Monday, 15 September 2008

Give Me Back My Name

I’m sure you’ve all seen the story: Famous celebrity couple on holiday, they find out that one of them (usually the woman) is pregnant and they decide to name their child after the place where the child was conceived.

Hence we end up with kids called Brooklyn, Cleveland and Lost Luggage Department. Others celebs may favour rhymes (Zowie Bowie), fruit (Apple) or be influenced by whatever narcotic they were on at the time (how else do you explain names like Moon Unit Zappa, Frank’s son?)

But, as with most things, this filters down the ranks and whilst it may be acceptable in the halls of Eaton, Harvard and The Skegness School For Upper Class Twits to be called Mercedes, Topaz and (heaven forbid) Cruz those of us who insist on living in White Track-suits (complete with gold chain and obligatory 4 month old curry stain) have yet to realise that the same does not apply when attending the local comprehensive.

Back in the late 1980s there was a plethora of Kylie’s entering school – it was the Teenage Mum’s Name Of Choice as Senior Minogue Sister rode the double-wave of Soap Opera and Chart success. More recently it will have been one of the Spice Girls, or the names of their kids – some (poor sods that they are) will probably be named after the Geldof daughters Peaches, Fifi Trixibelle and Heavenly Tigerlilly (admittedly the last one was down to Michael Hutchense – but seriously??)

Recently there was an article about a couple who wanted to call their child “4Real” because they couldn’t believe he was for real. When the judge (showing a rare moment of sanity for the legal profession) forbade them to do so they changed the child’s name to “Superman” (no, really)

And yet history has shown us repeatedly that names are vital.

Myth and legend are full of stories such as Rumplestiltskin – where power may be gained over a thing by knowing its name, or else stories where a demon can be summoned and controlled so long as one can name it. One of Britain’s biggest Sci-Fi exports concerns a time-traveller known only as The Doctor: who refuses to give his name to anyone because he knows that a name would tie him to a single time and space.

Although these are based in fiction there is a certain amount of truth in the real world – names matter, and the strength of your name can have a big impact on your success.

Take Stephen King: probably the highest grossing Horror writer in history, despite (in my opinion) not having written anything interesting in 15 years. If you look at his first name “Stephen” it’s quite a boring name, but backed up by the short, powerful KING it’s an immediate advertising point. If his name were Stephen Clydesdale would he still be as successful? We will never know – but the truth is that he may well have found it a lot harder to get published. Meanwhile a perfectly ordinary name can be dressed up with a superfluous middle initial – M Night Shaylayman for instance. Does anyone know what the M stands for? It probably doesn’t stand for anything – but it gives him that extra edge of mystery.

There are many various claims as to how names should be crafted for full effect – the amount of letters included having cosmic significance, the type of letters saying something about your personality. Personally I very much suspect that the people spouting this claptrap are more than slightly off the wheels in their trainers (or is it just the UK where kids slide around Sainsbury’s like the cast of Starlight Express?) - but I do believe that naming your kids is not something that should be entered into lightly.

Indeed one of the many reasons that I have kept my name off these pages is that my parents saw fit to damn me to a life of mediocrity by supplying me with a Dull Name With No Chance Of Redemption – not even adding a silent Q in the spelling would help with mine.

I keep thinking I should change it to something more exciting – but then I remember the chap who changed his name by deed poll to NAME WITHHELD Bank PLC Are A Bunch Of W***kers because he’s got so annoyed with their customer service – and I wonder what I could do that would be better than that.

Let’s face it – almost anything would be better than calling myself Superman

Or Heavenly Tigerlily…

Or Moon Unit…

Or Brooklyn…

Or Apple.

Maybe I should call myself Kumquat?? Then again, maybe not...


pohanginapete said...

I think "Kumquat" has already been claimed. I have a vague recollection from a long time ago that Kumquat was a baby in one of the old cartoon series like "Bringing up Father" (a.k.a Jiggs and Maggie), or "Blondie" (a.k.a Dagwood). But, your moment of glory might yet come, when some couple names their child "Don't Feed the Pixies". :^)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

pohanginapete - i live for this day!

Miss Bah said...

Yes, this seem to be some kind of trend among the celebs. Perhaps you should give your cats some fancy name. ;)

Hmm it is indeed a tricky thing to decide a name. I think Austin Flowers is a quite cool name by the way. *Kidding*

Talking about names; I have both changed my blog address and blog name, cause I wanted to make my blog more private. So this is Jenny.

Honour said...

Kumquat! sure why not? the Q is not silent, though.

I totally believe in the power of a name. In fact, in the Philippines, if you are sickly a lot as a child, then everyone calls you by a different name, because it's suspected that the evil spirits know where to find you ... (this from a country that is 95% catholic). So, my dad is known as Johnny here in Canada and Tony back with his family.

ironic that you wrote this, and I just recently had to change my blog name because google had somehow attached it to my real name. I couldn't have that now, could I??? (I see Jenny had the same evolution in her life)

p.s. I'm happy with my name because I have two "x"s in it. Very few people can say that!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

hi Jenny - thanks for the updated link. I was fortunate in that my cats came with names already attached - or there would have been months of debate over what to call them

Honour - names = power, but don't get me wrong. I'm not raging against traditional or family names (exept possibly against the kind of person who insists on calling the third generation of their family by the same name - so you get Don Cheedlemouth IIIrd) and there's nothing intrinsicly wrong with exotic names, its just when people name their kids after every player in a particular England World Cup Squad that i have a problem

Lydia said...

Just a creative post; loved it.
Ah me, am catching up on my reading at 2:30 a.m. - so it must be the late (early) hour that caused me to wonder if the director you mentioned would have been as successful if he'd gone by
G Night Shaylayman.

My name has been somethin' all my life...something, that is, I have to spell out for people to get (that's two 'l's and 3 'e's). Gads. Using my middle name in my blog has been freeing for me. And so simple.

Now that I know why Honour had to change her domain name I'm wondering how Google could have done such a thing and how did you find out, Honour? I love the story about the Philippines...

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

lydia - exactly. G Night just doesn't have the same ring, does it?

I think the example of your name is a classic one - i know lots of people who chose to use their middle names over their first. Sadly my own middle name is worse than my first in the "doomed to be boring" stakes

Also where would Elton John be today if he'd recorded under the name Reginald Dwight? Not the same thing at all, is it?

raccoonlover1963 said...

I truly believe that most of these celebs were smoking or popping something seriously strong when they chose the names for their children. Don't forget Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's kids, Rumour and Scout or Dweezil Zappa, or Soleil Moon-Frye. There was a woman in Florida who had two children. I never met her. I was told about her from people that I worked with. She named her children Chlamydia and Gonnorhea(spelling?) From what I heard, she was a very young girl at the time and thought it would be funny! I hope they both dis-own her and have the good sense to have their names legally changed. As for my name, there were nine Lisa's in my graduating class. My mother thought she was being original.
Hope to see you visit soon. I finally got my internet back up and running.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Lisa - so true, i had forgotten the Willis/Moore kids.

Chlamydia and Gonnorhea? That's awful - i hope they had her arrested!

I will visit today - glad to have you back :)

The Clandestine Samurai said...

Brooklyn and Apple, those are Chris Martin's kids, right?

Whilst I can understand what you're saying and agree with you, the extreme individualist in me cannot help not being able to take naming seriously. Why change your name? I'm sure it isn't mundane to the people who've put your personality and being behind it. To them, your name represents something meaningful.

I'm sure there's nothing wrong with a mundane name. Jenny is a fine name. I'm sure yours is a fine name. Here's a hint for mine: a hockey-masked, machete-wielding supernatural serial killer has been using it in a string of horror movies for years. Meanwhile, let's examine the names I've come across:

-Mark and Mark's twin (yes, "Mark's Twin" was the child's name)
-Rainy Days and her sister, Stormy Nights

Hmm, that's all I can think of now.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

samuria - Brooklyn is David (footballer) and Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham and Apple is Chris Martin/Gwyneth Paltrow.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with one boring name. Jenny is a nice name - but my point is you need some balance, so you have to look at the bigger picture

Eldritch has a strange appeal to me

Michael said...

Names are great. Meaningful and meaningless at the same time. I'm curious about the practice of hiding our true names on our blogs. What are we afraid of? Identity theft? Is it even a realistic worry?

One of the funnest parts of writing a new story is researching names. I like obscure meanings hidden in mundane names.

I am curious about your real name. DFTP is quite the mouthful. I'm content to stay curious though.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Michael - maybe i just like a bit of mystery

Anne-Marie said...

Hm, an interesting post, Hungry Pixies, and some interesting comments also. I, too, am curious about your real name although I'll have to settle for Hungry Pixies for now. Did you read Pohangina Pete's suggestion for your name on my blog?

I actually use my real name now; I didn't when I first started blogging. I love my name although it can be a pain. No, my name is not Anne, or Marie, or Anna-Marie, or Mary-Anne, or Emily ...

Using my real name on my blog nearly got me fired from my job, though. Let that be a warning to all.

Honour said...

anne-marie, would love to hear your story about how you almost got fired. please post!

Lydia - how did I find out? well, i occasionally google my own name .. I do a lot of reports for the government, so I like to see what comes up. but shocker of shockers - #3 on the list was my blog! sigh.

Hungry Pixies (I like anne'maries name for you) - oh yes, I agree with you on that point, for sure. Except for that one cartoon show I liked where there were five gargoyles and they got named after differnt parts of NY. THEN it was ok :)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Anne-Marie - thanks. If you want to call me something shorter than you can call me Hungry Pixies or Pixies. I've never really liked my name and am considering writing my novel under a pseudonym.

Also Honour/Michael - Operor non nutritor pixies?? I will look this up later - but i am supposed to be looking up details on a degree i want to do right now...(i'd procrastinate, but i don't have time right now...)

I'm not familiar with the show with the gargoyles, but in my last novel i named a character after a ninja turtle and in my current attempt one is named after an ice-cream, so i guess i can't talk...

Anne-Marie said...

Honour - I'm not going to write a post on how I nearly got fired thanks to blogging under my real name because I don't want to actually be fired!

However, the brief outline:

Some one in my town read my blog and worked out who I was [which wouldn't have been hard to do since I mentioned my town, my real name and what I do for a living]. They laid a complaint against me to my editor for posting offensive material on my blog. I escaped with a formal warning.

That person - whoever they were - must have been the only person in my town to have read my blog at that point. But now, thanks to the trouble I got into, several of my friends and colleagues read it.