I’m cleaning house and ran across some old essays. I’ll post them on here just for fun (and for my kids).
By Jacque White Kochak
This essay was first published in The Auburn Villager
It’s happened again. I’ve been referred to as “Mr. Kochak.”
I don’t have anything against men. Really I don’t—but I am definitely of the female persuasion. Let me explain. But where to begin? At the beginning, I guess.
My given name at birth was Jacqueline Lee White. I was named after my father, Jackie Lee White. He was named after his father, Jack White.
You may note that we’re not very creative with names in my family. In fact, I’ve definitely traced my ancestry back to about 1760. Patrick White begot James White, who begot Patrick White, who begot James White, who begot Patrick White. The photo above is one of those Patrick Whites (my great grandfather) and his wife, Minnie Boyd White.
Then, for some reason, Jack makes an appearance, followed by Jackie and Jacqueline. I couldn’t possibly be known as “Jackie Lee,” now could I? I would have been confused with my father. Therefore, somebody got creative and spelled my name “Jacque.” That’s where the trouble started. Add an “s” to Jacque and you’ve got Jacques, a perfectly respectable name for a French male—which I am not.
I’ve been known as Jacque—Jack-ee—all my life. I don’t like to be called Jacqueline, because it sounds pompous.
When I started writing, however, I soon found that if I used Jacque as my byline, I got letters addressed to “Mr. Kochak.” I quickly adopted the byline “Jacqueline Kochak,” so people would know a woman penned the brilliant tracts I regularly produced. A little feminist feeling there, I guess.
When I wrote for a national publication it didn’t matter much, because I didn’t run into my readers on the street. When I started writing locally, however, I cringed every time someone addressed me with that cumbersome, haughty first name. “Just Jack-ee,” I usually replied.
When I started writing for The Villager, I cast caution to the wind. I know everyone anyway, don’t I? Guess not.
I find names fascinating. When I started studying genealogy, I found names are almost like DNA markers, passed down from generation to generation. In the past, they have taken on almost mystical importance, honoring those who have passed.
In Scots, Irish and English tradition, the eldest son was usually named for the father’s father, and the next eldest son for the mother’s father. The third son was named for the father, and on down the line until all the father’s brothers were included. Female names followed the same pattern.
In recent times, of course, we’ve abandoned that pattern in favor of the nom du jour. My parents were no different. As the oldest daughter I really should have been named Melva, you know.
That brings me back to all those Patricks. There are still Patricks in the White family, my cousin and nephew included. When my cousin was born, my grandmother told my uncle (Joe Pat, by the way), “You have to name him Patrick, because there has always been a Patrick in the White family.”
Turns out she was right. The first Patrick White appears in Virginia records in 1653, and his name is commemorated through generation after generation, some far removed from me. I discovered a long-lost cousin in Texas named Patrick White, and his line branched off in the 1850s.
The point? I don’t have one, really. Just call me “Jack-ee,” please!