Writing

I’m not the Jessica Davidson you’re looking for

There’s a weird recurring search term that pops up on my stats occasionally, so I thought it was time to investigate. In amongst queries for dark night of the soul symptoms and astrological mythology, you get this: “who are you jessica davidson

Not the most interesting thing to be Googling, and I should know. So I searched for the term and discovered that what people are looking for is an essay called “Who Are You” by me – only it’s not me.

What you get on Google is a bunch of links to essay writing sites for students who can’t be bothered to do their own thinking, but at the top of the list is one of my posts. I’m not sure why people are looking for this mysterious essay, but many of them end up here: Self and World: Who Are You?

I hope they’re not too disappointed. And if you’ve ended up on this post after searching for the essay, well – I’m not the Jessica Davidson you’re looking for.

The “Who Are You” essay appears to have been written by the Jessica Davidson who wrote The Square Root of Tuesday – a book about the structure of logical thinking, published in 1971. Since I was born only a year before that, we can safely assume, I’m not responsible! Her other books cover the exciting world of grammar and spelling, and they’re all out of print.

I couldn’t find any information about this particular Jessica Davidson online, but there are many, many more. Several of them are also writers, so I thought it would be fun to find out more about my namesakes.

Googling Jessica Davidson

Ego-surfing is a dangerous sport – you never know what you’ll find. Googling yourself is likely to be a disappointment – especially if you’ve got a website that doesn’t get much traffic – but if you’re looking for namesakes, it can be fun. So who did I find?

The top spot on Google goes to a Facebook list of profiles – none of which are me – followed by images of smiling women – again, not me. Next comes a Jessica Davidson at Oxford University’s Faculty of History who is studying for her thesis on the social and cultural history of the English provincial fair between 1750 and 1850. Fair enough.

Then it’s this site.

Just to boost my ego for a second – to get this site to the top of the list, you can simply add “writer” to the name, and then my stuff dominates the links!

Anyway, aside from the long-lost Jessica Davidson who wrote the essay, there are several other writers. The most interesting is the Australian writer of YA fiction who published her first novel, What Does Blue Feel Like?, when she was 22. She won the Best Young Australian Novelist Award in 2008, and then published her second novel, Everything Left Unsaid in 2012.

Here’s some more Jessica Davidsons:

A pretty talented bunch, overall. (I guess the dullards don’t have websites, or they’re passing themselves off as VF writers 😉 )

The Rise of Jessica

The essay that sparked this post is about names and what they mean and how the labels we attach to things influence how we think about them. It’s not a bad essay, but it’s very dated and not much help if you’re genuinely interested in understanding the nature of identity.

Does the fact that I’m called Jessica Davidson mean anything, other than to attach me to a particular family? Would I be different if I had another name? Perhaps, but it’s impossible to know.

However, it is likely that people assume I’m younger than I am because of my name.

Jessica wasn’t always so popular. In fact, when I was a kid, I was the only Jessica in town. People had trouble remembering my name because it was so unusual, and they often called me Rebecca instead – I still don’t really understand why. The only reference they had was Shakespeare’s Jessica in The Merchant of Venice – a part I was made to read in high school because I shared the character’s name, much to the amusement of everybody else.

That all changed in the 80s when the name began to gain in popularity. Then, when people discovered my name, they would chuckle and say, “Ooo, like Jessica Rabbit!

FYI, I’m the least likely woman to be compared with Jessica Rabbit, and not just because I have more than two dimensions. The other famous (fictional) Jessica who appeared in the 80s, was Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote. Thankfully, I don’t write crime fiction either…

Where’s the delete button…?

According to the ONS, the popularity of the name Jessica in the UK grew steadily through the 80s and hit the number one spot in 2005. But it’s been hovering in the top 10 since the 90s. It didn’t even rank in the 70s. Here’s a nifty graph to demonstrate:

So Jessica is a recent phenomenon, especially compared with a name like Sarah, for example:

There’s a similar pattern in the US, where Jessica ranked 11th most popular in the 70s, but had risen to number 1 by the 80s and through the 90s.

That means these days, you can’t move for Jessicas. They’re everywhere!

The Meaning of Jessica Davidson

In the spirit of the essay that triggered this madness, let’s have a look at what the name means.

It’s widely believed that Jessica was first used by Shakespeare, as I’ve already mentioned. In The Merchant of Venice, Jessica is a rich Jewess, and daughter of Shylock, who elopes with a Christian bloke and scandalises everybody. Shakespeare probably based the name on the Hebrew Iscah or Yiskah, which means “to behold” or “foresight,” although others say it means rich or wealthy. It may have come from the masculine Hebrew name Yishai or Yishay, which means “gift,” and translates as Jesse. Meanwhile, others say the name is just a pet form of Janet and Jean.

To confuse things, I found a Saint Jessica who was also known as Joanna. In the Bible, she was one of the three women who found the empty tomb on Easter Monday after Jesus had done his resurrection routine. Her feast day is 24th May.

As for Davidson, for that we must don our kilts and go back to 13th century Scotland. It’s believed that Clan Davidson (or Clan Dhai) originated in the Spey valley between the Cairngorm and Monadhliath Mountains. They were a member of the Chattan Confederation, an alliance of 12 clans who banded together for mutual support and strength, especially in a fight.

And there was a lot of fighting.

Scottish Clan map – you won’t find Clan Davidson, they’re part of Clan Chattan

In about 1370, there was a huge dust-up between Clan Cameron and the Chattan Confederation. Around 400 men gathered in the upper Spey valley to slaughter each other in what became known as the Battle of Invernahavon. It didn’t end well for Clan Davidson, who were almost wiped out.

“Wisely if sincerely” – Clan Davidson motto

Later (after more fisticuffs) they moved north to Inverness, although there were clusters of Davidsons all over Scotland – from Ayr to Aberdeen. However, many of these were probably lowland clans, so not necessarily part of the same tribe.

My branch of the family is from Southern Ireland and my father’s birth certificate is in Gaelic, so strictly speaking, I’m a MacDhaibhidh. “Mac” being son and “Dhaibhidh” being David.

To find the Irish version of Clan Davidson we have to skip forward the 17th century and the colonisation of the Plantation of Ulster. Scots had been migrating to Ireland for centuries in small numbers, but after the unification of Scotland and England in 1603, there was so much fighting between clans that the “unruly border clans” were forcibly dispersed. Many went to Ireland, and from there onto America in the 18th century, while others were banished to the colonies.

Now there are Davidsons all over the world, and many of them are Jessicas!

So what does any of this tell you about me?

Not much.

I haven’t traced my family history in detail so I can’t get into specifics, but I have inherited the general belligerence so beloved of the Scots (and the Irish). And it all looks set to kick off again, thanks to Brexit. All I know is that my Irish paternal grandfather was a paranoid schizophrenic bell-ringer – and that probably tells you more about me than I care to imagine…

If your name is Jessica Davidson, say hello in the comments below!

Images: Clan map; Clan badge

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7 thoughts on “I’m not the Jessica Davidson you’re looking for

  1. Very interesting meditation on names, your name in particular. What is eerie is this: about an hour earlier, I had read another blog post by a person with several “namesakes” who has had to deal with the department of motor vehicles virtually all her life because others with the same name exist within a limited geographical area (New York). Here’s that link: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/03/identity-theft-racial-justice?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=220190&subid=18194956&CMP=GT_US_collection#comment-96029031
    As for another meditation on names, have I ever linked an essay I did a couple of years ago on an online magazine (for older women) called Persimmon Tree? If not, here it is. It’s a short read. http://www.persimmontree.org/v2/spring-2015/whats-in-a-name/
    Are we all having an identity crisis these days?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the link – an interesting post about names. I’ve never really thought much about my name, it’s just what it is. But then, I’ve never been married so I’ve never had to think about it. My name is the least of my worries, I suppose. It gets even more complicated if I get into my mother’s side of the family. Her parents changed their surname by deed poll because they were so ashamed of it, but not until after my mother had married my father. Perhaps that’s another post for another time.

      Liked by 1 person

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