Why I’ll never be a Bill

My wife pointed out to me this week that when you call The Herald’s main line and wait for the automatic menu, the voice refers to me as Editor Bill Liggett.
Just hearing the name “Bill Liggett” sounds weird and foreign to me. That’s somebody else. He’s older, more mature, enjoys the occasional cigar and snifter of brandy and has a beach home on the Outer Banks.
Amazing what a “lee” can do for a person. I’m a “Billy,” and I always will be. The responsibility I carry with that name includes a creative approach to my work, a childlike sense of humor and occasional un-adultlike mistake and the ability to not take things too seriously. Billys don’t tend to be gruff, old men … they become the 80-year-old who flirts with 30-year-old women, wears shorts and knee-high brown argyle socks and pulls nickels from his grandchildren’s ears.
That kinda sounds like me, so I suppose my parents knew what they were doing back in 1976 when searching for a name.
About that name — I’m not a William like most Bills and Billys are. My God-given, Christian name is Billy. And my middle name is Joel (named after my father), so when you put the two together, Billy Joel, I have what may appear to some as a gimmicky name like Moon Zappa, Apple Martin (Gwyneth Paltrow’s kid) or General Lee Boles (the true name of a kid I went to high school with). He just went by Lee.
My parents insist my middle name is a nod to my dad, but if you look back at 1976 and the singer with the same name’s popularity, you have to think they knew what they were doing. Joel’s “Piano Man” was a hit in 1973, and shortly after my entrance into this world, he came out with “Just the Way You Are,” “Only the Good Die Young” and “She’s Always a Woman.”
Good songs, all of them. And I suppose I could have shared a name with worse people.
So that’s another good reason I could never become a “Bill.” Bill Joel Liggett sounds too staccato and unnatural.
And no offense to the several Bills I know (many of whom were a Billy at one point in their life) … I don’t mean to make the name sound stuffy and too adult. My boss is a Bill, born as a William, and I’m certainly not out to make fun of his moniker. And we have another Billy on staff — Billy Ball — and I think we could all agree that if he changed his name to Bill Ball, it would ruin his life.
But we Bills, Billys and Williams aren’t the only ones that face the “do I change my name?” decision at one point in our lives. My father-in-law is a Bob whose real name is Robert and who at one time in his life was a Bobby. My son — due in July — will be an Andrew whom we’ll call “Drew” but will have the choice later in life to either stick with that, go back to Andrew or change to the more boyish-sounding Andy.
And men aren’t the only ones. My wife has stuck with Jennifer, though her parents still call her Jenny. I know Elizabeths who’ve gone with Betsy. Alexandras who prefer Alex or Alexa.
Sometimes we choose to go with what people feel more comfortable calling us. Other times, as is my case, we choose the name that best fits us.
I’m a Billy. Billy Boy. Billy the Kid. “Bee,” as my toddler says it.
And I fully embrace everything that comes with that name.


One thought on “Why I’ll never be a Bill

  1. We women have always had a thing for bad boys. It is in the blood. And they all seem to be named Ronnie, Donnie, Billy, Jimmy, Larry, Tony….

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