Recently, I was asked—somewhat nicely—where my name Corliss came from. Actually, what the guy said was, “Where the heck did you get a name like that?” He went on to suggest several nationalities it favored. My favorite was Native American, but really! Next came a hint of disbelief about the spelling, as though it might have been a birth certificate error. This conversation made me think it might be time to tell the story of my name.
It all began with a radio program from the 1940s which became a television program and later a film. It was called "Meet Corliss Archer." The fun part—"Meet Corliss Archer" became a comic book, then a newspaper comic strip.
So, yes, I was named after a comic strip character.
That Corliss, a teenager, was described as “perky, breathless and well-intended.” If my dad envisioned her as the perfect daughter, he must have been disappointed. Or at least surprised by what he ended up with. For some reason, he liked the name, so on me it was bestowed. I wish I had asked more questions.
My mom had been leaning toward Wendy for my name. I don’t know of any reference to anyone family or famous. But my brothers squelched it. They were older by five and eight years and thought calling me Windy would be great fun.
Mom must have been okay with the name Corliss. She certainly didn’t use her power of censure. She loved to tell the story of a maternity nurse asking what I was named. Mom told her “Corliss” the nurse said, “Cordless?” The beginning of years of explanation about this name of mine.
After all those years of clarification, I have finally found the grace in having an unusual name. I think it goes well with my married name, Corazza. I like it as an author name. One of the best parts is that our world has become much smaller during my lifetime. We meet people with unusual names frequently. The variety is lovely and interesting. I’m not so unusual anymore.
Connie Castro Jackson taught that there is power in our names. As we worked on the book, we talked about this. She was given her stepfather’s last name when she was a child and was happy to drop it when she married. We were wrapping up one afternoon and I said, “Castro, what about adding Castro, your real dad’s name?” She quickly warmed to the idea and said it felt so good to be Connie Castro Jackson. I was happy to help.