Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rodney

I wonder, how much of your identity is tied up in your name? What do you think? I would say, in my case at least, none. This is partly because I’ve never felt close to my real name and indeed I’ve taken steps throughout my life to distance myself from it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, however, and I think I might be growing into it, or about to grow into it. In fact, 2010 will be the year I grow into my name. Fingers crossed.

I was thinking the other day about a little boy called Rory. Rory is a mate’s kid, and he has a fine name, I’m sure you’ll agree. But what if Rory turns out to have a speech impediment? What if he has to introduce himself for the whole of his life as Wowy? That would be awful. Potentially a genuine tragedy which could only be exacerbated if he plumped for a career at Defra and had to spend his working life talking about environmental and rural affairs.

I mentioned this to Ben. Ben said this is exactly why people should be allowed to choose their own names. I asked him what name he would have chosen for himself if he’d been allowed to do so as a child. He said, 'Princess Leia.' I find it increasingly difficult to believe that he was ever married.

He asked me what name I would have chosen. ‘Fonzie,’ I replied. Thinking about it more seriously, however, and for reasons into which I am unable to go, I would have chosen the name Danny.

I’d still quite like to be a Danny. I wonder though, would my life have been any different if I’d been a Danny?

Maybe this is one of the reasons people have children, so they can give them the names they wish they’d had themselves. But maybe not. I’d like to think that babies’ faces suggest names, like cats. Parents must think, ‘Oh, she looks just like an Emily’ or ‘He has the nose of a Cyril’. But then people make mistakes. What about you? Did your parents make a mistake? Did they name you correctly - or are you a big Jesse trapped in a Jake? Hmm?

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Anonymous said...

I was a twin. Her name would have been Tiziana - pronounced 'titzeeana'. I'm sure she'd have gone her entire life known as tits.

Many hispanics call their boys Jesus or Diosmedes. Jesus like the one in Big Lebowski. Diosmedes as in God.

Lots of people - in the States mostly - give their kids made-up names, such as Scout, Ripley and Pixie.

I have met several Jesuses, one Diosmedes, a Scout, Ripley, Shanice, Shavonne, Tyrell and countless other people whose names didn't fit their personalities.

I don't think mine fits me. But I think my son's fits him.

A rose is but a rose...

Swineshead said...

I like my full name but the surname rhymes with a swear. You had to be prepared to drop the swearbomb before anyone else managed it at school. I even defaced my own work if it got put on the wall to prevent the shame of anyone beating me to it.

A little insight, right there.

O'ace Mann said...

I know what you mean about names. I have a name that nobody else has. When I was a child and we used to go to Blackpool or Margate for day trips, i could never find a keyring, mug or anything with my name on it...but my brother could his name was lets not forget when nobody pronounces your name correctly and then argues with you about your name, telling you how its pronounced and tellin you its pretentious. All said, I still wouldn't choose another name.

anyway..have a read of my new blog

and go easy on me for my grammar....if you Loved the book my the way....what did you call the Paperback in the end?

amy grace said...

I started going by Grace years ago and I'm frequently told it suits me. No one ever mentioned Amy being a particularly "me" name. These days I just string 'em together; part mom, part me.

My dad wanted to name me Galadriel, but Mom talked him out of it. I'd be very curious to know how that might have affected my development :)

Fuck it, be Danny if you want. I think it's a nice name for you.


Rose said...

I actually hated my name until I was about 21, when I grew up a bit and dated a guy who loved not only me, but also my name.
Nowadays, I find my name fitting: a fragile and sweet flower protected by bitter thorns.

gongman said...

"The Gongman" is not only my screen name (writing in internet places for the purpose of....)

It is who I am and what I do.

Lots of people around Europe who have spent time at music festivals have no idea what my real name is.

But they know who The Gongman is :)

And what he does......

PurestGreen said...

My parents were close but not quite. They called me Sonya, which I never liked even as a child. I don't like how it sounds in my mouth - the two hard syllables are like pancakes falling on pavement. Son-ya. Blech. I learned that the root of the name was Sophia, which I instantly loved because it rolled in my mouth, all curved and soft. About 5-6 years ago I changed it, not telling my parents. They found out and were upset, but are used to it now. They still call me Sonya. It makes me cringe a little to hear a name I don't associate with myself. But everyone here calls me Sophia and it makes me happy.

Good post Danny.

Mike Booth said...

All the parents I know chose their child's name before the child was born, so the choice had nothing at all to do with the new person.

Isn't that usually how it's done? The prospective Mum and Dad make lists of names they like, then negotiate until they find one they can both agree on -- like a marketing committee naming a new brand of yoghurt, except perhaps with less discussion of how the brand name will eventually be perceived by schoolchildren.

I was named Michael; but when people call me that it makes me grit my teeth, because it reminds me of childhood.

Anonymous said...

Bonjour La Bête,
Names are a bit of a lottery, mixed with your parents' sense.
Nicknames are much more accurate, but often very cruel.
There should be another way, a name chosen by yourself, to fit yourself. A Iname, or Mename, or something like that.
Uncle Did

Antipo Déesse said...

My name means Early Morning Light (Helen) and I am indeed bright-eyed and bushy tailed every bloody day from 6:30, no probs!

My parents have only themselves to blame...

La Bête said...

Thanks for that, everyone.

I know what you mean about nicknames, Uncle Did, but I feel the accent is often on cruel rather than necessarily accurate.

Ooh, I've just remembered, I met someone recently who was a big fan of The Matrix and consequently named her first-born Neo. I think she was quite upset when I laughed quite so loudly.

Larry Teabag said...

I know a guy who was brought up by extreme hippies who believed he should be allowed to choose his own name. He did, changing it every few weeks, though quite often opting for "spiderman".

The upshot was that he essentially didn't have a name until some frighteningly late age, like 15 or something. Looking back, I don't think he counts the experiment as a success.

The girl otherwise known as redsaid said...

Oooh, you've hit a nerve with this post! I LOATHE my real name. It's awful. It actually translates to the perfectly acceptable, globally pronounceable Rachel, but the Afrikaans version is spelled with a g instead of a ch and pronounced... well, let's just say that it sounds as if one is coughing up a hell of a hair ball when pronouncing it correctly! (The guttural 'g'... not exactly the most charming sound in the world.)

Despite being Afrikaans for Rachel, it is NOT a common name in South Africa. Which of course is just GREAT when one is a child, when all you want to do is conform and not stand out due to being burdened with a horrid and unusual name.

I lived in the States for almost a decade, and unfortunately, despite always writing 'pronounce as' in parentheses when filling out forms, no one ever bothered to read the contents of the bloody parentheses! Subsequently, Americans thought that my name rhymes with bagel. Only Jewish Americans who had been fully Bar/Bat Mitzvah'd after years of attending Hebrew school could pronounce my name the Afrikaans way (but only after I had told them how to). Arabic speakers too.

But for almost ten years, I was perfectly happy to introduce myself and be known as Rachel. I knew my American boyfriend wanted to break up with me when he started introducing me by my Afrikaans name (he was a freak of nature. A WASP who could utter a guttural g). Spiteful bastard! Americans literally recoiled with horror when hearing my Afrikaans name. But damn, even in SOUTH AFRICA I sometimes get addressed in the mail as "Mister".

If it wasn't so expensive to do, I'd change the spelling of my name to ch. Those two simple letters could have saved me from a lifetime of anguish and torment. However, had I been left to my own devices? I would have chosen an entirely different name for myself. Something plain and simple and common and which can be pronounced everywhere in the world. Like Liza.

I will NEVER EVER EVER EVER forgive my parents for saddling me with this horror of a name!

Maurita said...

I love my short names,although one I have to consistently explain (to men especially) that it isn't what they think, being that it's MOJO, you can just imagine what's going on in their heads! I do love it though, it describes that crazy side of me.

It has taken me a while to get used to having a name like Maurita, as it is quite different, and I have to explain about 100 times a day how to pronounce it. As I'm getting older I'm starting to embrace it more. All the same, I prefer friends to call me by my nicknames, being MOJO, MAURI, MO, it's so much more personal to me.

I'll see if I can think of one for you. Love your name, it's definately one you can't forget!

Just for a change, maybe I'll change mine to Sharon.

clumpf said...

I like Ben. I think you should marry him.

Anonymous said...

I have a very ordinary name, for which I am thankful. However, a workmate has a highly unusual name which she is constantly asked to explain. I am at the point where I could explain it on her behalf, such are the frequency of the requests. She always explains with supreme patience, but I like to think she is inwardly cursing her hippie parents who burdened her with such an unusual and oddly spelled moniker.

Danny is a fabulous name, by the way. Danny is your mate. Danny is popular with girls. Danny is good at sport and sex and telling jokes. Go Danny!

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Somebody once described my name as the middle class version of Sharon. That's a pretty accurate description. It's really very dull and ordinary, but I quite like it, I think purely because in my better moments I quite like myself. And because it is such a fundamental part of me so I have become attached to it.

I hate naming things though. And people. I hate the responsibility. My mind goes blank. I find it hard to be either creative or sensible. That horrible tension between "original" and "pretentious" and "just plain silly" which is never worse than when trying to name a child.

Depending on your point of view you may think my children's names are pretentious, wanky, posh, creative, unusual, colourful or even unimaginitive.

You could tie yourself in knots with this stuff for hours, so I try to take the following attitude: Names tend to become tainted by association. You were bullied by a Johnny at school, and therefore hate the name. Your childhood sweetheart was a Joanna, and to you it is a thing of loveliness. Whichever association is strongest is the one that sticks. And luckily this means that people and things very quickly take ownership of their names. You forget whatever previous associations you had, and the thing/person becomes the name and vice versa. So as long as the thing itself is beautiful, regardless of what name you have given it, the name will become beautiful by association.

For instance: The Beatles. Think about it. Look at it. It's a terrible pun, a bloody silly name and if your friend was starting a band and suggested it to you, you would laugh them out of court. But is that what you think of when you look at that name? No. It probably isn't.

That's why with both our kids we refused to tell anyone what names we were considering until the child was born and named and it was a fait accompli. The name was now attached to a wonderful gorgeous new human being. The last thing we needed was to have the already-difficult naming process tainted by other people's association-laden prejudices.

Chloë said...

My first name isn't common in my country and I've been spelling it all my life. My mom got a little carried away and actually gave me 5 first names. She thought it would be nice for me to be able to choose between them later on in life. But I'm used to the one I've got and don't feel any need to change it.

I'm rather curious why you prefer the name Danny. I personally think it doesn't fit a person as creative as you are.

kiki said...

my name is keith
and i'm not an old man (yet) or an accountant

but when i am old... watch out stereotypes!

grrl said...

I remember a friend from the primary shool - her name was Persephone - she could not agree with any suggestion I made to call her by a 'shorter versions' of her name (like Percy...:>...)- I explained her that everytime I say Persephone I imagine a pitchfork... and it was the reason we could not continue our friendship...

What is actually your name - does it have more than ten syllables?

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

I once knew a Neville who was exactly as you would expect a Neville to be. It was like he'd been drawn by a cartoonist and plonked into my office.

I want to meet a Neville who is not like that!

Anonymous said...

My name has four syllables - and is foreign. I once worked for a shithead who asked me if there was something else he could call me - something shorter - as my name was unwieldy.

But that's not why he was a shithead. He just was.

I also dated a guy who never called me by my name. In fact, thinking back, I don't recall him ever uttering my name, except when he introduced me to his mate. And that was once. I don't think he liked my name and couldn't bring himself to say it.

I have a theory: I don't think it's possible to have a successful relationship with someone whose name you do not like. Imagine being in the throes of passion and having to whisper the name Balthasar or Howard or Herbie or Harriet or Tiffany.

I'm with the squirrel. It's all about association.

Running Queen said...

I absolutely hated my original name, I always swore that when I turned 18 I would change it by deed poll which I did in fact do and I found the whole process very liberating as it coincided with a time when I was trying to re-invent myself as someone new in order to disassociate myself from some nasty goings on and I have to say that it really worked.
So if anyone else really hates their name - change it! Trust me it's very liberating.

Anonymous said...

you should be able to chose and use whatever name you feel comfortable with. i do think it's as simple as that and anything more is psychobabble.

Anonymous said...

When I was a child I frequently chnaged my name. I don't know why, as I actually like the name Maria. My son recently changed his surname to that of my father's, as he hasn't seen his biological father in 20 years, and my dad was more of a role model to him. He anounced this during Thanksgiving dinner. It made my mother cry!

Maria in Oregon

:: CCB's Knit-Knacks :: said...

(I only found your blog a couple of days ago so I have been reading up on old posts... very glad I stumbled across it). I love my (maiden) name, it has always been a talking point, it's slightly unusal (some say it's a porn star name, hmm), people never forget me because of it and I find if I need to order something or make an appointment my name is 'clocked' straight away and not forgotten. Even more-so now I have added my married name to it - it's a comedy name now, it confuses people, no one knows how to pronounce it... and I love it!

Charlie said...

After having heard on the latest episode of Top Gear about a girl being called Kia because her mother gave birth in a kia brand car.. I'm glad I've got a fairly normal name in Charlotte.

Horrible when you're talking to someone who really doesn't suit their name - especially when it was a name you previously liked until they twisted your view of it!

(This is the first time I've commented on your blog post, but after avidly devouring your blog because I was off school for a week.. Just got to say I really love it!)

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

"my [maiden] name is 'clocked' straight away and not forgotten. Even more-so now I have added my married name to it"

Based on your user name I really want your maiden name to have been "Knit" and your married name to be "Knacks". Please tell me it is.

Anonymous said...

I'm never likely to be a parent but I I am I'm picking a name that's easy to spell and say. I've taught too many kids with learning disorders an speach impediments, like poor Casey Sterne who couldn;t say the letter s. We also had a supply teacher called Mrs Summerscales who had the same speach impediment.