Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Your Parents Are Both Named "Tony"? No Way!

So I grew up in a house with two parents, both named “Tony” and both “doctors.” My father, Anthony, has always gone by Tony and has a Phd in sociology. My mother, Antonia, has always gone by “Toni” and has a Juris Doctorate. So here’s how answering the phone in my house went:

Me: (answering the phone) Hello?

Caller: Hi, could I speak to Tony?

Me: Which one?

Caller: The one that works at the University.

Me: They both work at the University.

Caller: I’m looking for Doctor Bernhard?

Me: Both my parents are named Tony and they could both be called Doctor Bernhard.

Caller: They are?

Me: Yes.

Caller: Oh, well I guess I’m looking for Tony the man.

Me: Hold on.

This would sometimes happen multiple times a day. For people who knew our family it went like this:

Me: Hello?

Caller: Hi, can I talk to your mom?


Me: Hello?

Caller: Hi, can I talk to she Toni?

See, much clearer.

Explaining this whole name situation to teachers and new friends was also a challenge. Here’s a conversation with a friend:

Me: My dad’s name is Tony.

Friend: Wait, I thought your mom’s name was Toni.

Me: It is.

Friend: Your parents have the same name?

Me: Yes. 

Friend: Isn’t that confusing?

Me: It certainly can be.

Friend: That’s funny.

Me: Yes it is.

Repeat this conversation about 50 times and there you have my childhood.

I haven’t met many other people who have parents with the same names. I did have a friend in college whose parents were named Patrick and Patricia—Pat and Pat. We pretty much bonded instantly and knew we would be friends.

Supposedly my parents did contemplate naming my older brother Tony, but let’s all be glad they didn’t. There was enough “which Tony do you want?” deciphering in our house as it was.

Toni here:

Here are some of my experiences having the same name as my husband. (As Mara said, neither of us use our full names: Anthony or Antonia).

First, I recall that our two kids sometimes complained to us that callers were rude to them when they’d ask which “Toni” they wanted to speak to. The caller would think they were being a smart aleck kid and would say something to them like, “Don’t get smart with me. Let me talk to Toni (y) now!” Of course, that response still didn’t let Mara or Jamal know which one of their parents the caller wanted to talk to. 

I'm fairly certain that they both told me at some point that they didn’t like answering the phone because of this. Do you remember this, Mara? [Mara: No, I don’t remember people being rude, but I do remember it being confusing for people.]

Second, Tony and I have heard every joke that can be made about our names being the same, the most common one being: “You hate each other, right? You just couldn’t resist getting married since you have the same name.”

Third, people have nicknames for the two of us; we’ve heard every one of them multiple times: “Toni (y) squared,” “The two Tony’s,” “Tony he and Toni she.” People have proudly told us their nickname for us as if they were the first ones to invent it. We never tell them that we’ve heard the nickname dozens of times before.

Lastly (and most interesting to me): It is never a problem for Tony and me. People don't believe me when I tell them this. But if he calls out “Toni,” I know he means me. And if I call out “Tony,” he knows I mean him. (If we start talking to ourselves I guess this would become a problem!) So the two of us never notice that we have the same name even though our friends tell us it’s a hassle for them. One of them will say to the other, “I called Toni today,” and the other person has no idea which one of us got that call. (Some of them solve this by saying “Toni she” or “Toni he.”) 

I'm sorry for the hassle this has caused family and friends over the years, but I love how our having the same name goes unnoticed by the two of us almost 100% of the time!


  1. LOL, loved this. We have something similar at my house. My husband is David Allan, and my daughter's husband is David Allan. So when she and I talk together, we'll say, "my David," or "your David."
    Sometimes when I'm with other people and she's not there, I'll say something to them like "I'll speak to my David about that," and people look at me as if to say, "Man, you are waaaaaay too possessive!" ;-)

    1. Toni here: So, you know exactly what my family has gone through! I just wanted to let you know that Sunday's post will be on acceptance since you asked for one on that subject. Take good care.