I was a guest on the No Shame In My Name podcast

I was recently invited onto the No Shame In My Name podcast. It’s a podcast I already listened to and I invited the host to take part in Global Comment’s Podcast Showcase, after which she invited me to be a guest on the show.

I had a really fun chat with Juliana about the name Philippa, the name’s odd meaning, and my thoughts about names and how they impact our lives. Plus what I’d call my imaginary children.

Listen, and enjoy!


Hi guys, you’re now listening to Episode 75 of the No Shame In My Name podcast. I’m Juliana and today we’re joined by special guest. Philippa Willitts. Hi, Philippa, thank you so much for coming on.

Thank you. Tell us more about what you do.

I have a quite a complicated job because I mostly freelance. So I do bits of all sorts. But I am the editor of a website called Global Comment where writers from all around the world write about things that are interesting to an international audience, but not, but they can be quite local stories. I also write for a local magazine called Now Then, and I do some comms work for a local charity. And then I do whatever other writing or editing work comes my way?

And how long have you been writing for Global Comment?

I started writing there maybe five or six years ago, mostly writing opinion pieces about UK politics. And then the editor at the time left and asked if I would like to apply for the editor role, which I did. And so I’ve been doing that for maybe two or three years now. So it’s a slightly different approach, less writing, and more working with other writers, but I really enjoy it.

My process really varies. If it’s an opinion piece then I tend to just really think about the issue I’m writing about, really establish what I think and then jot down some key points that I want to make and work from there, kind of expand on those. If I’m doing a more reported piece, which is more what I tend to do for Now Then, then that tends to be a longer process with interviewing people and approaching them for interview, you know, planning the interviews, and then turning that into an article from there.

That’s a suitable segue. I’m going to ask the question which I ask all my guests, which is what name are you bringing to the podcast today, and why?

I am bringing the name Philippa, because it is my name. It is quite an interesting name to have, for a number of reasons, I think. Nobody can spell it, there aren’t many of us around, it has lots of nicknames. And it’s got a kind of unusual meaning as names go as well.

I was very intrigued when you shared the meaning. And could you share with us? Yeah, what does it what does it mean?

Philippa means lover of horses, and it’s from the Greek. And I remember, I lived in France for a year, and I was talking with some friends. And we were all going around the room saying what our names meant. And there were all kind of these beautiful Arabic names, meaning the beautiful one or princess or gift from God. And then it got to me and I had to say, lover of horses, and they all they thought I’d, like, got the French wrong, they thought I’d made a mistake. That was the first time I really realised that it is quite an odd meaning for a name.

I was amazed and shocked at the same time when you shared that. Have you learned the meaning?

I think so. I remember having like conversations with my parents, when I was a kid, I used to ask them a lot why they’d chosen it as a name. And they always – frustratingly – just said, because we liked it. But because it’s a bit of an unusual name, other people would often ask me what it meant. So I think I must have known that from quite young.

I guess the burning question that everyone, including myself is probably wondering is do you love horses?

To be honest, I’m neutral about horses. I don’t love them. I don’t hate them. I remember when I was a kid trying really hard to love them. And I loved the idea of horses. But then I would go and meet an actual horse and be terrified.

And do you know the story behind I mean, you just mentioned that your parents would speak to you about the meaning. But you know why they, other than the fact that they liked the name? Is there like a story behind why you were given this name?

Not really. They liked it. I know that another name that was in the in the mix was Roberta, which I am glad I didn’t get – nothing against the Robertas of the world. But if you’re called Philippa, people already assume that you went to like an English boarding school and have lots of ponies. And I think if you called Roberta you probably get that assumption even more. But it does kind of suggest my parents had a bit of a thing for putting an A on the end of a boy’s name at that point in their life.

I’ve spoken to several people about like the meaning of their names. And yeah, people have come back with similar sentiments about the power of names and the meanings that it can have. But from your perspective, what do you think about names in general?

I do often think about people’s names and whether they suit them. And I think about the fact that I’m the only person in the world with my full name, there are no other Philippa Willitts. There are obviously other Philippas and other people with Willitts as a surname, but nobody else with that combination. And I quite like that. Whether we love or hate our names, we inhabit them to some degree. And I know a number of people who’ve changed their names as adults, but most people don’t. And and I’ve spoken to people about if we did change our name, what would we change it to, and I don’t have the first idea. And often people don’t… they might even say, Oh, I hate my name, but I don’t know what I’d change it to. So I think names do have this kind of something that we inhabit. But I guess that can be negative or positive or just neutral.

Speaking of names, and the fact that your parents liked the name that they’d given to you, do you like your name?

I don’t dislike it, but I don’t love it. And a bit like horses, I’m quite neutral. My name is well, it’s, I think I’d like that there are variations like when I was a child, I was always Philippa or Phil, I was called at school quite a lot. And then when I left home at 18 and came to university, I would introduce myself as Philippa but everybody just called me Pippa. And that was a name I’d resisted as a kid because I used to play with Pippa dolls. And there came a point when I came to Sheffield that I just gave in and thought, everybody’s calling me Pippa, that seems to be my name now. So I have kind of two names to choose from. If I meet somebody new which one I go with, I but I would say about half the people in my life call me Philippa about half call me Pippa. So I like that. There’s variety. I like that there aren’t millions of me in the world, just because I think that would be disconcerting.

Do you have any other favourite names?

I decided at some point in my early adulthood that having children wasn’t for me, but I do spend time thinking about what I would call them if I did have them, even though I’m not going to have them. And the girls’ names I often settle on are Ruby and Lisa, which I just think they’re both really pretty. Boys’ names I have more trouble with, I find them harder. I often like the full version of a boy’s name like Michael, but not so much the shortened version. So I do spend quite a lot of time thinking about what I would call my children, for somebody who’s not going to have any. I think I like Lisa, because I like the sound of it. I like I just think it’s really pretty. And Ruby again, I think it’s just pretty. I don’t particularly know what they mean. I just like the sound of them. And also, I remember being like four years old and trying to learn to spell my name, you’ll have had this as well, and feeling it was really unfair that some people had like a three-letter name and I had these eight letters I had to get out. So maybe part of me likes Ruby and Lisa because it will give my imaginary daughters an easier time when they’re learning to write.

And then in terms of the nicknames that you’re given on terms of nickname and actually, what do you what are your thoughts around that? Do you like it when people shorten your name?

I don’t like being called Pip. I don’t like that at all. So I don’t like Pip. But other than that, most people call me Philippa or Pippa. A few people from school occasionally call me Phil and I just find I just find that weird because, you know, that was me a long time ago. My mom calls me Philippa. My sister quite often calls me PJ, which is my initials. And my dad used to call me that and my dad’s died. So that always feels quite nice when somebody calls me PJ because it reminds me of my dad. I’m reasonably open as long as somebody’s… because the other thing is you get especially when you’re a kid it gets changed to flipper and all kinds of weird varieties. So as long as somebody is not like making fun of me then I don’t tend to mind.

Names often comes with tones, like sometimes not necessarily the name itself but the tone in which it said.

Very much so, they can create positive or negative memories for people.

At the beginning of the interview, you mentioned that you’re a writer, do you have any favourites? Could you name drop any of your favourite writers?

I have in my life, I have real trouble if anybody ever asks me my favourite anything, I start to think what if I say this and then I say I like that much. So with all the caveats that this is not a full and final list, there is a woman called Sian Norris, who now writes for Byline Times, she is great. That is somebody in America called se smith. And they write excellent social justice stuff. And also, Guardian journalist, Marina Hyde, who does these this brilliant kind of almost satirical stuff around the government and how they are. Marina Hyde is somebody that I wish I could write like, she’s manages to sum up really complex issues with just a funny sentence or two, and I dream of having that ability.

I think we actually come to the last question, which is, what do you if there’s one thing that you could share with the world about your name, or names in general, what would it be?

I think it’s… some people really suit their names, and some people really don’t, but we live with them in such an intimate way. And we can often make assumptions about people based on their name. But then it’s just important to remember that when we meet them, we need to do so with open minds. And not just think that because they’re called whatever they’re called, we can think either Well, or badly of them.

I love getting to this part of the interview where you just have people’s different perspectives of that question. So thank you for sharing that.

Thank you for having me. It’s been really fun to even just give it some thought.

Is it something that you’ve sort of been raised thinking about? Like, I know, you mentioned earlier that you used to ask your parents what your name meant, but is it something that you’ve kind of been conscious of?

I’ve always been conscious of my name, because people often got it wrong. When I was a kid, I was often called Paula at school, which is like another version of adding an A on to a boy’s name. And also, often the kids wouldn’t understand my name, if they would say, What’s your name? And I said Philippa, they would just look really confused. And I think also, because I have had to spell it so often, for so many people, I think I have always been conscious of it in a way that I might not have done been if if I’d had a different name. And it’s neither it’s not good or bad. It’s just an interesting name to live with.

I asked you that last question then went on to ask a further question. Yeah, it’s been great to speak to you so thank you so much for sharing.

Thank you for having me. It’s it’s been great.

You’re welcome. Do you have any kind of work or anything that you’d like to share? A shout any socials where people can vote for you?

Yep. I am on Twitter and Instagram. I am at @Philippawrites, which I will spell out because there are lots of varieties. So it’s Philippa and then writes, partly because Philippa Willitts was too long for Twitter, and partly because expecting people to spell Philippa and Willitts right was just asking too much. So yet, so I’m on Twitter, and Instagram there.

Thank you for listening to No Shame In My Name. Until the next time, bye.

Image credit: Melanie Pongratz