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Life & Events > What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

I was born with a Greek name. The closest English spelling is Hareikleia Triantafilopoulou. Poulou is the feminine ending. The masculine ending is poulos. When my sis and I were enrolled in school, the family had to come up with names people could pronounce. The family name by then had been shortened to Fellas, taken from the middle of the Greek name. Don’t ask how they came up with that. Cousins of my dad’s had gone one step further and re-named themselves Phillips. Talk about sounding mainstream.

My sister was named Panayiota. Often this name is used with a diminutive – Panayiotula. The accent is on the u. On her enrollment into kindergarten, she became Tula Fellas. Incidentally, the masculine version is Panayioti, and this is always Americanized to Peter, so I guess she dodged a bullet there. My name was cannibalized and I became Harriet Fellas. At least people could pronounce these names. As a young child, also, I had a nickname. Tula, whom I called Toops, couldn’t pronounce Hareikleia, and glopped it together into Kika. I’m kind of sorry I didn’t keep that because my adult self likes it better than Harriet.

When I was 24, I married L. Jerome Stanton, who was 45. As I type this name, a barrage of memories overwhelms me. He was known as Jay because once he worked with two other Jerries, and the solution was to rename two of them. From them on, he was Jay. He didn’t like his first name, which he shortened to Lee, but never used.

When we married, I became Harriet Stanton. How very American, I thought. When Ed and I married, I added my new last name with a hyphen. Many of my records remain unchanged because, besides the sentimentality of keeping the name, it was just good sense. Changing records like that in later life is a nightmare. And when I get solicitations from agencies pretending to be with Medicare, if they call me by Ed’s last name, I know they’re scamming.

I became the person my last name said I was because in many ways, I absorbed Jay’s nature. If you are curious about how he was seen by others, Google “Frederik Pohl: The Man Who Gave Me His Wife”. The wife Fred refers to was Carol, to whom Jay was married before I met him. Don’t be misled by Fred’s essay, however. Jay’s generosity was not all just altruism. I am reminded of the comic who used to say “Take my wife … please.” Jay’s generosity was that he refused to reject Carol, who had deep emotional damage. He preferred that the end be her decision. Also, she was pregnant at the time, so Fred married her and raised Karen, Jay’s child. (I’ve been looking for Karen for years. She has disappeared.) Parenthetically, Fred refers to Judy, his wife at the time. She was the sci fi writer Judith Merril, whose own career was impressive as detailed in her Wiki page. (I thought she was kind of mean-spirited … to me, anyway.) Several sci fi people and fans comment at the end of the essay. One of them Michael Cassutt, a Hollywood writer, asks Fred what happened to Jay. I found his e mail and wrote him and we carried on a correspondence and are now connected on Twitter. Most of Jay’s contemporaries whom I met, some of whom I cared about, are gone now, so it is nice to connect with the younger ones who still remember him.

Anyway, with jay’s loving mentoring, I became who I am now, a pretty good sort with a great name.

posted on Mar 30, 2017 10:34 AM ()

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