My birth certificate states my name was registered on the 24th September 1964, twenty days after my birth. The name my parents gave me, Rosemary Bridget Spankie, is my travelling companion. My first name Rosemary, was soon shortened to Rosie, Rose, and then Ro. Bridget was passed down the female line from my mother’s side of the family, while born into a patronymical society, my surname or ‘sire name’ – Spankie – was my father’s name and denotes male lineage and Scottish ancestry. As an adult, I find I have many identifying numbers, such as my Passport Number, National Insurance Number, Staff ID, etc, but only one name.
As a name Ro Spankie is memorable, I am the only one. A surprisingly useful quality in a globally connected world, because one’s name travels both with and without one, arriving before its owner and remaining once they have physically moved on. I like my name because it resists characterisation – people don’t know who to expect. I am always surprised that people see it as gender neutral – ‘Oh we thought you would be a man!’ they say when I arrive.
They say personality has two components – temperament and character. The word temperament derives from the Latin for ‘weather’ suggesting one’s emotional climate or mood, while the word character comes from the Greek to ‘engrave’. The idea being one’s character is created by experiences, particularly early on, that are impressed on our temperament.
Spankie, was a tough name to grow up with, it stuck out and provoked no end of teasing and sniggers, before eventually becoming a term of endearment. Today several close friends know me simply as Spank. As a woman it was expected that when I married I would drop my father’s name and adopt my husbands. But when I eventually got married, I decided to keep the Spankie – it is an integral part of my identity, engraved on my character and I couldn’t conceive of myself as becoming anyone else.
Ro Spankie is the Curator of Travelling Companions. She is a designer, teacher and researcher and a Principal Lecturer at the University of Westminster. Ro is author of ‘An Anecdotal Guide to Sigmund Freud’s Desk’ (Freud Museum London).