What’s in a Name?

My oldest brother Carlton was born in 1946 (we call him Hans), Richard in 1947 (we call him Dickie), Marilyn in 1954 (they call me Mia), and Janet in 1955 (we call her Holly.) Solveig came along in 1962 (we call her Solveig.)

As crazy as all that seems, I don’t think we ever asked our folks why they gave us one name and called us by another. I guess Richard makes sense; the common nickname is Dick. They called my oldest brother, Carlton, by the name of Hans, which is the first name of my paternal grandfather Melvin Huseth’s father. Hans Huset was the first from our family to venture from Norway to Minnesota in 1868 at the age of 20. And get this! They called him Fye!! Confused yet? Read on. Holly’s middle name is Holly because she was nearly a Christmas baby, born in the middle of December. Janet is Holly’s first name. Our folks always joked that they brought her home from the hospital in a shoe box because she was sooo tiny. We grew up thinking that Solveig means “sunny way” or “sunny path” in Norwegian, but I recently read this: “The name Solveig is a girl’s name of Scandinavian origin meaning “the strong house or daughter of the sun.” Common in Scandinavia, this name has rarely come to our shores. The name of the heroine in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, Solveig is currently a widely-used name in Norway.” Our Solveig is truly a daughter of Light with her always sunny disposition and she most definitely runs a strong household!

My given maiden name is Marilyn Gloria Huseth. My mother, Darlene, and her sister, Gloria, both had baby girls in 1954. Gloria named her daughter Virginia Darlene and my mom named me Marilyn Gloria; that way each baby girl had her mother’s sister’s first name as her middle name. Really confused yet? Read on.

What was the leap from Marilyn to Mia? My Grandpa Tody was a big kidder and he would tease me by calling me MiyaLynn (heavy on the strong Norwegian accent.) Later the family shortened it to Miya. I don’t remember knowing my given name until I heard it on the first day of school roll call. I changed the spelling from Miya to Mia when we moved to the Cities before sixth grade, in an attempt to be more cosmopolitan and less country. I often wish I had left the spelling as Miya, so people would stop calling me Mea!

[Update: I sent this essay to my brother who was 7 years old the June I was born and he offered the following insight. “Grandpa Tody was indeed a big kidder, but Mia, you named herself. When you were first learning to speak and were unable to pronounce the ‘r’ sound when people would ask your name, Marilyn didn’t come out sounding like Marilyn; it sounded more like MiyaLynn. So Grandpa, the big kidder he was, began to make fun of how you couldn’t pronounce your name. He would tease you and tease you. And laugh and laugh. At the time, we didn’t know what bullying was, but I feel like his ridicule would meet today’s bullying standard. Anyway, you quickly learned that to avoid his teasing, it was just easier to answer “Miya” when asked your name. Soon the rest of the family followed your lead. And that was that.]

So to answer the question, I actually do not know why my parents chose Marilyn as my first name. There are no Marilyns in my extended family that I know of, no one named Marilyn in our ancestral family tree. There was, however, one legendary celebrity dominating world media in 1954, the year I was born. She was a curvy pretty blonde actress in her late 20s, also a June baby. Her name was Norma Jeane Mortenson. But the world calls her Marilyn.

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