Friday, July 31, 2015

What To Expect When Your Name Is Josiah

Josiah. That's my name... I'd say "don't wear it out!", but I doubt overuse has ever been a concern with the name Josiah. I've only met a handful of folks in my life who have shared it, and every time I do there's certain moment of mutual understanding passed between us. It's not a very common moniker.

But I like it. It sets me apart from the crowd, makes my miniscule existence in this colossal universe just a scosche more special. It's not without its difficulties, though. In fact, there's a list of common hurdles I've run into ever since I was born, and I've subconsciously compiled it over the years. Are they really just minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things? Yes. Should I have gotten over them a long time ago? Sure. But this is my blog, so shut up and read. What to expect when your name is Josiah:

1. You will be spelling your name out every time you give it. And you get used to it pretty early on. Confirming your identity to a call center or tech support? J-O-S-I-A-H. Requesting a table at a restaurant? J-O-S-I-A-H. Sometimes it's best just to push someone else in your party - one with a more common name - up to the hostess stand.

Unless they are somehow familiar with it already, expecting a stranger to construct it on their own is asking for disaster. And even spelling it for them doesn't guarantee accuracy. I once put in an order at Wingstop, spelled it out as usual, and when I picked it up it had "JOESADA" written in sharpie on the bag. Think about what must have been going through their mind to have written Joesada. Unless they were just trolling, that's a special kind of special to come up with that.

And if they can't spell it right when they hear it, they definitely won't say it right when they see it. So...

2. Prepare to be called Joshua. A lot. Like, EVERY TIME YOU MEET SOMEONE NEW. Sometimes, even after you've met them months (or even years) ago. Yes, seriously. And that substitute teacher taking roll? You'll know when to raise your hand.

I don't know how they get Joshua, when Josiah has no "u", and there's two damn letters separating "s" and "h". And their brain must be telling them the "i" is silent. I understand they may have never heard it before, but do people just blurt out whatever comes to mind when encountering an unfamiliar combination of letters? Can't they stop and get Hooked on Phonics for just a second? Some do at least attempt correct pronunciation, though. I often find when I'm on a call with a stranger, who sounds foreign to the U.S., they often pronounce it "Jah-SEE-uh". You get an A for effort.

And occasionally, you'll get some more creative substitutes than Joshua. During a months-long teen mission trip to Greece, I had an elderly team leader that couldn't get my name right the whole summer. He called me Joshua, Isaiah, Joel, Ezekiel... and his number one offender, "Joaz". So much Joaz. I guess since it was a mission trip, he was going with the Biblical names. And speaking of which...

3. Thou shalt receive extra attention from Evangelicals. Introduce yourself to an elderly man with a suit and a southern drawl, or a church lady wearing her Sunday best, and the eyebrow-raising will ensue.

"Josiah, huh? That's a good name. Good Bible name..."

Look, I get it. I've grown up in church my whole life. I'm still there (literally) every Sunday, attending service and volunteering in the children's section. I am completely up to speed on the good Hebrew King Josiah. Sometimes, to nip the inevitable conversational direction in the bud, I'll throw down the facts (King of the southern kingdom of Judah at 8 years old, recovered the Book of the Law, stories found in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles) rapid fire, just to get it out of the way.

I appreciate your knowledge of and devotion for the scriptures, but someone called Josiah will almost certainly be aware of their name's origin. I don't need the Sunday School lesson all over again, thank you.

4. If another Josiah is in the vicinity, and their name is called, your head WILL turn. It will be unstoppable. There is nothing you can do. No matter how hard you try, even if you have etched in your brain that another rare Josiah is on the scene, all attempts their companions make to get their attention will get yours as well. Spend your entire life with a name almost no one else has, and any time someone says it, they must be referring to you, right? Even from across the room, your syllables whispered from one person to another are unmistakable. You have been conditioned to detect and respond to all utterances of the name.

It's usually out in public, when a parent has a child bearing your name, and keeps getting after them to behave. "Josiah, come here!" "Josiah, put that down!" "You're in trouble when we get home, Josiah!" And here I am, a grown-ass man, subconsciously taking in all this parental scolding, applying it to my inner child. Burying it in my psyche.

But I suppose that means more and more parents are naming their child Josiah, making it more common. Part of that gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Perhaps the recent popularity of the name will someday make this list obsolete for future Josiahs, and will fall among the ranks of the Bills, the Pauls, the Georges. They won't have to spell it out anymore, or endure another all-too-familiar Bible story.

But part of that makes me a little sad. I'll miss being a special snowflake, one of only a few. I started a new job a few months ago, and there was already a Josiah there. I was nothing new to them. No one even called me Joshua, not once. What the hell? I guess I'll just have to settle for the uniqueness of my last name, and the constant chuckling of dirty old men when they ask, "You related to Kate Upton? Can you introduce me?!?!"

Bonus: It only happened once, but I had someone who saw my name ask if I was Amish. In their defense, I kinda had a chinstrap beard thing going on back then. But I was also using a computer at the time, the epitome of the technology that Amish abstain from, so... yeah. That was fun.