Monday, 11 November 2013

What's In A Name?

 
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Naming a child has been an important event in family life throughout history, involving many and various traditions both cultural and personal to the particular family and often subject to the vagaries of fashion.  When I was young, the children in my class were largely called, Nigel, Paul, Philip, John, Susan, Jane, Janet and Margaret. I thought the names of my father's generation were awful: his siblings went by the names of Blanche, Edna, Rowsell and Gladys, his own name being even more dreadful - Harold.  My grandmother's name was Ethel, or was it Mabel?  No matter. Ugh. I chose traditional names for my own children: Catherine, Nicholas and Andrew, and when they started having theirs, I begged that they remember just one thing:  please choose something everyone can both pronounce and spell without asking "Could you repeat that, please?"  They have managed quite well unlike a cousin, who named their first child, Jared - at least that's how I thought it was spelt - turns out it is in fact, "Jarrod" and a cousin in Australia has a girl called Georgia, well, that's what I put on my birthday calendar. Wrong again. They spell it "Jorga",  which to me contravenes all the spelling rules I learned at school.  However, English is nothing if not a language of exceptions to the rule, so I may not judge. We have a lot of bi-lingual primary schools in this country, English/Afrikaans, and in the smaller towns the classes are not even separate.  My library colleague was telling me that a friend of theirs, a grown man whose name is 'Riaan'  (Afrikaans), is mysteriously referred to as 'Amriaan', by contemporaries who were in his first grade at school, when they were all 6-years old. She asked him one day why this was. He told her that on the first day, the teacher had each child stand up and introduce himself and when it was his turn, he thought he would show off his knowledge of English and said, "I am Riaan". No-one was expecting to hear words of another language and so all, including the teacher chorused, "Hello, Amriaan!"  And so it stuck.

7 comments:

  1. Ordinary names have outlived their usefulness, it seems. Now parents make up names. I guess it avoids the battle over which grandparent to name the first baby after.

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  2. In my family of late, names seem to be rather....fluid. My sister, born in 1955, was named Patricia, a very common name for American girls in that era. When she was in her mid-twenties, she decided to change it to Tatiana. Then, in her forties, she changed it to "Tai." She named her daughter Aryana. But when Aryana was 18, she changed it to "Nicholas Alexander" at a time when she claimed to be transgender. Now she's changed her mind and goes by "Nicki."

    My brother, who had children very late in life -- he just turned 65 and has a 4 year old daughter and one year old son -- named his children after beloved relatives with some alterations. His daughter Grace Elizabeth is named after our maternal grandmother (Gladys...but Grace is a more acceptable substitute these days) and paternal aunt Elizabeth (whom we called Molly). Little Grace's family nickname is Maggie. Her little brother was named for the paternal grandfather we never knew but wish we did, a grandfather my brother closely resembles in all ways. The boy's name is Henry Patrick. Henry seems to be newly popular in this country as a boy's name once again.

    My mother's given name was Ethel but when she was modeling in her twenties, she changed it to Caron.

    What shocks me is some movie stars naming their kids ugly old names -- like Julia Roberts calling her daughter Hazel. Ugh! What's up with that?

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    Replies
    1. Whew! You have a complex family. I forgot one problem made-up name in ours. One of my sisters-in-law is called - "Geordia" a compilation of her parents George and Daphne. Few get it right. Agree about Hazel, but at least it's a 'real' name. Was there a Hazel at school that you didn't like?

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  3. Pity poor Lady Agnew of Lochnaw:

    http://jssgallery.org/Paintings/Lady_Agnew.htm

    Her maiden name?

    http://jssgallery.org/Resources/Photos/People/GertrudeVernon.htm

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    1. I liked the observations about the painting. What's wrong with 'Vernon' though? Was there a Vernon at your school that you despised?

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    2. Nothing wrong with Vernon, but Gertrude? Who would do that to their kid?

      My opinion on naming your children is to take very common middle of the road names. The mean little bastards of the world will find enough to pick on your kids about without giving them a name to have to contend with as well.

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