simply so LOL-arious that I couldn’t not include it. I only wish I had taken this person’s contact details so that I could hit them up with links to purchase sexy Christmas thongs, so that we could then have a chat about what really constitutes as disrespecting Christmas.

Did someone say… Christmas? Check out the best movies to watch this Christmas to forget about how I’m disrespecting the entire holiday. Post continues after gallery.


5.”I feel sorry for you.”

The only reason you need to feel sorry for me is that I can’t get a personalised gift shop mug or novelty key ring. As much as I may joke, I’d much rather have an additional letter in my name as my talking point rather than say, a third nipple. I know that I comparatively got off pretty lightly in the name stakes with my one additional letter, so there is just as little need for you to extend your sympathies as there is for you to make snide comments.

This holiday season, I will happily answer questions as as to why I’m still single (yes, even strangers seem to have a radar for this) or why my store has magically run out of its mince pie stock (you can only buy them once a year, people, you have to stock up), but let’s leave my lil’ ol’ E alone please.


The award-winning podcast Mamamia Out Loud is doing their first live show. There will be laughs, disagreements and you can meet the hosts afterwards! We’re also donating $5 of every ticket price to Share The Dignity so grab your friends and come along to share the love and laughs, get your tickets here.

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