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Cheltenham Literature Festival: What’s in a name?

Written by jen, 6th October 2007

My first evening at the festival started with a conversation with an older lady who had got up to let me sit down(!). Of course, I explained this was entirely unnecessary but we got talking, about The Reader (which she remembered from its early days) and Merseyside experiences (of which she has many). Her enthusiasm was engaging but a holler of "Ok, one minute!" across the Writers' Room jolted me back to reality and I began to end our conversation, knowing that I too needed to be at an event. It was at this point she asked me my name: "Jenny", I said. "Oh! I'm a Jenny too, Jenny Joseph". I couldn't believe it, Jenny Joseph in front of me, two minutes ago talking about West Kirby and now telling me the meanings of our names. I'm a Jennifer really, a derivative of Guinevere, meaning 'white wave' (so Jenny tells me); Jenny Joseph, on the other hand, is a genuine Jenny, a corruption of Joan, which comes from John. She told me that her name wasn't as pure as mine yet Jenny means 'gracious gift of God'. Ms Joseph told me that she wishes she could have lived her life as the 'white wave' but had to settle for whichever wave it was that came her way. Confused? Me too. A gift dressed in purple nonetheless.

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