Not Just Any Tom, Dick or Harry

Anomalous Appellations

Sticks and stones may break some bones, but names, the saying goes, can never hurt.

But for the dozens of Harvard students whose appellations are a little out of the ordinary, having an unusual name can cause some unexpected problems.

Take Yellow Light Breen '93, whose name comes from a poem his parents wrote to celebrate his birth. Breen--who "just goes by Yellow"--says that the lack of color in the typical Harvard name makes it extremely hard to remember.

Breen says he feels uncomfortable when he can't recollect the names of new acquaintances. Conversely, he says, almost no one forgets who he is.

"I'm the guy with the weird name," Breen explains.


He isn't the only one. Students who push the limits of traditional nomenclature abound on the Harvard campus, and many of them say have to deal with name-related problems on a daily basis.

"Everyone always remembers me, so I feel like I have to do something memorable to go with my name," says Unity Star Johnson '94.

"When I was growing up, everyone in my community knew my name," Caraway Seed '93 says. "Sometimes it's a little disconcerting because a lot of people at Harvard have never met me, but know my name," she added.

"I feel like I'm always noticed because of my name...I want people to know me for who I am," she says.

Seed says her name was chosen by her father, who as a child was often asked "What kind of Seed are you?" In order to save his children from a similar fate, he decided to name three of them after plants: Caraway, Cotton and Huckleberry.

"I guess they just wanted to be interesting," Seed says.

Other parents relied on their sociopolitical leanings in selecting names for their offspring. Johnson describes her parents as "hippies," saying that they named her "Unity" because they were convinced she would be an only child.

"They wanted to get across the idea of oneness," she explains.

Still other parents drew from the world of popular cuilture when choosing names. Essence R. McGill '94 says she was named after Essence magazine--at least according to one version of a family legend.

Not all unusual names are the product of over-experimental parents, however. Season Zeugma Natema Drives-a-truck Ray '94 says her birth certificate gives her name as a simple Season Natema Ray.