Sunday, 31 July 2011


My given name is Imogen Jane Bromley and so it was until I reached 28, got married and, following age old tradition, took my husband's name. Growing up in the 70s with a name like Imogen was a challenge. It's hard to imagine now that the name is so prevalent but back then it was unheard of. When introducing myself I generally had to repeat my name more than once. Adults smiled politely and then didn't call me anything for weeks. Children just said 'What? That's not a real name.' etc etc. I was 18 before I even heard of another one that wasn't famous and in my twenties before I met one.
It was character forming. If someone was talking about Imogen then it was always me. That was just how it was, good or bad. And Bromley was relatively unusual too. Even by the time I was an adult and announcing myself on the telephone at work, the secretaries would only get one name or the other first time. When I changed my name there was less of an issue. Clark is so easy to get hold of that Imogen proved to be less of a stumbling block.

I'd been married for a year when I discovered that there was another Imogen Clark. She is a solicitor working for a City law firm and she works within the same discipline as me. I didn't like it one bit. I wasn't used to sharing my moniker with anyone, let alone someone with whom I might reasonably be confused.

There are, of course, thousands of Imogen Clarks. Imogen has been in the Top 100 names for years now and Clark, even allowing for the rogue 'e' at the end of some versions, is a Top 20 surname. I used to ask my husband how it felt to have people shout out his name in a public space and it not be for him. I think he thought I was mad but to me it was the strangest thing. It's more common now of course but when mothers shout at their own little Imogens I always turn round.

This is all writ large for me these days because of my blog and more specifically my stat counter. The counter tells me how many hits the page gets each day and the links that have been followed to get there. So I know that when people search for 'Imogen Clark' on google, it's not always me that they're looking for. There's an author for example and an Australian indie/folk singer with the sweetest voice. Someone once even posted a comment that they loved my music. I had to tell them that they were acting under a misapprehension and that the Imogen Clark whose life they were reading about was not the one they sought.

I have toyed with the idea of setting up a closed group on facebook for everyone with my name just to see what a diverse bunch we actually are. I might still do it but even though I think it would be great fun, something still holds me back. Somewhere in my head I am still that unique child with the unheard of name and I am unprepared to share.


Anonymous said...

Hi! My name is Imogen Clarke too and I grew up in the 80s when the name was still quite unusual. How funny that you turn round when people are calling to their children called Imogen; I've been doing that a lot too recently. I really loved growing up with an unusual name and it kind of seems a shame that its growing in popularity as I don't want to share it with anyone either!

Imogen said...

I know what you mean Imogen. People seem to struggle to imagine a time when no one had heard of the name. I was so sure that having an unusual name shaped my personality that I tried to give my children unusual names too so they could have a similar experience.It was tricky though. There don't seem to be any English names that people haven't heard of these days!

Imogen said...

Yes, I gave my children unusual names too ... and I was so glad that I didn't opt for more popular names, especially when they started school and I saw there were two or even three Toms or Jacks in their class. Did you know that the name Imogen is a spelling mistake, made when William Shakespeare wrote the play Cymbeline and it should be spelt Innogen?

Imogen said...

Yes. I did know that and used to tell people proudly long before I knew who Shakespeare was! Chatting to you is slightly surreal but I'm so glad that you found my blog in the maelstrom that is the world wide web and got in touch. Visit it again some time if you like. Imogen.

Imogen said...

I'm glad I found your blog too! I was actually looking for myself on the internet when I stumbled across your blog. My dramatic home birth story made it into the news a few years ago and I was trying to find the news page so I could print off a copy as a keepsake for my daughter. When the BBC reported the story they printed my name slightly wrong, spelling Clarke without an 'e' hence why I was searching for myself as Imogen Clark! But yes I'm sure I will visit your blog again, now I've found it!