Not Jean. Not Jane. Jaen, J-A-E-N.
There’s basically two different types of occasions in your life when your middle name is used. One would be during your wedding ceremony, the other perhaps more familiar, would be when being scolded by a parent. You usually could judge how much trouble you were in based on how many names were being yelled. Any time the middle name came out, it was usually pretty serious.
My middle name is something that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with. It has always been prone to misspelling and mispronunciation. This was very frustrating as a child in a world where it seemed like everyone else’s middle name was Marie. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to enjoy having a unique middle name. With a name as common as Laura Smith, the Jaen just makes it feel a little less ordinary. So much so that I decided to choose Laura Jaen as my artist name (there are so many Laura Smith artists out there in the world already!).
Jaen, spelled J-A-E-N (yes, I’m sure), is a name that was passed down to me from my grandmother. I’m actually not the only one to have this spelling of the middle name either; many of my female relatives were also blessed with this middle name. It’s pronounced like Jane, but with the different spelling. I’ve learned the trick that if you’re spelling it to someone say “J-A (pause) E-N” and it usually ends up correct that way.
I haven’t been able to learn the story behind the unique spelling. It’s been joked that one of my great grandparents misspelled it on the birth certificate. After the invention of Google, I found out that Jaén is a city in South Central Spain. The city’s motto is: “Muy Noble y muy Leal Ciudad de Jaén, Guarda y Defendimiento de los Reynos de Castilla” (“Very Noble and very Loyal City of Jaén, Guard and Defense of the Kingdoms of Castile”). This motto was given to the city by King Enrique II of Castile due to the role that the city played in defending the kingdom of Castile against the Moors. On 1 April 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, the city was bombed by the Nazis. I’m a big fan of the Spanish language and Spanish culture in general. I like to think that there’s a connection somehow. Maybe at some point I will discover some exciting story behind the name.
What’s your middle name? Do you have a story behind how you were named?