Tuesday, March 29, 2005


In the car one day the man of the house declared “I’m going to change my name”. This is something he has been doing for years, ever since basket ball players started converting to Islam in mid-career. “From now on,” he would declaim, “my name is Acccchmed Hamid Jamarrr bar Icccchhhmbenrabi” or some such, which included many difficult guttural choking sounds. On this particular occasion he decided that his new moniker would be Portulaca Tollplaza. I inquired if this name would be hyphenated: Toll-Plaza like some African American Debutante, but no, he thought that just the one word would do. Will you change your sisters’ names too? I offered; they could be Ovaltine, Lavoris and Binaca (her father being of Hispanic descent.).
One of his sisters once related a story to me of a boyfriend who called her butt face. I told her that this was an indication she needed a new boyfriend. This was a girl who could have been on the cover of a magazine, and yet she settled for a really bad pet name from a guy who turned out to be every bit as good as that name.
My friend Tess has always had names for everything, including inanimate objects such as stoves (the Mighty Viking) and cars (the brick). Most people are happy if they find names for all of their children, but Tess has named children that she does not have: her son is Hiawatha Boulevard, and her daughter, Terracotta Statuette.
We have neighbors who we tried in vain to make friends. They remain friendly but aloof, and when we think about inviting them to something we say how about calling Chickie and Willard, or, do you think we should invite Fontaine and Brevard? Those are not their names, we know the real ones, but continue to invent new ones, and we always know whom we mean.
It is a rare day in the house when we don’t give the cats new names. It’s not that the cats don’t have good names, although in the case of Skippy, nee Farafluff, it kind of was, and they both still manage to recognize their own names or the names we have chosen to call them at that particular juncture.
Many of us do not care for our given names, but they often fit particularly well. My sister and I never liked our names because they were different from any one’s name that we knew. Children will make fun of anyone’s name just for the fun of it, and because it makes another person miserable, but when your own parents give you a bad name it just seems cruel. As it happens, I do NOT have a bad name, I just needed to grow into it. My other sister was named inadvertently by me, and every girl born that year seemed to have that name. That also is a burden to a child. “I will not be Hennifer 2, she told the Spanish teacher; make the other girl number two”. I think that showed moxie. I should have named her Amanda which was someplace on the list, but I was under the gun with less than 30 seconds to make a pronouncement, and that is the reason for my sister’s very normal name.
To review, odd name, not appreciated, normal name also unappreciated. I don’t know how to fix that, and as I said before, we become the name we were given.

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