We are our names. Rose by any other name wouldn’t be Rose, she would be Emma or Victoria and her life would be different. If her name were Ching Liu it would be really different and would involve eating dim sum on a routine basis. Rose mostly eats the Early Bird Special at Denny’s.
With some exceptions, particularly in the entertainment biz, most of us go through life with the given name that our parents thought was cool. Given that our parents were barely out of their teens when they played the baby name game, what they thought was “cool” may not prove all that cool as maturity sets in. It’s hard to imagine, for instance, an 80-year-old “Tiffany”. Perhaps using the “i” ending (Tiffani) would add some gravitas. Hey, it worked for Gandhi.
Each year, the Social Security Administration compiles a list of most popular baby names for the preceding year in the U.S.. One hundred years ago, the most popular five baby boy names were: John, William, James, Robert and Joseph. Fifty years later, John, James and Robert were still in the top five while William and Joseph were replaced by Michael and David. These are all stout, upstanding, CEO and CFO names. In 2011, the name William clawed its way back into fifth position (way to go William) following Jacob, Ethan, Michael and Jayden. I predict that the Jaydens will come to blame their parents for their name when they hit 30.
The data indicate that female names are more variable, year-to-year: Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret and Ruth of 1911 have been replaced with Isabella, Sophia, Emma, Olivia and Ava in 2011. None of the 1911 favs made it to top of the list in 2011. Of course, fewer little girls are named after their mothers than baby boys are named after their fathers, thus perpetuating certain boy names. Also, parents more often select girl baby names that come from pop culture, thus the recent spate of Isabellas, reflecting the popular view that chumming around with vampires is really, really cool. Warning: we should brace ourselves for a raft of baby girls named Gaga.
In my own case, my parents named me “Bruce” for reasons that were never satisfactorily explained to me. It’s not a family name. There were no famous movie stars or public figures with this name at the time.. The name worked fine up until the time that comedy writers discovered that “Bruce” could be lisped in a way that suggested gay tendencies, not that there is anything wrong with that. For a brief period I had to endure the embarrassment of Randy Sparks’s “Big Bad Bruce” a comic riff on Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John”. Dean’s original was horrid and so it went to #1 on the pop music charts. “Big Bad Bruce” was horrider. However, my name eventually became associated with Springsteen, Dern, Jenner and Willis, thus taking some of the sexual orientation pressure off of me and spreading it around to guys with names like Stephen, Jeffery and Stewart.
I have compiled some observations about names, both given names and in relationship to their surnames. Some of you will argue that I have used gross generalizations and inappropriate stereotyping to create these observations. To those who feel that way I can only offer this rejoinder, “Of course”.
- If your name is Moses Goldberg, you did not run track. If your name is Moses Smith, you did.
- If your name is Kwentaba Oblongo, you are an electrical engineer. If your name is Kwentaba Washington, you aren’t.
- If your name is Candice Lindstrom Johnson, you work at Goldman Sachs. If your name is Candi Lin Johnson, you work at Hooters.
- If your name is Jesus Miguel Martinez, you are a middle infielder or landscaper. If your name is Jesus Mike Martin, you probably don’t pronounce it “Haysoos”.
- If your name is Larry but you go by “Chipper”, you can be in a sports Hall of Fame. If your name is Larry and you go by Larry, forget it.
- If your name is Emily Jones, you will get the job interview and the job. If your name is Quanisha Jones, they called Emily first.
- If your name is Everett Marsden III and they call you “Trey”, you live near Oyster Bay. If your name is Everett Marsden III and they call you “Bubba”, you live near Macon.
- If your name is Isabella Hauser, you are often confused with Isabella Howser who is in the other third grade class. If your name is Isabella Gaccione nobody confuses you with nobody, capice?
- If your name is Dusty Roemer, you are a cantankerous but lovable sidekick. If your name is Dusty Rhodes, you are a nerd and/or a disc jockey.
- If your name is John but they call you Jack, you are in politics. If your name is John or Jack but they call you Dawg, you are in jail.
- If they call you “Stretch”, you are probably tall. If they call you “Shorty”, you are likely short. If they call you Fat Alice…well, I’m just saying. All of this can be reversed if you run with a highly ironic crowd.
- If your name is Abdullah Mohammad, you are not from around here. If your name is Abdullah Mohammad (a.k.a.) Jimmy Jackson, you are.
- If your name is Prince Rogers Nelson, Prince, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, The Artist, TAFKAP, Sean John Combs, Puff Daddy, P.Diddy or Diddy, you are tiresome.
- If your name is Alan Freeman, you will go through your entire life getting mail for Allen Freeman.
- If your name is Marion Robert Morrison, you cannot be a cowboy film star. If your name is John Wayne, you have a shot.
- If your name is Booger Evans, you run with a rowdy crowd. If your name is Booger McCoy, you run with a different rowdy crowd because rowdy crowds allow only one Booger per crowd.
I’m sure that there are many more such observations but I run the risk of making dozens more readers angry and vengeful. If you would like to send me additional “name observations” please do. That way, I can share the blame.
Observoid of the Day: We are all descended from worms. It just shows more with some people.