Sunday, January 27, 2008

E is for Ellen

(An Encyclopedia of Me blog.)

I grew up in a time when girls were named Linda, Mary, Barbara, Patricia, Kathleen, Carol, Janet and Susan. Through my school years, I knew at least a half dozen of each. I even knew a few Sharons. But Ellen? Not so much. I've personally known only two other Ellens in my entire life.

Ellen always seemed like such an old-fashioned name. I could imagine an Aunt Ellen sitting in her Victorian parlour serving tea to respectful visitors and offering them an assortment of dainty biscuits neatly and precisely placed on doily-lined serving plates. Conversation would hover around the weather and the latest gossip in the society pages. She would discreetly give advice about which eligible bachelor would be suitable for which young lady and everyone would nod in agreement and marvel at her great and kindly wisdom. Not that I knew anyone even remotely resembling this Aunt Ellen – but it satisfied my more romantic tendencies.

There didn't seem to be any real life Ellens around. I noticed there weren't a lot of Ellens in movies, TV or books either. I longed to see my name in print or spoken aloud onscreen.

Then along came Ellen Ripley, Sigourney Weaver's character in the Aliens series of movies. No tea-serving prim Aunt Ellen there – no sir. The problem was the viewer only found out her first name if they were paying close attention to a brief scene near the end of the first movie. Otherwise, she was invariably called Ripley throughout the entire series. The next screen Ellen I remember was on a seventies TV show, called Thirty-Something – but wait – it turns out she spelled her name "Ellyn", so it doesn't count. (Although one could argue that when spoken, it sounds the same and on TV you don't see it except in the credits, so who cares?) Much later, came Ellen De Generes and her eponymously named TV shows.

Recently, I've noticed a glut of side-characters in movies and on TV named Ellen. And side-characters they are. Usually the friend, or friend of the friend. But seldom THE main character.

As you can see, I pay attention to my fellow Ellens. A few real life Ellens I've found are Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy), Ellen De Generes, and more recently, Canadian actress, Ellen Page. I'm particularly fond of Ellen De Generes because her middle name is Lee – making it the same as my first and last names.

Over the years, my friends and family have gradually morphed my name into Ell (not Elle of the trendy, please). My middle initial is "L", which makes it even more convenient. ELL -- shortened nickname, acronym and initials all rolled into one.


Anonymous said...

I have always liked the name Ellen. In fact, had our son had a twin sister, they were going to be Eric Matthew and Ellen Maureen but that didn't happen.

I gave birth before you knew what and how many you were going to have. My son and daughter-in-law refuse to let them know the gender before their sons were born. I guess they liked the surprise element as much as I did.

Anonymous said...

My cousin's name is Ellen, and she's just a couple of months younger than I am, so I always knew an Ellen. I don't recall anyone else in school with that name, though, nor with mine. I liked it and was surprised when I learned of others with my name.

Your name is Ellen Lee Lee? That's really interesting. I like how your initials and nickname are the same. How cool!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't make myself more clear. My middle initial is "L" for Louise - but it still spells ELL. :D

Sometimes, people call me Ellie (ELLee), so it strangely works as nickname/signature, too.

Anonymous said...

Have you continued to excercise after boot camp? I'm not doing well making myself go to the gym and remember how inspiring you were and just wondered.

Thanks for clearing that up about your name. I sort of like the idea of Ellen Lee Lee but will adjust. :-)

Anonymous said...

I continued my running 3 to 4 times a week (worked up to 50 minute runs) into December, but haven't been running in the new year yet. I keep up with core body (Pilates-style) exercises and some light weights. I can feel I'm not as fit as I was in the summer, but know it will be ok as long as I don't let everything slide.

Joy, do you go to group classes at the gym or do you work out on your own?