What’s in a name?

Me and dad

Today in Writing 220, Kelli shared her e-portfolio with that class. Immediately the title “Kelli not Kelly” jumped out at me. It was original and fun and said something about her as a person. When I commented on this, Kelli jumped right into talking about how people spell her name with a y, even after she specifically tells them that she spells it with an i. As soon as Kelli mentioned this, lots of other people in the class started to chime in. Apparently Kelli’s saga is one that many members of our class are familiar with. The whole conversation got me thinking about names. While the story behind my frustration with my name isn’t the same as Kelli’s, I can definitely relate to her struggle.

I was born two months premature. Seven months into her pregnancy, my mom got sick, and after a plethora of tests and a long period of deliberation, the doctor’s decided it was time for a c-section. However, babies aren’t meant to be delivered so early. The doctors had given my parents a long list of medical conditions that they should be prepared to face once I was born, and my parents were ready for the worst. But, incredibly, aside from some very underdeveloped lungs, which are expected of any preemie, I was relatively healthy. My parents are eternally grateful to the entire staff that helped deliver their baby.

The doctors and nurses who had been following my mom’s case for weeks had grown very attached to the baby inside her. So when I was born, they asked my parents what they were going to name me, and my mom said Matilda. That’s where the sappy, cute, baby story ends. The nurses told my mother that she couldn’t name a baby girl that. My mom, understanding both that these people had essentially saved her (and my) life, and that in the weeks ahead they would provide me with 24/7 care in the NICU, she asked them what they wanted to name the baby. And they said Emily. So that was the name my parents gave me: Emily Matilda David.

But once I reached four pounds, and had lungs capable of functioning on their own, I was allowed to leave the NICU. My mom took me home, and never called me Emily again.

While that might seem like a long story, it’s the one that I have to tell every time someone asks why I don’t go by Emily. People always want to know why I chose to go by Matilda, but the truth is, I never really had a choice. I’ve been Matilda for as long as I can remember. When people hear that my parents have always called me Matilda, they inevitably want to know why my parents named me Emily to begin with. It must be a family name, they guess. And that’s where the story comes in.

I used to resent my parents for this decision. I actually cannot remember one time when either of my parents have used the name Emily. In fact, they both dislike it when I use it. Maybe they don’t like to think all that time spent in the hospital. But then why name me Emily in the first place? It causes a headache when I go into the doctor’s office and they’re searching for my records, when I send emails from my umich account, or when I show up to the first day of class. I’ve thought about getting my name legally changed plenty of times.

However, over the years, I come to appreciate both of my names. Matilda is name that my parents gave me, and, despite the fact it’s a little old fashioned, I like that I have a name that you don’t hear every day. And even though I only use Emily when I’m filling out official paperwork, visiting the dentist, or ordering a drink at Starbucks (because it’s much easier to spell), the name reminds be to be grateful for the life that I have, and the people who have given so much to me.

What frustrates you most about your name? How did your parents come up with your name? What would you have been named if you were the opposite sex (If I were I boy I’d be named Woody)?

Writing and Basketball


I don’t follow college basketball during the regular season. I’m not a huge basketball fan. I can’t name many players, or recite facts of the top of my head. My dad calls weekly and gives me an update about recent games he has seen. I don’t claim to be an expert. I will, however, tune in when our beloved Wolverines take the court, and maybe even when my hometown favorites—Temple, Nova, and La Salle suit up. But I hardly follow religiously.

However, when March roles around, I invest myself in the Big Dance. I wait eagerly for Selection Sunday. I start paying attention. I read up on teams. I spend time carefully crafting my bracket, think long and hard about which pools to enter, and form fierce loyalties with teams that I’ve never even seen play once.

I used to think that I loved the tournament  because I love the competition. I played sports through high school. I cared more than I should have about my private-school-league playoff games. I still get a little too invested in my Intramural teams at Michigan. I just figured this is why I loved March Madness.

But last night, as I watched Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown in round one, I realized that the reason I love March Madness is for the same reason that I love writing. It’s about the story.  For the seventh time since the tournament began, a number fifteen seed upset a number two seed. And it wasn’t just any number two seed, it was Georgetown, a school that has been branded a basketball powerhouse, and has relied much on that reputation (despite the fact they haven’t made it out of round one in three years).

For most March Madness followers (brackets aside), it was nice to see Georgetown lose. And then there is Florida Gulf Coast, a team you might not have even heard of until yesterday. They university was founded in 1997. They only built their basketball stadium seven years ago. This is there first trip to the tournament. With their win yesterday, they because a perfect Cinderella team. David beat Goliath. Basketball fans can’t help but root for the Eagles—even if it screws over their bracket. That’s what I love about the NCAA tournament. Every year, there is team like Florida Gulf Coast that reminds me of all the important elements of a good story—pathos, suspense, surprise, and excitement. Any other March Madness followers out there?

Springs on Springs on Springs

Looks a lot like my notecard from Physics 135

When most people hear the word spring, they think about flowers blooming and birds chirping. However, over the past two semesters, we’ve become conditioned to think of something else. In our minds, we hear the word spring and we wonder what the constant k is, and how large the mass is hanging at one end. We ask ourselves at what natural frequency does it oscillate, and whether or not it is damped (is it over or underdamped?!). And you might think that we’re kidding in our title, but we’ve seen problems with springs on springs on springs. We’ve taken physics together since September. Five days a week. McKay, Zochowski, and Tomasch, whether we liked it or not, whether we understood it or not, have inelastically collided physics into our brains. We weren’t physics people. Math wasn’t our thing (and judging by our scores on exam one, it still might not be). But when we hear the word spring, we pull out our pencils, pull Hooke’s law from a distant corner of our brain, and start calculating. Maybe, once spring is over, and summer arrives, we’ll be able to think about something other than physics.

In physics love,

Matilda and Melissa


When Kelsey first proposed “nincompoop” as the Wednesday word, I was a bit taken aback. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard someone use that word—it sounded so foreign! But as the week progressed, I found myself using it in conversation (much to the surprise of my unsuspecting friends). After a few days of throwing the word around in casual conversation, I decided to do a little research into it’s origin. I needed only to click around on the internet for a few minutes to realize that there isn’t one hard or fast conclusion about where the word came from. In fact, it seems as though every etymology-obsessed blogger has a different answer.

Before delving into a history lesson, we’ll cover the definition and current usage of the word. Merriam Webster defines nincompoop as a “fool, simpleton.” Urban dictionary defines a nincompoop as “a silly, no brain, fool.” On a side note, I also learned from that nincompoopery is a word too—try working that one into conversation this week!

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, we can move on to the more interesting stuff. Some say that nincompoop has its origins in latin (shout out to all you latin scholars) and the phrase “non compos mentis” which translates to “not of sound mind”. Others claim that the word comes from French, and was derived from the phrase “ne comprend pas,” meaning he does not understand. A third theory is that the word actually comes from the dutch phrase  “nicht om poep”  which translates to “the female relative of a fool”.

Another common argument is that the the word is tied to biblical roots. The word sounds strikingly similar to the name of a biblical character, Nicodemus, who naively questions Jesus Christ in the gospel.

From what I gather from my cursory internet search, there has been hot debate over the true etymology of the word since in first came into usage in the late 1600’s. Today, the debate rages on, and the truth about the origin of the word remains largely uncertain. However, there is a growing school of scholars who believe that the word may simply be an invented word– in essence, a combination of silly sounds and parts of words thrown together. Still, the stories make for an interesting google search. So next time you’re stuck in an awkward dinner table conversation (and you’ve already discussed the weather), ask people if they know where the word “nincompoop” comes from. Try tossing out some of these theories- or even invent your own!