Do You Know How Your Parents Chose Your Name? My Name Was Inspired by Actress Anouk Aimée

Name quest circa 2000, when I was 22 years old

Image of author Aimée Gramblin in the 1990s.
Image of the author in the early 1990s, around 13 or 14 years old. Author’s personal collection.

8.31.2000

This weekend, sitting on the new-to-us blue couch from the university, I asked my mom about my name. Later, I called my dad from our living room in Oklahoma to his home office in New Mexico. I imagined him sitting in his electric wheelchair, staring at his computer.

Always, there are at least two sides to every story.

My parents have a way of making that very clear. I have been aware of their volatile relationship since the divorce when I was four and up to the present. Now silence maintains the ever-present tension and anger.

My full name is Aimée Elizabeth Brown.

The only thing I have ever really remembered about my name is that it is French and translates to “Beloved.”

Actress Anouk Aimée
Publicity photo of Anouk Aimee for film 8 1/2 (Italian title: Otto e mezzo) (1963). Public Domain.

Sitting in a slightly warm house during a rather hot summer, my mom told me the story about my first name. When she was 17 or 18 years old, she was looking through the newspaper, and there was a forbidden movie by the standards of the late 1960s called A Man and A Woman.

Mom saw the name of the heroine, Anouk Aimée, and she knew then that Aimée would be her future daughter’s name. She didn’t even see the movie, just knew at that moment Aimée would be her daughter’s name.

She didn’t even see the movie, just knew at that moment Aimée would be her daughter’s name.

And, it was. And, is. In 1978, when my mom was 26, I, Aimée Elizabeth Brown, was born.

When I called my dad to inquire about my name, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was important to my parents that my first two names reflect my cultural heritage. So, it turned out that Aimée was given to me for my mom’s side of the family, the French-Canadian side. The family ended up migrating to Rhode Island from Quebec three generations ago.

Then, dad told me about a Jewish naming tradition he embraced. This is when you use the first initial of a beloved and deceased relative to guide you in naming your baby. In my case, my parents chose to use the first initial of my great grandma’s name, “E” to to assign my middle name.

My middle name, Elizabeth, was given to me because my dad greatly adored his grandma, Edna, my great grandmother, who passed away before I was born.

The proper way to say my name is with the French accent so that it sounds more like “emAY” than Amy, but my mom thought that would be too hard for me and my young friends to pronounce.

Throughout my life, I have tried to get people to use the French pronunciation of my name, but more often than not, this ends in ridicule. My mom, dad, and a couple of close friends use the French pronunciation sometimes, but that’s it.

My last name, Brown (maiden), is said by the Jewish side of my family is a literal translation from the word “brown” in Hebrew to the English word “brown”.

My name seems plain on the surface, but as I grow and ask more questions, I realize there are all kinds of interesting tidbits buried in my name. I think this reflects my personality as well.

When I meet people for the first time, they often decide I am a shy, reserved person, but as they get to know me, they are surprised by the interesting tidbits they find.

3.4.2022

As I finished up my undergraduate degree, I went with the French prononuciation. It was fun while it lasted.

I go by the traditional American pronunciation now. And, I got married in 2002, changing my last name to my husband’s last name.

Names are a strange thing. They define us in many ways, yet most of us are given our names before our personalities are even a tiny bit apparent.

How did you get your name? If you don’t know, ask someone who would. You might be surprised by what you find out. If you already know, ask a relative for another insight about family names.

Names are a way our parents have of gifting us our story.

So, what’s your story?

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Aimée Gramblin

Aimée Gramblin

Memoirist-in-progress with the collective awakened and awakening consciousness. Love + Courage = Love Evolution. Creativity Fiend in training.

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