What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually

hello_my_name_is_ian_by_eizblackbibleGoofing around on Facebook a while back when Will and Grace or whoever she of the pert royal bum is called I thought of a few possible alternate names for the new royal lass. My thoughts were revolving around the idea that this hyperprivileged newborn should be Christened with a nomenclature that departs from the conventional Royal monikers and maybe go a bit working-class in a spirit of inclusiveness and go for Brenda or Martha.

Or, how about soothing the Scots — who were particularly obnoxious at that time — and opt for ‘Heather’. My Facebook friend Kate suggested they should go with ‘Princess’ Leia. I mean, a bit of pop culture inclusivity. Why not? Personally I would opt for a particular folk heroine of mine who is as truly British as you can get, and that is Boudicca, after the dazzling queen of the Iceni in days of yore.

But she ended up stuck with a boring royal name. (NB she already has with a Catherine, Elizabeth and a predictable Diana thrown together, with Camilla having been rejected, obviously).

There is a particular problem with names, and that is that they are given to newborns by parents with the person impacted having no voice in the matter. And if the parents are trying to show how cool and hip they are, they will join innumerable other parents who are trying to be cool and hip and hence witness all the poor sonsabitches born in the 1960s who got stuck with ‘Dylan’, i mean thousands, maybe millions were so christened. Prior to Bob grabbing onto the name because he thought it sounded more poetic than Zimmerman, the only ‘Dylan’ a priori had been the Thomas one, you know, the Welsh drunkard and fine poet.

In that context I, for example, never liked my name when I was a child. I didn’t know any other ‘Ians’ so I thought it was a silly name and wide-open to mockery. “Ian-Ian; the big fat pee-on” and other bits of verbal revelry at my expense. Why couldn’t my parents have called me ‘Al’ or ‘Spike’? When I was in junior high I went to a school that boasted a lot of Italiano kids with names like ‘Carmine’ or ‘Mario’ or ‘Sal’. You know, street gang names. How cool would that be? But ‘Ian’?

I got a little more comfortable with my name to a degree when a kid moved down the street when I was in fourth grade and he was also named Ian. Nice kid and became a good friend. But, he was a member of a family that had recently immigrated from England. And, as was the vogue of the day with ‘limey’ kids (sorry, that was what we called them) he wore bloody short pants!

I have gotten to know a few other Ians over the years and am more or less comfortable with the nomenclature, but it was also when I was in fourth grade insult was added to that name injury in that I had to wear glasses. That meant I was stuck with ‘four-eyes’ and ‘goggles’ at least until Buddy Holly came along and rendered specs kind of cool. Michael Caine as Harry Palmer (inspiring name, what?) cinched the deal. He was a cool and hip London bloke in the ’60s. Nothing much cooler than that, then.

Anyway, by the time I became an adult I got comfortable with, and even rather proud of my name. And as things go in life getting older is more challenging than fretting about what your parents called you.

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4 responses to “What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually

  1. Julian Young formerly known as Dumdad

    You should worry. When I were a lad growing up in Yorkshire the name Julian was considered very “poofy”. I was actually beaten up by an older boy at Leeds Junior Grammar School who said, “That’s a girl’s name”. Punch. Ouch. “In fact, here’s a second punch for having two girls’ names – Julie Anne.” Punch. Perhaps that explains my 25-year career as a karateman!

    I also nearly got worked over by two drunken sailors in Portsmouth in a Chinese takeaway during my journalistic course (you can’t make this up) who after terrifying the Chinese staff turned on me and asked me, “Wot’s yer name?” Stupidly I replied, “Julian.” He started prodding my chest aggressively and repeating “wot sort of name is that for a man?”

    At this point, I thought I was going to be turned into chop suey and I suddenly went into a comic routine saying it wasn’t my fault, it was my parents’ and I’d had to live with the shame of Julian all my life etc. etc. He stared me in the eyes and I awaited the first blow, which I’d have blocked but two meaty sailors were more than a match for a black belt. Suddenly he roared with laughter and hugged me. “You’re okay,” and we were immediately friends for life (or, at least, the next 10 minutes).

    He then shouted to the Chinese staff cowering behind the curtain: “Where’s my pal’s Chinese.”

    We left the takeaway expressing intentions to have a wee dram in the Portsmouth docks later in the week but, of course, that never happened.

    What’s in a name? A lot!

  2. I hated my name and the many nicknames that came with it as a child and only started using the legal version once I turned 18. Since then I’ve come to appreciate my name in that it is not one that belongs to everyone else. As for naming kids, it took me a long while to settle on my boys’ names and even now I sometimes wonder if I chose correctly.

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