The Name Game

Hannah-Laura Rudolph essays

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Hello, I’m Hannah-Laura, and I have an unusual first name. It’s technically two names, but there’s a hyphen stuck in between. I’ve always had to explain my name in detail, but people still don’t seem to get it. To put it simply, I have a mother who thought it would be cool to mash two names together with a hyphen and call it one name. My name. To clarify, I go by Hannah-Laura, and the hyphen is silent, although saying it out loud is fun too.

The hyphen part is especially hard for people to understand, because it’s not common in first names. Sometimes I try to explain, but some people don’t even know what a hyphen is. Seriously, I’m not trying to be funny. And yet, nobody thinks twice when they see a hyphenated last name, because that’s normal. Two people got married and they use both of their last names. Simple. But my two names did not get married, my names don’t belong to two separate people, and they’re both mine. People don’t get it.

I worked for a fast food joint last summer, and I was required to wear a nametag every day. I thought that being able to see my name, instead of hearing it, would make it clearer for people, but I was sadly mistaken. On my first day of work, I had a grown man ask me if I was sharing my nametag with another girl. He chuckled like he thought he was being clever, but I think that’s what he really thought. I had to inform him that no, the company was not saving money by making people share nametags.

During my time there, I was asked if my parents simply couldn’t decide on one name for me. Nope, my mom snuck it onto my birth certificate at the last minute actually. I’m pretty sure my dad had no idea that my name was legally Hannah-Laura until my 16th birthday when he was helping me fill out my driver’s license paperwork. I’m 22 now, and he still asks me if the hyphen goes between Hannah and Laura or between Laura and my middle name, Eden. Oh, dad.

I always have people asking me if Laura is my middle name, which it’s not. Then they inevitably ask me if I have a real middle name, like having a second first name makes my middle name less legitimate. I have two first names, a middle name and a last name. Hannah-Laura Eden Rudolph. Yep, that’s Rudolph, like the reindeer that pulls Santa’s sleigh. I am #blessed with a name full of characters, confusion and cartoon reindeer.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t tell people my name when I’m first meeting them, because it’s easier if they don’t know it. I’ll shake their hand, smile and hope they forget that I didn’t actually introduce myself. It doesn’t work very often, but I always try anyway. If they ask, I tell them my name, correct them because they got it wrong, correct them again, and then give up because they’ve already decided to call me Hannah.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been conditioned to respond to Hannah, Laura, Hannah-Laura and Laura-Hannah, but I do cringe internally when people forget Hannah or Laura somewhere in the mix. Honestly, I think I have a bit of an identity crisis because of my unusual name. I’ve now assigned each their own personality traits, and I often shout how the neglected name feels when someone doesn’t address it. It goes something like this:

Unsuspecting person: “Hey, Hannah. How’s it going?”


I usually only do this with my immediate family, because I’m still trying to condition them to call me by my full name. I might let it slide, but some days I just can’t let it go. Even my mother has to be reminded on a regular basis. So don’t feel badly if you forget on occasion. Even though it can be a hassle, I still like my name. It’s unique, it’s interesting, and the best part is, my mother gave it to me. That’s something that I’ll have forever. Thanks, mom.


About the Author

Hannah-Laura Rudolph

Hannah-Laura is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism and Mamalode's amazing Social Media Manager. She loves to blog, hike, float the river, go out to brunch and call her mother.

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