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Episode #26: I Did Not Name My Daughter After a Damn Car

I had chosen a name for a boy and a name for a girl when I was pregnant. I didn’t not want to know the sex of my baby, though I did have a very clear dream about half-way through my pregnancy where a technician burst into my doctor’s appointment and blurted, “You’re having a girl!” Even then, I still kept a boy’s name in my back pocket: Rafael Luis (Luis being anot to my grandfather and my father, Louis G. Mendez, Jr. and Louis G. Mendez, III). And the only girl name I chose was Mercedes Mendez, after my mother, the OTHER Mercedes Mendez. It wasn’t until AFTER I met my baby girl, AFTER giving birth to her that #1 I knew she could carry such a strong name and #2 that I would also give her a middle name. It was my sister who, along with my mother, had come up from the Washington, D.C. area to NYC to meet my baby, suggested I give her a middle name because most kids in this country have middle names and my daughter wouldn’t want to feel left out WITHOUT a middle name. That made a lot of sense to me and I started googling short two-syllable names for girls because Mercedes was already a mouthful. I got it down to Eva (NOT pronounced EVE-a) and Isa. I decided AGAINST Isa because I was afraid that Americans who don’t speak Spanish might pronounce her middle name as IZ-a instead of Isa [EE-suh]. So, my daughter’s name is Mercedes Eva Mendez. And it would be many years before an acquaintance – a friend of a friend’s – said to me, “What’s your daughter’s name again? Wait”, she said. “Don’t tell me. Porsche. Right?” Good fucking God, I thought. You think I named my daughter after a CAR?? “No”, I politely said. “I named my daughter after my mother, Mercedes.” I knew full well that this woman, a self-described stay-at-home mom with 2 kids in their 20’s who DON’T live at HOME now was probably thinking withall of her spare time – I mean, what does a stay-at-home mom WITHOUT kids at home DO with all her time, not working AND not parenting?? – well, she was probably thinking how nice it was that my daughter AND my mother were both named after a damn car. I don’t know if this is a thing in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. or what. I don’t seem to remember anyone in NYC in my daughter’s first almost 4 years on this earth thinking I named her after a damn car. But we get it all the time now. A couple of weeks ago it was a new neighbor who said, “Oh, your daughter’s name is MERCEDES? Well, I’ll have an easy time remembering THAT. I HAVE one.” And just last week a NEW doctor to US said, “Oh. Your daughter’s middle initial is E? I was hoping for a B.” “Why?”, I asked hesitantly. “I was hoping for Benz.” Oh my fucking God, I thought. Then I SAID, “I named my daughter after my mom. Mercedes is plural for Merced [mer-THED] in Spanish, a biblical term meaning ‘mercy’. And the CAR was named after a GIRL.” Mr. Doctor didn’t like being schooled by this half-SPANIARD and he muttered something about the car being GERMAN. I let it go there. I didn’t go on to tell him that Mercedes-Benz is a combination of two names: Mercedes Jellinek and Karl Benz. I did not go on to tell him that originally, Mercedes-Benz was founded by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler, and it was part of Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, better known as DMG. The company was FIRST known by the name Daimler-Benz. Emil Jellinek WITH DMG was responsible for commissioning the first modern automobile, the Mercedes 35hp. Jellinek created the trademark in 1902, naming it in honor of his daughter, Mercedes Jellinek, who was 13 YEARS OLD at the time. While the company continued to trade as Daimler-Benz, the car line began to carry the Mercedes-Benz name. Yeah, no. I did NOT go on to tell Mr. Doctor all of THAT. All of THAT might have been too tricky for his DOCTOR BRAIN to sort through, especially since Mercedes and her father, Emil Jellinek, were actually AUSTRIAN and not GERMAN. I don’t know WHY this pisses me off so much, that some people think I named my kid after a car, but it SURE DOES piss me off! And that they think the name Mercedes is just the first part of a car’s name – where do they think the name MERCEDES came from? Pronounced mer-THE-des in SPANISH. MERJ-ce-des in FRENCH. I mean I know, not everyone speaks Spanish, but I grew up with my cousins in Spain calling my mom Tia Merceditas or Tia Merche and everyone calling one of my great aunts Tia Mercedes. I guaran-damn-ty you my great aunt who would be well over 100 years old now if she were alive and my 77-year-old mom, were NOT named after a damn car, a car that probably didn’t even exist when Tia Mercedes was born. And if it did, HER parents wouldn’t have ever even seen a Mercedes-Benz in rural Spain. Why am I so wound up about this?? I mean does Ellen Degeneres’ wife, Portia – spelled P.O.R.T.I.A. – get people misspelling her name and thinking her parents named her after a car? And if so, do Portia and Ellen get wound up about it like I do?? Do parents ever ACTUALLY name their kids after cars anyway?? A quick search of luxury car brands gave me these 24 names: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover, Cadillac, Tesla, Volvo, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Aston Martin, Bentley, Infiniti, Lincoln, Lamborghini, Acura, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Genesis Motor, Range Rover and McLaren. Do parents give their kids any of these names, so they name their kids after a CAR? We DO have a young cousin named Lincoln and I’m pretty sure his parents didn’t have the car in mind when they named him. Anyway, maybe some people DO name their kids after luxury car brands and that’s their business, I guess. I mean at least it shows the parents have good taste in nice cars and maybe they even drive one, too. And maybe it’s just a memorable name to give their kid or maybe it’s even AUSPICIOUS, meaning “conducive to success or favorable” for the kid. But for my daughter, my mother and my mother’s aunt after whom my mother was named, in the bible Mercedes means “mercies”, from the Spanish title of the Virgin Mary, Maria de las Mercedes, meaning “Mary of Mercies”. And Mercedes IS a mouthful of a name, especially for little kids to pronounce. When Mercedes started going to *school* in NYC at 13 months old, the other kids could only call her Cee Cee. Which I thought was cute. Cee Cee and Dee Dee, her mom. Then when the kids were a bit older, they called her Sadies. And then one friend in pre-school called her MerceDEE for the longest time. And my daughter has always carried the full name well, just like my mom.

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