My real name is Margaret, but I’ve been called Peg or Peggy for most of my life.
It’s a standard Margaret nickname. Scratch any Peggy and, 90% of the time, you’ll find a Margaret underneath. How do they get Peggy out of Margaret? Why are Johns called Jack, and Elizabeths are Betsy? I don’t know.
When I was a kid, you didn’t get to pick what you were called in school. If your baptismal record showed your name was John Thomas or Christina then, by God, that was what you were going to be called! Forever! None of this “call me J.T.” or “I prefer Christy” business.
I presented my chubby, cherubic self on the first day of kindergarten and was immediately confused. Who was Margaret? I didn’t even know that was my real name. I tried to tell the teacher that I was Peggy. But that’s not what the seating chart said.
So I was stuck as Margaret for 13 years of school.
I never liked that name. I always thought it sounded like an old maid librarian. I was named after my great-aunt, who actually was an old maid. She was faded, vague and ancient and we only saw her at holiday dinners.
In junior high I wanted to be known as Meg. Now that was a name! Meg was fun yet sophisticated. I could see myself, in the hazy future, a high-powered, glamorous executive, striding down the sidewalk of some imagined Gotham. Neither Peggy nor Margaret could possibly have the life I envisioned.
At dinner I told my parents and 8 brothers and sisters that I would now only answer to Meg. Naturally, they respected my wishes and immediately complied.
If you believe that, you were raised by wolves.
My older sisters curled their lips in that sneer only teenage girls can manage. My younger brothers and sisters set up a chant along the lines of “Peggy, Meggy, Weggy, Leggy..” – you get the drift. My dad glanced up from the minutes of the parish council meeting he was reading and offered an interrogatory “Mmph?” My mom didn’t reply because she was in a kind of perpetual stupor for 30 years from bearing and raising 9 children.
I announced my new name at school and Sister Wenceslaus (yes, like the Good King of Christmas-song fame) looked over the top of her half-moon glasses at me, and tapped the seating chart with her ruler. ‘Nuff said.
I think I had one loyal friend who went along with the Meg scheme until it died a natural death from lack of compliance after about a week.
I’ve gone by Peg since college. When I introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Peg” is often met with “Nice to meet you, Peggy.”
This happens all the time. Seems like about 50% of introducees add the more familiar “y” to the end of my name. My family and some friends call me Peggy, and that’s fine. It’s no big thing, but if you met a 50-year-old Bob in a social or business setting, would you say “Great to meet you, Bobby!” How about Tommy? Johnny? Jimmy? Any other man’s name?
Margaret is still my name for formal or legal situations. It’s kind of schizophrenic but there’s method to my madness. I figure if Margaret shows up in the police column in the local paper, I have a 50/50 chance that readers won’t catch on that the latest felon is me. Camouflage for small town life.