Tuesday, 17 August 2010

What's in a name?

A rose by any other, after all, would smell as sweet (to paraphrase the original). Wouldn't it? So what's the big deal?

Having had the second-trimester scan last week, we now know the sex of Charlie's sibling-in-waiting. And we've started thinking about names. Sarah's begun making a list; I'm sharpening my red pencil. Although this time it should be easier as the only girls to cross my path professionally in the last fifteen years or so have been the nice sort you tend to get in the sixth-form. The legion of adolescent males I'd once tried teaching made choosing a boy's name rather tricky. That's the trouble with being a teacher. There aren't many names that you don't associate with at least one recalcitrant reprobate.

So we're on slightly firmer ground this time. And let's hope we get it right. But this naming malarky can be slightly tricky. Marion Morrison can hardly be blamed for wanting something, well, a bit more rugged when he decided on a career in Westerns. And would Frances Gumm's recording of 'Over the Rainbow' have been quite the hit if she hadn't first changed her name? Ask the over 200,000 people in the UK who, in the last five years, have changed their name by Deed Poll what they think of their original monikers and I'm sure they'd beg to differ with the Bard's assertion that a rose would be as fragrant if it wasn't called a rose. As might the recipients of the Bounty's list of top twenty unusual names, especially those called 'Heaven' and 'Maroon'.

Neither of which are on our shortlist, you might be pleased to learn. (Or not, as the case may be...) That's the trouble with names: it's so easy to offend. Say you don't like something and somebody immediately tells you it's their favourite; or tears well in their eyes as they recall it was the name of their favourite (long dead) auntie. Ultimately, you just can't win which is probably why Charlie keeps asking 'what's it called' long after I've given him an answer. A mere noun won't do and I'm constantly being forced to re-Christen a whole host of objects. Even roses:

It's a rose, Charlie.

Yes, but what's it called?

Nothing, Charlie; it's just a rose.

I know Daddy, but what's its name?

It doesn't have a name. Well, it does: it's called a rose. That's it's name.

But what's it called Daddy? What's its name?

(I give up...) - Ok, ok then - it's called 'Eric!'  ...Now, go and have a sniff and tell me if it smells as sweet.
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