What’s in a name

Names; monikers; sobriquets, appellations, handles, labels (aagh!), tags, nicknames, pet names…

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
William Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet

The incomparable J. K. Rowling says we have all been mispronouncing Voldemort—he who shall not be named. We shouldn’t, apparently, pronounce the final T. It becomes so much more exotic when pronounced á la Français. How many writers have been inspired by her story and her multiple rejection slips; I know I have.

My father had a bottomless pit of quotations. One I recall related to a distinctly Cornish name beginning with ‘Tre’, so he came up with: ‘By Tre, Pol and Pen you will known Cornish men.’ He also knew the difference between a Kentish Man and a Man of Kent. I, on the other hand, always have to check with Google to see which of the two comes from east of the River Medway (Man of Kent). If you’re a woman, you’d be a Maid of Kent or a Kentish Maid. (I’m glad I’m a Moonraker: Australian and British.)

If you simply type ‘Names’ into Google you will find pages and pages of lists of babies’ names. You can, of course, refine it by adding Australian, Scottish, Welsh, Irish—whatever. Well, that’s not strictly true, as most of the lists refer to most popular post-1788 Australian names for babies; I couldn’t find as much on Indigenous names. You have to search specifically for those. I’m optimistic and hope they make a resurgence so—particularly those with an Indigenous heritage—use them for their children. I also hope that we are all empathetic and perceptive enough not to choose names when they clearly don’t fit with our heritage. It seems, to me, presumptuous and heavy-handed.

I answer to Margie—that’s how I introduce myself and it’s how family members introduce me to others. If anyone calls me Margaret I am immediately transported back to boarding school and the dark pit opens up: ‘I must have done something wrong.’ ‘Here we go again.’ How ridiculous is that! I have told people that Margie has a hard G and they have looked at me blankly. Oh dear. I prefer not to be called Marg (sounds so harsh) and I definitely ark up at Marje. Is it so difficult to call a person by the name they offer as theirs? Why do we wish to change them?

Guilty! I made a huge blunder recently when I left a note for someone I’d met a couple of times; I named her incorrectly on the piece of paper. How rude did I feel? She, kind soul, seems to have forgiven me and we have moved on.

I always, however, remember the names of peoples’ animals. Ask me any of the names of the dogs, horses and cats in our vicinity and I will be able to tell you. It probably says a lot about me.

Now I am going out on a limb. I recall a couple of wonderful Billy Connolly quotes about names. The first was from when he was very young and in church sang lustily about ‘Gladly’, his cross-eyed bear. The second wasn’t so polite. He made the statement: ‘Clint! What sort of a name is that? Sounds like a typing error.’ I fell about then and it still amuses me. Yeah, yeah, little things please little minds.

How clever were the wonderful Beatles? Who thought up that name? So I Googled it. I understand that John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe so loved Buddy Holly and the Crickets, they wanted another insect-inspired name. It certainly was—both inspired and entomological. Much as I would like to attend, the planned Paul McCartney concert here later this year is way out of my price range. I’ll stick with the memories of sitting through all those sessions of A Hard Day’s Night with my friend Julia and our trip to see the Beatles at the Hammersmith Palais. At least I have the songs at my fingertips and at the click of a mouse. Thankfully my musical tastes have expanded since those days. Now I’d refer to my musical taste as eclectic.

But I wanted to find out more about what makes our names so unique. I read a little of what’s available on the internet and find that, should we be lumbered with a ‘different’ sort of name it can make us more resilient; alternatively, it can make us more vulnerable—but the more likely effect on how we present ourselves and what happens to us is how we were raised. (http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/why-your-name-matters)

I love this Aussie piece: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-04/baby-name-regret-tips-living-with-unique-name/7805968. I know someone whose name is Michael—yep, a lovely name, and relatively common. Not much problem with spelling that, you’d think. But how many times is he referred to as Micheal? I’ve lost count. Micheal is the Gaelic spelling. Hmm, that could work.

And here’s a blog from the heart: https://www.popsugar.com.au/love/Why-You-Shouldnt-Choose-Unique-Baby-Name-42550483?utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=US:AU&utm_source=www.google.com.au. Makes you think, doesn’t it…

And just for good measure, and with reference to my post on labels and labelling, I found this wonderful piece of wisdom: ‘Once you label me you negate me.’ – Søren Kierkegaard. Perhaps that’s why I think they are so disagreeable.

Bob’s your uncle and other name expressions

Category(s): Creative writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to What’s in a name

  1. I’m always interested in the number of names we collect over time. We gather nicknames, endearments; names we gives ourselves and those assigned to us by others. I usually assume I’m in trouble (unless at work) if 8’m called by my whole given name. It’s become a persona in its own right in many ways. A part of me but not all of me. Enjoyable read Margie. I’ll be paying attention to names all day now. Smilie: :)

    Rika Southcombe (like Ricky with with an "a" at the end)! says:

    A can of worms indeed Margie Riley! As one blessed (?!) with an unusual name, I have lost count of the many thousands of times I have had to spell it. You would think that 4 little letters (Rika) would not be so difficult for people to retain. But no, I get Rita, Reka, Reba(!), Ricky, Rikka, Ricka to name just a few. Even my own sister pronounces my name Reeka (and always has I might add) when it is actually pronounced like Ricky but with an “a” instead of a “y” at the end. I always wanted to be called Sue when I was a teenager so as not to stand out from the group. Close friends and family have abbreviated to Rik – I am amazed how Australians will shorten even a short name! However, you are right, it does make you more resilient and I now quite like having an unusual name – one day I might blog the story about how I came to be named which is quite interesting. I must confess I have inflicted an unusual name on my daughter who as a 16 yo has mixed feelings I think. Her name is Katacia (which we have shortened to Kat of course!). Her name was thought up by my mum (who is Polish by the way) who combined the letters of my name, her name, Jack’s name (my husband) and my mother-in-law’s name. She came up with quite a few but our favourite was Katacia. It’s just as well she was born a girl as the only male name mum came up with was Bogdon – which would of course be shortened to Bog!! She should thank her lucky stars!!! xxx

    • Hi there Rik, or perhaps I should quote Johnny Cash and shout: My name is Sue, how do you do’! We are so bound up with our names, aren’t we – and our animals know their names too! I find the whole thing fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *