The moment I was born, I was named my nickname, “Oh” (Oh+). In Thai language, this “Oh” can be pronounced with 5 different sounds and they mean different things. My “Oh” means to console a baby or a child. (Kind of like “Awwwww don’t cry!” in English. )
Then of course, the baby must have a full name. A friend (or was it a relative) of my Princess Grandmother’s gave me my long and elaborate uncommon full name. As far as I know, I AM the only one with my full name. The V. in “V. Oakley Boren.”
The Search for an English name
I have the ability to distinguish someone calling my name from a generic English “Oh!”. So as I grew up meeting my dad’s English speaking friends and colleagues and eventually making my own friends as I traveled solo, I never gave a second thought to “Oh” being confusing.
The first English name that I had was from a friend of dad’s from Hong Kong. He called me “Christina”after Thai pop star Christina Aguilar whose haircut I copied. He was the only one who called me that.
When I landed in Whittier, California, in 1993, no one in my host family seemed to have any trouble with me as “Oh,” except my host dad. After the first night in the house, he sat me down and expressed that he couldn’t handle everyone saying “Oh!” without thinking they were calling my name. He decided to come up with an American name for me.
We went through names that were close to the V name like Vera, Viera, Vicky. Nope. None of those.
Then we tried for something closer to “Oh” — Ophelia, Olivia, Odette, Audrey, Aurora, Aurelia, Ohio… Um. No. No. And no. Looking back on it now, I might’ve taken Olivia. But can you see me as an Olivia though?
Then the light bulb moment.
“How about Annie, like Annie Oakley?”
“Who’s Annie Oakley?” I asked. He told me she was the most famous cowgirl/marksperson of all time, and I should go look her up then make my decision.
Having this girl who could kick anyone’s butt when it came to shooting, who loved and excelled in her craft, devoted her life to improve women’s lives, and became a legend as my namesake?
Hell yeah, I’ll take the name! And instead of taking Annie, I took Oakley because I never heard anyone by the name before.
And of course, the only person who called me “Oakley” at the time was my host dad. (I see a trend here!)
It’s almost like “Madonna” or “Oprah”
When I decided to continue my education in the U.S. later on that year, I made Oakley my official American name. It didn’t stop most teachers to get stuck trying to pronounce the V name when doing the first roll call of the year though. Good thing my host mom was the counselor at the school. So, she already had a word with all of my teachers about my name before hand.
Now, Oakley isn’t a common name. So, all of the sudden, it became my ONLY name, my trademark. You don’t ever have to ask “Which Oakley is that?” And you don’t even need to know my last name because there is only one Oakley.
When I got to USC, I added Oakley as my middle name. All my school records and even on my diploma has Oakley in it.
I finally made Oakley my legal middle name when I got married.
If you’re wondering if I’m living up to my namesake, I can kind of shoot. I’m plenty accurate using our air rifle when it’s set to snipe.
Most of the time, though, I shoot with a different instrument altogether. And I’m a lot better with it than with a gun.