A week ago I changed my name by deed poll. It is something I have been thinking about doing for many years and now finally I have taken the plunge. In the UK it is ridiculously easy to change one’s name, you don’t have to go through any legal process, you don’t need a solicitor, there is no legal form to fill in – you simply just have to start calling yourself by that new name. To make it more official you can draw up a deed poll document stating that you have given up using your old name and henceforth wish to be known by your new name. Over 85,000 people in the UK changed their name by deed poll in 2016 and that number rises with each passing year. There are many and varied reasons for people changing their names, the list of the rich and famous who have ditched monikers like Archibald Leach, Marion Robert Morrison or Norma Jean Baker is endless, but it is not merely their preserve, each and every one of us has the right to change their name, if they so desire.
I spent the first 53 years of my life being Janis Denise. Janis is my mother’s Christian name and, with no disrespect to my parents at all, despite being very intelligent, well-read people, their imaginations only extend as far as naming me after my mother. Now I know that this was once common practice, to name one’s first born in honour of the mother or father but in practice it leads to years of confusion and problems. My mother, I believe, is content with her name – I, however, never have been. I have been very unhappy with my given name since the earliest I can remember; Janis never excited my romantic sensibilities. Some have suggested that Jane could have been a worse name to be saddled with, but I would contest that at least with a name like Jane you stand a chance of finding a pencil, mug or door plaque with your name on it. You can’t shorten Jane either, more often than not my name was shortened to Jan, which I equally loathed, and then there was the spelling…53 years of telling people I am not ‘nice’ I am ‘is’. To be given a first name that you really dislike is akin to the sound of fingernails scraping down a blackboard every time someone calls you by it, the Spanish actually have a word for that awful feeling “grima”. For me, my former Christian name was that bad.
A dislike of one’s given name can cause a whole raft of self-negativity and issues, and often nicknames will serve to lessen the discomfort one has with one’s name. For me, my maiden name of Pegrum delivered the obvious sobriquet of Peggy and was often used by my peers at school. My husband has always known my dislike of my name and so has, since the earliest days of our relationship, called me Peggy, which he developed into his “Peggy Precious” – and our close friends also took to calling me Peggy, to the extent that in recent years I have associated my being far more with Peggy P than Janis D and I could have left it there I suppose, but as the years have passed I have found the gulf between me as Janis D and me as Peggy P widening, to the extent that Janis D is fairly much a pseudonym reserved for official documents. It has been difficult when meeting new people, as on one hand I want to introduce myself as Peggy, but on the other I feel like a fraud, and find myself stumbling through an explanation that always leaves me sounding half mad! So, to solve this dilemma I took the decision to rename myself officially. From the 4th of August 2019 I chose to be known as Peggy-Dorothea Precious. The Dorothea bit was a last minute addition, a derivation of my grandmother’s name, Dorothy – I just felt that it added something to the Peggy, and if I was going to do this I may as well pick something a bit original and pretty, well I think it is a pretty name. My husband insisted that I keep Precious as a middle name, not because he has a thing about 60s South-African weightlifters, but because he wanted me to never again forget my worth in life. I am now in the process of getting all my official documents changed but it is worth every bit of hassle that entails. I wake every morning and smile when I think of my new name, it is a very alien feeling to me, liking my own name, and I was wholly unprepared how different it would make me feel. Although I did not change it for any other reason than I disliked my old name, I have found that it has also released me mentally from a lot of old baggage in my life, and enriched my sense of worth and purpose hugely. It has already proved completely life changing in the way I feel within and about myself. I have been overwhelmed by the huge support for my decision from family and friends, my mum has shown her approval by having a mug made with my name on it and my lovely husband had a necklace made for me. In hindsight, I should have done this many years ago, but then, as we all know, hindsight is a very wonderful thing, all I know is I am very much looking forward to a bright and happy future as Peggy-Dorothea Precious Smith.
For further information on changing your name in the UK please go to https://www.gov.uk/change-name-deed-poll