Friday, May 10, 2013

Non-Aspirational Naming

Romeo and Juliet by Ford Madox Brown (1870)
Selma is the most non-aspirational name you can give a kid. When you name your daughter Selma, you are giving her the subliminal message that you don’t want her straying far from the family manse.  Ceil is also making a similar statement. Naming your son Rutherford, Forbes, Cumberland or the self same daughter Prudence, Missy or Babs and you convey a different sort of message, particularly if you're not a blue blood. Then there are simply the Inas, Madges and Adeles. If you want your daughter to be one of those wizened old ladies before she’s out of her swaddling clothes then name her Blanche. Okay there was Blanche Dubois, but most Blanches make us blanch. And what parent  wants their daughter to be regarded as with it, names her Muriel or their son Howie, Irving, Harvey or the old Harv. Now Earl or Duke pose some real problems. These are regal names, but you can’t name your kid the Earl of something or Duke of something if haven’t inherited a title. When you name a kid Duke it sounds like Duke Snyder or Earl, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe. And then of course you have 'The Duke of Earl." Gaylord is another matter, but the name, like certain jobs, doesn’t come with the usual benefits. Now there's a middle line. You can name your boy Tom, Dick or Harry. Tom Smith is a veritable tabula rasa, on which he will lay his own imprint. In Israel there’s Moishe. Italy has lots of Fabrizios, and Germany its Klauses or Clauses and what would Russia be without its Olgas or China without its Chiangs. Jack is a nice one. If you have a subliminal desire to birth a kid with an edge, it’s a great moniker if your last name happens to be black. Jack Black took no flack, nice! Fiona and Spencer both occupy the 38th parallel when it comes to naming since by naming your child one of those you are coming perilously close to putting them in enemy territory. “What’s in a name?” Juliet asks in the famed balcony scene. “That which we call a rose.”

1 comment:

  1. jylle benson-gaussMay 10, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    Yes, indeed, what's in a name...
    When I was sixteen my girlfriends and I all changed the spelling of our names, adding in superfluous Y's and IE's, doubling some letters and dropping others. Years later, some of the changes have remained (though they are not, strictly speaking, legal; I insist on the right to spell my own name however I want). I told my son he could change his name to whatever he wanted if he found one that fit better. For a day we called him 'Mike' before he decided to revert to the unique name we'd saddled him with without his consent.
    And don't get me started on nicknames: my army-brat cousins nicknamed 'King' and 'Duke', or all the guys I dated through the years nicknamed 'Butch'. I oughtta write a book about the 'Butch's' I've known. All of them tried to live up to it.


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