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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Caro—what? Perks and struggles of having a common name that sounds like other popular names

Carolyn Wang

“Hi, Catherine.”

Believe it or not — even though my name is not Catherine, I often surprise myself by how readily I react to that misnomer.

As someone who has a common name that sounds similar to even more common names, I live in the best and worst of both worlds.

On one hand, I’m like fellow Falcon reporter junior Victoria Lin: I am one of three Carolyns in my grade, and therefore have the pleasure of embarrassing myself every time someone shouts out “Carolyn” but isn’t referring to me.

Luckily, I’ve developed a survival mechanism for that. Out of all the Carolyns in the Class of 2023, my name always goes last, courtesy of my last initial “W.” In my six classes last year, half of them included another Carolyn, so out of habit, I never react when my name is mentioned the first time during roll call. I mean, why bother exercising my vocal cords when there’s a 50% chance it isn’t me anyway?

 Of course, that strategy often backfires: During the first MOSAIC this year, I failed to realize that role call went in order by first name, not last, not to mention that there was no other Carolyn in my class. When Mr. Friend called my name, I didn’t even pay attention because I assumed, wrongly, that he wasn’t referring to me.

Sorry, Mr. Friend — I promise I know what my name is.

And that, folks, is where my similarities end with others who have extremely common names. While Carolyn is quite popular, it’s not on the tippy-top of the list in comparison to other similar-sounding names. As of 2022, Carolyn ranks No. 1,168 compared to Caroline (No. 111), Carolina (No. 588) and Catherine (No. 485) in the list of the most common girls’ names. And don’t forget other variations, including Carolin, Carol, Karoline and Carolyna, to name a few.

While I have an inkling of understanding for being mistaken as Caroline, I’d still like to point out that I have yet to meet someone who has called Lynbrook High School “Line-brook.” Yet that seems to be quite a common mispronunciation. 

But nevermind the lyn vs. line debate. What I struggle most to comprehend is how people can fall into calling me Catherine. On one hand, I do have a sister named Kathy, so it’s often fun to commit identity theft whenever I get mistaken for her. But Catherine? Aw, come on. Even a Carolyn-plus-Kathy combo is a bit of a stretch for an explanation. Justifying combining the initial cat sound in Kathy with the three-syllables of Carolyn requires too much brainpower that I’d preferably exhaust elsewhere.

Additionally, since I have a common name that isn’t common enough, I also suffer through the same ordeals as fellow Falcon reporter junior Meher Bhatnagar on vacation trips. While Meher’s uncommon name renders it nearly impossible to ever find a keychain with her name on it, I go through something akin to the Greek king Tantalus’s curse: I become beyond excited when I search through the “C” keychain section and see “Caro—”, only to realize that it’s either Caroline or Carol, but not Carolyn. 

So close, yet so far. 

Luckily, I find my name more often than my childhood best friend Carolin, who I’m sure seldom ever finds her name in keychains but always manages to encounter the dreadful extra “e” in Caroline. On second thought, it might be a good idea for us to declare a name war against the Caroline population of the world. (Just kidding. We love you all.)

Of course, there are always exceptions, and my one exception is if you call me by my Spanish name Carolina. Me encanta mi nombre español, and I’ve had it since Spanish I in Maestra Rodriguez’s class, so there’s somewhat of an intimate high school history going on there. If you call me Carolina, I don’t mind at all. It’s just as good as calling me Carolyn.

And sure, while I do have some friendly beef with the other Caros of the world, I’m perfectly glad with the good old “—lyn” ending. Just the other day my fellow SHS amiga senior Carolyn Pyun pointed out that another Carolyn, “Carolyn Bertozzi,” just won the 2022 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

So hey — while there are some minor inconveniences, there’s no denying that life’s pretty good when you’re a Carolyn.

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