Scarvey column: Who in the heck is Cheryl Miller?
Back in the day, I used to know a girl named Cheryl Miller. She lived on a farm, loved her collies and was a decent volleyball and softball player. She read a lot and played the trumpet, although she hated marching band with a white hot passion. The most unexpected thing about her was how ear-splittingly she could whistle with her fingers. She worked in a poultry plant one summer, and, rather miraculously, continued to eat turkey after that.
I still know her, actually, because sheís me.
That Cheryl Miller equals Katie Scarvey is still a surprise to some people in the Virginia town where Iím from. My old friends probably wonder if Iím in sort of witness protection program.
I envy people like Emily Ford who donít have to explain their names. Sheís had her first name and last name her whole life. Maybe she had to respond to a few questions about why she wasnít changing her name when she got married, but how hard is that? (ěUmmm…itís my name, I like it, so I think Iíll continue to walk the earth with it, if you donít mind.î)
For a lot of us, changing our last names was a shock. Going from ěMillerî to ěScarveyî was not easy.
I hadnít really considered the ramifications of being a ěScarveyî (which was Scalise before it was de-Italianized).
With a name like Scarvey, you learn to expect certain things. Like pirate references. Aaarr! Misspellings.
No one ever misspelled Miller. At the time I didnít appreciate what a gift it was to have such a run-of-the-mill name. If your name is Bob Smith or Fred Miller, think about how much time you save over a lifetime not having to spell it for people.
Because Scarvey is an unusual name, some people seem to distrust it.
ěScarvey?î they ask, as if I am putting them on. ěIíve never heard that name before,î they say, in an almost accusatory tone.
Surprisingly, many people also mispronounce it. Really, caller? You want to talk to Mrs. Scurvy? Well, sheís not here. Sheís out buying some citrus fruit.
I actually left the name Cheryl behind, though, before switching Miller for Scarvey
It was my Grandma Leota who suggested the name that appears first on my birth certificate. It was the name of one of her fourth grade students, but this Cheryl pronounced her name with a ěchî as in ěcherry.î Fortunately, my parents went with the more standard pronunciation, although my grandma would slip in the other pronunciation whenever she could.
Iím not quite sure why ó and I donít really think I want to hear what a psychoanalyst might have to say about it ó but Cheryl just never seemed to fit me well. Perhaps part of it was that in my neck of the woods, it sounded funny coming out of peopleís mouths. Instead of ěSherr-ill,î I was often ěShirl,î which always made me want to put on a poodle skirt and go to the malt shop.
Maybe other people sensed my name was a poor fit too, because I sure attracted a lot of nicknames. Some of them, like Chill Bunny, I canít begin to explain. When I spent a semester abroad some 25 years ago, somebody started calling me Bimba because of my resemblance to a pre-pubescent Italian pop singer who looked like a ěbimba,î or baby girl. That one stuck big time, and the friends Iíve kept in touch with from back then still call me Bimba, or even Bim. At least it eliminates any confusion over whether to call me Cheryl or Katie.
So hereís a quick history of the switch: When I was little, my dad often called me by a variation of my middle name, Katherine óěKatie,î or ěKaterî or ěKater-hoozitî ó thereby planting the seeds of change. Fast forward to my sophomore year in college, when I had a roommate whose name was also Cheryl. Partly to prevent confusion, I told my hallmates to call me Katie. It didnít seem that big a deal.
By the time I graduated from college, some classmates called me Cheryl, some Katie. A few called me Katie-Cheryl. The fact that my future husband was among the ěKatieî faction kind of sealed my fate ó although even he would avoid the issue by asking for ěMiss Millerî when he called me on the hall phone.
When we moved to Connecticut early in our marriage, I decided to go whole hog with the ěKatieî business, which worked mainly because no one in Hartford knew me. For that matter, I could have become ěLolitaî if Iíd wanted to.
And so I went from being one of many Cheryl Millers to (I suspect) the only Katie Scarvey in the country. If you see the name Katie Scarvey in the newspaper and sheís done a very bad thing, odds are more than good that itís me and not some other Katie Scarvey.
If I had it to do over again, Iíd probably stick to Shirl. Cheryl, I mean. Less confusion.
This shifting of names is something I have in common with my co-worker Paris Goodnight, who used to go by his middle name, Thad, but switched over to his first name in college. Paris Goodnight has to be one of the most awesome names in the history of names, especially when itís attached to a Rowan County boy and not a French courtesan.
Some people, like the former Clyde Overcash, go the diva route and ditch their last names entirely, but that doesnít really work for regular people like me.
And anyway, Cher was already taken.