Yes, Curtiss Ann is my Real Name

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.

4 thoughts on “Yes, Curtiss Ann is my Real Name

  1. Very good question, Curtiss Ann! My friend recently changed her name(she’s 26) because she has struggled with an identity crisis for most of her life. She was adopted as an infant from India and her parents, very, very Anglo, named her “Martha”(good Biblical name!) Well our Martha has just changed her name to “Madhu”, which is an Indian name. We still call her Martha because that is how I know her. She also recently moved to Boston where I think she introduces herself as “Madhu”. Ironically, I was going over all of this in my mind yesterday and thought that the name-thing is more of a crutch for her, because in the end, I don’t think it is going to “fix” things for her. And it is our parent’s honor to give us our name and if we could accept that, knowing it is a gift from them, then we don’t attach the same kind of importance to it, which can also turn things around.
    What a nice post and I wondered at the root of your name, also. So I am grateful that you have shared your story. I love it!


    • I think it is brave and wonderful of your friend to try a name change. We just never know what may work out for us. I was surprised many years ago to know that Maya Angelou’s name was actually Marguerite, or possibly Margaret. She writes what is described as autobiographical fiction and writes much about identity. Well, don’t we all? Thanks for the point about our names being a gift. That touches me.



  2. Same story here. My mother took my dad’s name, Nolan and split it up into Nola Ann. As a child I disliked the name because I could never find anything (keychain, bicycle license plate, etc…) with my name on it. Now I wouldn’t change it for the world. What an honor to be named after the wonderful man I called Dad.


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