What’s in a Name?

I like to start the summer reading a great book that I’ve been saving for a special occasion. It was my treat for having finished the school year and turned in the grades on time. I have been retired now for over ten years and I still do it. It used to be some book by Almudena Grandes, such a prolific writer, but she died three years ago and I’m all caught up. One of my favorite authors now is Sergio del Molino and I’m devouring Los alemanes, his latest novel. (The Germans. See my blog “Found in Translation”). According to him this book deals with two of his reoccurring themes: uprooting and identity. No wonder I like his work!

I do wonder what our names throughout life say about us. My birth certificate says that I am Concepción Alborg Carles, as does my Spanish passport, but following the religious calendar and the Spanish tradition of inheriting both of our parents last names it should say María de la Inmaculada Concepción Alborg Carles Escartí Abelló, a mouth full indeed. My grandfather was convinced that I would be named after my grandmother and I have a silver baby cup engraved with “Conchín Agustina” to prove it.

Concha or Conchita is the standard nick name for Concepción and in my case, it was also my mother’s name, another old Spanish practice. Growing up in Valencia I was Conchín, the diminutive of the diminutive Conchita or simply, “la nena,” the little girl. It seems that I already had a sweet tooth then and my family called me “la Melengues,” a child’s pronunciation of miss Meringue. Luckily when I started school in Madrid, I became Conchita, a more grown-up version suited for the capital.

My last name Alborg has its own history. It used to be Alborch, from the Arabic the tower, but my paternal grandfather changed it to the more European sounding name to go with his cheese import and export business. I will leave the consequences of having my illustrious father’s last name for another occasion.

When I married into an American family, unbeknownst to me, I became Mrs. John Day, Jr. Who in the hell was that? I got into trouble using Concepcion Day when I took my driver’s test, particularly since I was nine months pregnant. “Quit kidding” said the North Carolina policeman.   I fixed it by using Conchita Alborg Day through graduate school and the beginning of my academic career.

After I divorced and became a US citizen, I officially changed my name to Concha Alborg, no middle name, no husband’s name, full stop. My mother was also Concha by then, thus I was ready to take over her mature name, another traditional Spanish custom, when she died much too young. My daughters have two names for me; I am Mama for my oldest and Mom for Jane. The grandchildren call me Mare, mother in Valencian. I could never be Abuelita, since my father, Abuelito, had a very long life and Abuelita rightfully belonged only to my mother.

Professionally I was Dr. Alborg, nice and easy, with the added plus of a European sounding last name (until I opened my mouth, that is). Although the doctor title could also get me into trouble. Such as the time when I was at a Julio Iglesias concert at the Mann Music Center acting like a crazy Spaniard and two Saint Joseph’s students were behind me, witnessing how silly Dr. Alborg could act.

Once I retired, I dropped the doctor all together and I am known as Miss Concha in my building. Well, one doorman calls me Doc. Once in a while I get mail addressed to Conchita or Concha Segal, a name I never used and I promptly throw it away, I don’t want any ghosts from the past appearing.

3 Responses to What’s in a Name?

  1. conchaalborg says:

    Love this! Especially the ending! Randi

    Thanks so much, Randi for being such a faithful reader! Concha

  2. conchaalborg says:

    Hi Concha,
    Just read your recent column. What’s in a name? Well, plenty where yours is concerned. So many variations over the years and the moves and the roles. Needless to say, this reader is eager to learn the drama behind your Dad’s name! Virginia

    Thanks, Ginger (now that I know another version of our name). Will tell you personally that part of the story, Concha

  3. conchaalborg says:

    Concha, muy a propósito tu ensayo. Cuéntamelo a mí que pasé abruptamente de ser María Cristina a ser María a secas cuando nos mudamos a Miami. Y luego de ser Titi de la Torre a Cristina Woodhouse. Finalmente logré recuperarme en Cristina de la Torre, el último avatar que sigo puliendo y descubriendo al mismo tiempo. Sin duda, los nombres nos impactan y definen.
    Y gracias por la recomendación de Sergio del Molino. No lo conozco pues como ya te he comentado, estoy muy desconectada de la actualidad literaria y leo sin ton ni son. Principalmente el NYT me toma todo el tiempo disponible. Y siguiendo el tema, (acaso lo trata el libro) mira a los alemanes con tantos nombres: deutsch, germans, alemanes, teutones…
    Abrazo, Cristina

    Siempre tienes razón, Cristina. Yo creo que los inmigrantes sufren mucho con las diversas identidades que cada uno se inventa por necesidad.
    Abrazos, Concha

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