The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Moniker business: More first-rate tales of unusual first names

Former Maryland governor Parris Glendening isn't named after the French city or the mythic Trojan. He owes his name to a controversial 1940 novel. (Mary F. Calvert for The Washington Post)

Monday is named after the Old English word for “moon.” Fyllis Hockman of Gaithersburg is named because of her older brother’s fun with phonics.

Fyllis’s parents wanted to give her a name beginning with an F, after her father’s mother, whose name was Fanny. Her 5-year-old brother had another idea. He suggested “Phyllis,” which sounded to him like it began with an F.

Wrote Fyllis: “My parents thought, ‘Why not?’ — and I become Phyllis with an F. Which has always been great fun — and I’ve yet to meet another.”

Playing the name game: More first-name revelations from readers

Today we’re meeting more readers who have memorable name stories. Cosette “Cozy” Nieporent Smoller of Potomac was supposed to be born on Columbus Day. And so the plan was to name her “Columbia.”

“Luckily, I arrived two days late,” wrote Cozy. “My mother needed to give me a name beginning with C, after a deceased relative. She was reading ‘Les Miserables’ at the time. Therefore, I became Cosette, but I was usually called Cozy.”

In school, boys teased her about that nickname — “Are you really Cozy?” they asked — so in junior high she decided to use her real name.

“Then the boys called me ‘Corset,’ ” she wrote. “I later became a physician and was Dr. Nieporent. However, I was often called ‘Dr. Neosporin.’ I can’t win. I’m retired now and am just Cozy again.”

What’s in a name? Readers share their first-name stories.

King Wiemann shares his first name with his father, who insisted that the tradition when he was born was to name the firstborn son with the mother’s maiden name.

“The truth is King was not his mother’s maiden name, nor was it my mother’s maiden name,” wrote King, who lives in Northern Virginia.

It was not a great name for a kid to have.

“There's no lasting legacy here,” King wrote. “He was the first and I am the last in the family tree with this name. I wouldn't wish my childhood name trauma on anyone.”

A few months after Norma and Burton Kirschner got married in September 1953, Burton — a young Air Force officer — learned he was being posted to Japan. At the time, a serviceman’s wife had to wait three years to join her husband there.

“Shortly before he was to leave, I had to have emergency surgery to have an ovary removed,” Norma wrote. “The doctors said that in about a year I would have to have the other ovary removed. That meant that we would never be able to have children as we would be separated for three years.”

After Burton arrived in Japan, he was among five lieutenants randomly picked to go to Hawaii for two months to study tropical meteorology. When the commanding officer in Hawaii, a Col. Duncan, heard about Burton and Norma’s plight, he told Burton to send for Norma.

“He gave us an apartment in the bachelor officers’ quarters,” Norma wrote. “Since I was unauthorized to be there, I had to be sort of in hiding.”

Meanwhile, Col. Duncan managed to get Burton assigned to the Philippines where spouses had to wait only four months to join their husbands. Duncan even arranged for Norma to quickly get a passport and a visa so she could join her husband on the flight to the Philippines.

Wrote Norma: “Several months after arriving in the Philippines, I became pregnant and named my son Mark Duncan Kirschner after the colonel.”

Parris Glendening always thought his curious first name looked good on his campaign posters: “Parris” written large in red and “Glendening” in small blue print. The Democrat used the design in three successful runs for Prince George’s County Executive and two for Maryland governor. How did he get that name?

In 1940, Henry Bellamann’s novel “Kings Row” was published. The 700-page book was controversial for the time, touching as it did on infidelity, homosexuality, incest and other taboo subjects — all very controversial in 1940.

“Two years later it became a very famous movie,” wrote Parris, of Annapolis. “Someone either gave my mother the book or she saw the movie about the time I was born (1942). Glendening family folklore is not clear which.”

Parris’s mother, Jean, was apparently so taken with the name of the young hero doctor, Parris Mitchell, and insisted her son be given the same moniker.

Wrote Parris: “Dr. Parris Mitchell was played in the movie by Bob Cummings. Ronald Reagan played Parris’ best friend Drake McHugh. Even though Reagan was a liberal back then I am still pleased that he did not play my namesake.

“That is how 80 years later, I am still a proud Parris with 2 R’s.”

Helping Hand

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Now we’re racing toward another holiday season and the end of another year. While I have your attention in this busy season, let me ask that you consider donating to The Washington Post Helping Hand.

Our annual reader fund drive is raising money for three worthy local charities: Bread for the City, Friendship Place and Miriam’s Kitchen. For details — and to give — please visit