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July 27, 2007 | 3 Comments

I have to say you are the only person I am aware of with such a first
name. And a fine, noble moniker it is. Did your parents have a particular reason
for choosing it?

My son's middle name is Garrison, being a twist on the term, "Gary's son."



I'm afraid there are a number of other Garrisons running around, most of them under 15, who got tagged by parents who listen to "A Prairie Home Companion," and I always shudder inwardly when I meet one, and say a little prayer that the name will not be too clunky for them. I went to school with a Herman and a Sheldon whose names were a little heavy for them, I think. Though there also was a Thatcher in our class and he loved his name and carried it with elegance. I am responsible for the name Garrison, not my parents. My mother named me Gary which was a popular name in 1942 thanks to Gary Cooper the movie star. When I got to junior high school and started writing poetry for the school literary magazine, I thought I needed a pen name and I picked up Garrison — I liked the sound of it and the meaning of it (fortress) and it was the first name of Garry Moore, a radio and TV star who was especially beloved in our home — and I used that through high school and then in college, and it stuck. I'm used to it now, of course, but sometimes it strikes me as clunky or pretentious, which it is, but here I am. Family and old friends call me Gary, and maybe I'll go back to that someday.


I was a Jeffrey once. At 13, I thought it was a bit prissy and changed it to Jefferson during the civil rights era, with high school and college diplomas to prove it. Being less painful than teenage tattoos to remove, I've jettisoned both in favor of a monosylabic, middle age Jeff.

Do you think just Gar would work for you?

Hello Garrison,
Had to comment on the article about your name. My ex-spouse, Garry Michael, was also named after Garry Moore. I had no idea that Garry started out as Garrison, and I wonder what his Mom would have named him had she known that his full name was Garrison. Heck, I could have been married to, and had a child named, Garrison. (Of course, it could have been a moot point. The person who is now Garry Sr. was called "Mike" from the time he was born.)

As for naming yourself - well, all I can say is, our first names are like underwear that we get at Christmas. It is intensely personal, but only the wearer can decide if it actually fits. You can't give it back, either.

My parents, God bless them, named me "Debbie" after Debbie Reynolds. Cute name for childhood, but what about at 40? Or 80? I just couldn't see myself as an old, blue-haired lady in a rocking chair being called the same name as a cheerleader. Besides, how many people name a female child "Debbie" anymore? People will always know how old you are. So when I faced my obligatory mid-life crisis, and after my Mother had died, I legally changed it to a more modern name that, at the time I did it, was trendy. Now it's common. But that's OK. It's still pretty (it's a derivative of the name of a flower - alyssum). And like underwear that you buy for itself - well, it fits.

My brother Gary (born 1956) was named after Gary Cooper because my Mom had a crush on him when she was she was in HS. My parents chose the name "Paul" for my other brother because they thought is was a sturdy name. I was named after Janis Paige because Mom was pregnant with me when my parents went to see "The Pajama Game" on Broadway starring Janis Paige.

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