By the time I was born there were no names left to give out. Grandparents, great-grandparents, and even a great uncle had all been recognized. Charles, Leroy, Christopher, Lehman, John, and Glenn had all been used, and – given the rather unimaginative naming process of my forbears – there was simply no other family name to pass on. Only my sister had a totally unique name, since my parents realized that any child named Gertrude or Marillda in the late 70s and early 80s would be teased relentlessly.
Family legend says that my father wanted to name me Hey You, but my mother put an end to that idea rather quickly. What is certain is that they wanted a name no-one could shorten. People tried to call my brothers Chuck, Roy, and Chris. For a time, even m y sister was “Abe” because of her initials. Therefore, I was given the name of a letter of the alphabet: Jay. Nevertheless, I have to wonder: if my parents wanted a name that no-one could shorten, why did they name me Jay Peter? That’s just asking for people to call me J.P. You’d think that their experiences with my sister would have proven that.
Since I’m not named for anyone, I guess that means I get to choose. Over the last several years I’ve narrowed the options down to three possibilities:
Because I love history and politics, at times I’ve claimed to be named for John Jay.
Like myself, John Jay was a December baby, although he was born in 1745 and I was born in 1985. Unlike myself, Jay was born into wealth and status. Jay’s accomplishments include:
Founding Father of the United States
Member of the New York Committee of Correspondence
American Ambassador to Spain and France
Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Signer of the Treaty of Paris (ending the Revolutionary War)
Author – along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison – of the Federalist Papers
First Chief Justice of the United States
Author of the Jay Treaty, which kept America out of the Napoleonic Wars
Governor of New York (He ended slavery in the state through gradual emancipation.)
For years I was “J.P.” (a name I despise), so I could claim John Pierpont Morgan.
Morgan dominated American banking and finance in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Highlights of his life include:
Arranging the creation of General Electric (commonly called GE today)
Financing the creation of the United States Steel Corporation (receiving a shout out in Godfather Part II)
Directing the banking scheme that stopped the Panic of 1907
Leading financier of the Progressive Era
Finally, I can claim perhaps the most famous Jay of all time: Jay Gatsby
Jay Gatsby is the title character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Gatsby’s life can be summed up thusly:
Gatsby is a college dropout who falls in with a copper tycoon. Cheated out of money, Gatsby enlists in World War I, where he is decorated for valor. He then finishes his college degree; while studying, he learns that his love interest, Daisy Fay, has married the aristocratic Tom Buchanan. Gatsby determines to win her back by becoming a man of wealth and status.
Gatsby returns to an America in the midst of Prohibition, where he is able to make a fortune from bootlegging. Gatsby uses his wealth to buy a mansion and attempts to attract Daisy by hosting extravagant, weekend-long parties; eventually he succeeds in convincing Daisy to leave Tom, who is cheating on her.
Through a series of unfortunate events, Daisy kills Tom’s lover, Myrtle, with Gatsby’s car. In a rage, Tom tells Myrtle’s husband, George, where he can find the car that killed his wife. George tracks down the car, shoots Gatsby, and then kills himself. Despite his wealth and relative popularity, only two people attend Gatsby’s funeral.
If all of that is too confusing, check out this excellent infographic.
But what do you think? Who should I be named after?
This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt: Say Your Name.