“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”
(Juliet, II.ii, Romeo and Juliet)
Counter to our dear Juliet’s philosophies, I argue that I would not be as sweet if I were to be called something other than Pamela Hunnisett. Our name is the first mark of our identity, the mark of our existence for a brief span of space and time whilst on this earth. I believe there is a metaphysical alchemy of fate when naming a person, and it is fascinating to consider the importance of how the symbolic meaning of one’s name can become inextricably intertwined with one’s identity.
To say that my mother toiled and sweated over the rhythms, rhymes, diminutives, and symbolism of my naming would be a fallacy! But something in the stars on that quiet night of May 7, 1971 whispered to my mother my name, Pamela. A name that by Northern Ontario standards was “unique”. The sound of my name attracted my mother, and that eve when my parents bestowed it on me, she set into motion the fates of my existence.
In an age where many Canadian girls were called Jennifer, Lisa, Tracy, Vicky, Tammy, and Susan – Pamela was archaically British and profound with unbecoming airs. So, as a child, I carried the name Pamela as a burden of being different, a bit of an outcast. Most called me Pam, some Pammy, as is the fashion in Canada, and these shorter forms increased my popularity and suitability among my peers. However, privately, I have always preferred Pamela – as does my mother. Preferring the uncool has been the story of my existence. I have the means (as in using the name Pam) to have one foot with the “inner” crowd, but I always prefer to be just outside the inner ring, looking in as an observer. My heart remains in the preferred solitude with Pamela.
Yet, the symbolic meaning of my name has carved its-self into my personality blessing me with a sweetness of nature that draws people to me for kind, loving friendship and counsel. Unknown to my mother at the time of my birth, my name is said to mean “sweet as honey” or “all honey”. It is a name that is a poetic invention by a poet Sir Philip Sidney in the 16th Century, for his heroine in the book Arcadia; he created the name to symbolically represent the character’s sweetness of nature, so he took the Greek words pan (meaning “all”) and meli (meaning “honey”). Come the 18th Century Samuel Richardson published a novel titled Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. Therefore, although I might be inclined towards solitude, I get on well with people as I’m generally amicable and considered to be a sweet, reliable, and loving friend – as are my literary namesakes.
Although my mother did not know the meaning of Pamela, nor the literary history of Pamela, she did know the meanings of my middle names: Jane, which means “a gift from God” combined with Marie that carries the grief of meaning “bitter”, as in Jane-Marie; I came into the world bitterly as a gift from god. Perhaps that is the truth behind the reality of being an “oops” baby when my parents were young newlyweds and unprepared to yet have a child. Those secondary names were given to me in homage to my great-grandmother Jane (my father’s grandmother), and my dear Grandma Kelly’s name Marie (my mother’s mom). In true sweetness, my mother named me to make both sides of the family happy. And by giving me those names, it fated my relationship to my dear Grandma Kelly who loved and adored me as her namesake, and nurtured so much of my nature and love for literature. However, it was also the fortuitousness of fate that predominated those designs with Pamela – “sweet as honey”! Thus, my name is blessed in paradox – much like my personality and life.
Again, in the naming of names, my life is filled with irony when also considering my last name – Hunnisett – yes, that is right – as in HONEY-SETT! Silly in so many ways to be “Sweet as Honey” Hunnisett. This makes me laugh, and I love the ridiculous in life, so I love that my name is hilarious! But that also owes a responsibility to be that kind of person who deserves such a name. When I first read Roald Dahl’s Matilda when babysitting I thought that Miss Honey was the sweetest teacher ever! What a lot of responsibility I realized that my name carried! I did have aspirations to teach, so I took on the characterization of Miss Honey with great seriousness; I too would love kids and save them! Soon enough as I began teaching teenagers in 1998, they quickly called me Ms. Hunni! I cherish that identity, of being that kind of entity for my students throughout the years.
When it came time to marry a handsome Latin Argentinian with the lovely last name Rios, I had no intention of rebranding myself, nor did he have any expectations that I should. Now, don’t get me wrong, Pamela Rios has a sophisticated sexiness to it – a name one should aspire to have! But it is not who I am! Such a name would just not be as sweet, sexy – yes, but not so sweet!
So, it is and so it remains that my name is Pamela (sweet as honey) Jane-Marie (gift of god, bitterness) Hunnisett (a British surname). Let’s just say that the Urban Dictionary says that “hunni” means “a name you call your good friend”.
Who I am is completely rapt within the denotations and connotations of all my names – whether that is by my fate or by my design, I do not really know. But I do believe that if I had any other names I would not be nearly so sweet!