It’s probably too much to post twice in one day… but it’s raining. And there is only so much real estate porn one can watch… and even Jane Austen, whose books I am re-reading for fourth time in my life, is not keeping all my attention.
Oh, good. My sister is now going to call me ‘Gorp’. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful that feels.
My own fault. I said I wasn’t a gorpy girl fan, she says I was, and now I’m going to be called Gorp.
It’s just like my paternal grandmother. When my parents were engaged and first married, my mother really didn’t know what to call her mother-in-law (which I understand; it took me a long time to get used to calling Jeff’s parents Mom & Dad, although it seems natural now!). My grandmother’s name was Hazel Isobel, and while most people called her Hazel, my grandfather always called her Isobel. At some point, she must have been asked which named she preferred, because she is reputed to have said something along the lines of “I don’t care, just don’t call me ‘Gertrude’. I have never liked the name ‘Gertrude’.”
And so she became known forever and forever to me and my five siblings as Grandma Gert, and just plain Gert to my mother.
I have one of those names which either lends itself to nicknaming or is always formal, depending on circumstance. And while, as a child, I bemoaned my unusual name, longing to be a ‘Linda’ or a ‘Debbie’ or a ‘Cathy’… I was not. (I still love the name ‘Catherine’ and would have named a daughter such, but I don’t think I would have let her be called ‘Cathy’ – isn’t it funny how that rolls around??)
Apparently, while waiting for the stork to drop me down the chimney, my parents debated calling me either ‘Martha’ or ‘Sarah’. As it turns out, they went the traditional family route, so my name is Claudia Isobel, for my maternal grandfather, Claude, and my paternal grandmother. And almost immediately after being born and christened, everyone in the family (except my grandfather Claude) started called me ‘Dia’. And I only went by Dia pretty much until I was 17. It started changing then, so that by the time I returned from Australia, no one who hadn’t known me since infancy, or who became a very close friend, called me anything but Claudia.
Except for university friends, of course, and movie producer Steven Haft, who called me ‘Claude’.
And don’t get me started on last names! When we were married, it was still pretty unusual for a newly-married woman to NOT change her name. So – just like always – I was the one who stood out in the crowd and didn’t change her name. Which, for the US Navy at the time was a huge pain in the ass. Never mind the bookkeeper at Barnett’s Bank on the base at NAS Jax, Jacksonville, Florida who came out of her office to berate me for not showing pride in my new husband changing my name and – here’s my favourite part – and thus making her job more difficult to figure out how to file our account information!! Needless to say, we did not stay with Barnett Bank for long!
What got me started thinking about names was the number of men named ‘Bill’ and women named ‘Jean’ here where we work and live. Back in their day, you didn’t run into babies who had names that were made up or taken from consumer products or were just plain weird (Hello ‘Inspektor Pilot Lee’!). Names came from family or from heroes, they had meaning and would grow old with you. Of course, there are some names that are now so old-fashioned, even unattractive by our lights, that you would never find a little girl in pre-school named ‘Ethel’ or a little boy named ‘Percy’.
I have always thought it remarkable that there doesn’t seem to be as much fashion in boys’ names as in girls. Some yes, certainly – ‘Jaden’ (with all its variant spellings, and which name I don’t particularly like), ‘Brandon’ and ‘Tyler’ come to mind first. But girls’ names seem to ebb and flow depending on celebrity, or so it seems to me. My wonderful, bright, beautiful niece Ashley was part of a cohort born when the two most popular names for girls were ‘Ashley Nicole’; I have wondered how many other Ashley Nicoles she has met in her lifetime. And I have to say, Ashley suits her. Her mother calls her “her little hippie chick” and it’s true! so Ashley does live up to her name.
My own personal choice in names runs in a deep old-fashioned thread. I like the names that run in my family, I like the names of the apostles, I like the names from 19th century literature (for the most part… not all). I also like place names if they have meaning, like naming a child Paris because s/he was conceived there (although I’m not sure I would explain that at his/her 12th birthday party in front of all his/her friends).
There are a number of countries around the world which have lists of names which they permit and names they forbid to be legally given to babies born in the country. I don’t think that’s right either, but at least it forces parents to remember that this child doesn’t belong to them, like a house or a car or a turtle, to be given any name and it won’t care. This child grows up to be a person who has their own dreams and aspirations, and it could be hard to achieve those dreams if you’re trying to live up (down?) to the name ‘Sausage’ or ‘Moon Cake’ or ‘Forest Nymph’ (and these are all real names, given to babies in the US, in 2006).
My favourite name of all time, I think, has to be the one from “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, when the Petries had to explain to Ritchie why he was given the middle name he had. There were so many people who wanted him named for themselves or for family members or for heroes, that Rob & Laura compromised by using all seven names, but only the initials:
Bill ( I think)
Kinda makes you long for the days of ‘Esther’ and ‘Earl’, doesn’t it??