I have often been asked if Curtiss Ann is my real name. Who would make up a name like that? Let me report, however, that I know of at least one other Curtis Ann (one s) in this world. Years ago she wrote to tell me of herself. Wonders never cease.
I was named Curtiss Ann, after my grandfather and grandmother, Curtis and Anna Wentworth, of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The South, where two names are considered normal, if not a requirement. Pronounced in the Southern fashion, my name is Curtissann, all slurred together and with the t touched on ever so slightly. Although if my mother is reproving me, she pronounces the t quite clearly and with a hint of genteel shock meant to shame. (It no longer does, shame me, that is.)
As a girl, I positively hated my name. It sounded coarse and boyish and painfully different. I spent hours listing far more lovely and feminine names, like Laura and Nicole, and Charlene. I insisted that I would legally change my name when I came of age. My mother’s response was to steadfastly predict that someday I would be very glad to have so unusual a name. She was right. I have grown to appreciate the uniqueness of my name, and to get used to the surprise at the doctor’s or other offices when my name is called. “But you’re a woman.” Like I did not know.
When choosing a name for a character in a story, I often go through making lists, checking the name’s meaning, listening to the sound of the name and the sense I have within of the name to express the character’s persona.
I wonder– does the name we are given at birth reflect who we already are, or aid the direction of who we are to become?
Curtis is generally listed as a boy’s name. I can report I’ve always been much a tomboy. Curtis means courteous. Certainly courtesy means a great deal to me. To the question did my mother know these two details when she named me? Absolutely not. She acted out of a young woman’s fit of sentimental emotion for the man whom she adored. She added the extra s with no knowledge of the Curtiss Candy Company at the time, but because she thought it added a feminine touch. I like to think she was guided.