Why Jacob?

My legal name is “James Purnell Davenport, Junior,” named after my father. His nickname is “Jim,” which is the common nickname for “James.” To avoid confusion, he gave me “Jacob” as my nickname, so I would not go through childhood being called “Little Jimmy” or causing constant miscommunication for other people. He knew this was the right thing to do because his older brother was named after his father, and went by the name “Little Lou,” while his father was “Big Lou.” This may have been more confusing later, as Little Lou grew to be much taller than Big Lou.

“Jacob” is etymologically related to “James.” In fact, “James” is an anglicized version of “Jacob,” and while it is not a common nickname for “James,” it was not a random assignment, either. It is also a very good name, not so common that I meet five other Jacobs in a day, but not so weird that people wonder about the sanity of my parents. Or at least it used to be.

I have a life long experiment about who calls me “Jacob” and who calls me “Jake.” Either is acceptable, but I always introduce myself as “Jacob.” People who convert it to “Jake” tend to be friendly people who try to create an air of familiarity even before one has really formed, or are people who know other “Jacobs” that go by “Jake” as well. Jews never change my name, and southerners usually do. People in a hurry sometimes use the shorter name. Most people at Wunderland were introduced to me as “Jake” and so they never think to do anything else. Over the past few years, my brothers have been calling me “Jake.”

My daughter calls me “Daddy,” and only she is allowed to do that. It is my most treasured name.