The Name “Chris”

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[This Commentary was originally submitted to appear in the January 17, 1991 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259I returned to the Monday night volley ball courts of HF-L High School a week ago after a seven or eight month absence (night school can do that to you). It was an enjoyably sweaty time with lots of familiar faces and quite a few new ones. I liked the workout.

When playing on one of the back courts, I noticed the many paper basketballs and megaphones taped high on the wall. On each stood the name of a basketball player and cheerleader. I read the names of the boys and girls, looking for a Chris. (OK, OK, so I’m proud of the name my parents gave me.)

I found three basketballs with the name Chris on them. I guess the basketball team has three players named Chris. Wow! I know the name appears regularly on the list of “Most Used Names for Babies,” but this finding amazed me.

First of all, what if all three go on the court at the same time when, for example, Chuck has the ball? If the Coach yells, “Throw it to Chris!” who does Chuck pass the ball to? Problems, problems.

My brother and I had a similar problem as teenagers playing Vince Lombardi Football. The coach, who preferred using a player’s last name (hence, the problem) solved the Carosa brothers dilemma quite ingeniously. He called my brother “Carosa,” which makes sense, because that’s my brother’s name. He called me “Caruso,” which makes sense, because that’s how everybody usually pronounces “Carosa” anyway.

Actually, I resented the fact that my brother got to retain the family name while I got stuck with the inauthentic version. After all, I’m the oldest. Furthermore, the coach knew we were brothers, yet insisted on calling us by different last names. I’m sure they have their reasons, but I’ll never understand coaches.

Well, let’s get back to the name Chris, or, more formally, Christopher. Christopher comes courtesy of the Greeks. In religious circles, it means “Christ Bearer,” mainly because St. Christopher is said to have carried the young Christ. I assume novelty stores sell coffee mugs which have additional pleasantries emblazoned upon them regarding the meaning of the name Chris.

Christopher has a few really strange nick-names (at least according to my parents’ old dictionary). Nobody ever called me “Kit” or “Kester,” but supposedly I should have answered if they did.

When I grew up (or, more appropriately, where I grew up), the name had a lot of novelty associated with it. Nobody knew too many Christophers. This despite the fact the name has always been right up there with John and Joe in terms of use. So, in my youth, when all the Johns ganged up on all the Joes, who ganged up on all the Bills, etc… I was usually left with a deck of cards playing Solitaire (which I ultimately learned to play pretty well).

Teachers liked my name, but often felt sorry for its length. Once, in second grade, we had to practice printing by writing our name ten times. My teacher said I had a long name, so I only had to write it seven times. Indeed, my own mother has admitted she did not want to give me a middle name because she felt my name was already long enough.

Once I graduated from High School and entered a different world, I discovered many more people who shared my name. That revelation made me very happy. I knew then the joy that all the Johns and Joes and Bills had shared for so long. I had brothers (and sisters, given the flexibility of the name) I never before knew I had.

Times have changed. Even in my own extended family do I see a plethora of variations on the name Chris. At one point, I had three consecutive new born cousins given the name Chris. Luckily, I had been around long before them, so mix-ups don’t happen that often.

The phenomenon reaches well beyond the family. Once I worked in an office which had four people named Chris. And we had less than thirty people working in the entire firm! Fortunately, I had seniority.

Actually, initials tend to have a greater importance in the work world, and I didn’t have seniority over this woman who already used the initials CC. The office manager didn’t see a problem, though. She told me just to use my middle initial. That’s when I told her the story about how my mother didn’t want me to have a long name, so…

Next Week #93: PAC-MAN – A Last Look Back (originally published on January 10, 1990)
Next Week #95: No Submission #1 (originally not published on January 24, 1990)

[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]


  1. Chris Carosa says

    Author’s Comment: OK, this submission was a test. Apparently, writing about PAC-MAN (the previous week’s Commentary) could potential offend someone, thus meriting an Editor’s Note disclaiming any association with my writing. This week’s discussion of my name was obviously a personal reflection. It couldn’t possibly offend anyone. Of course, whom ever was responsible for layout this week one-upped my test. They simply didn’t print this submission.

    This particular essay, while personal, became useful in part because there are, quite frankly, a lot of people named “Chris” who evidently like reading and hearing about their name even if it’s someone else’s story about that name. My best discourse of the name Chris, however, had to be a speech I gave several years ago. I’ll write that one up one of these days and share it with everyone

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