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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What's in a name...?

I don't understand it really. But it's just the way I am. I do all my best thinking either in the shower, or when brushing my teeth. When I say 'best thinking' I don't mean that I come up with solutions to food security or world peace, but rather that this is when my brain tends to really get it's hands dirty, regardless of the idea in question.

Last night, standing in front of my bathroom mirror still dripping and wrapped in a towel after a shower, the topic of choice was names. I began to think about all the people that I'd met in my life and how so many of them seemed to display traits that were common to all the other people I'd met with the same names. Take, for example, Tyron (or any variant thereof, such as Tyrone...).

To this day, I have never met a single individual by that name that was even vaguely pleasant. Parents, if you have a boy and you don't particularly want to spend a good part of your sons life in the principles office at school being read the riot act and waxing his growing list of misdemeanours, don't name your child Tyron! It's strange, but true. My mother was a nursery school teacher and my aunt, a primary school teacher, for many years and both confirmed for me that there is indeed a hex on that name; all who bear it are nothing but trouble.

This is not to say that I believe that Tyrons the world over are evil. Far from it! I just have yet to meet one that wasn't.

This all got me thinking about how no matter what the name in question is, it is forever associated with that first person that we met who had it. Another example: I remember in primary school (elementary school for our American readers) having a girl in my class by the name of Angelique. While a tad on the naughty side, what really set her apart from the rest of us was that she had been born with a physical impairment. Her left leg had not fully developed and thus was permanently about 15cm shorter than her right leg. She wore a prosthetic leg extension all the time except for when we had to do PE (physical education - an excuse for teachers to park off and bark orders at children already burnt out from a hard day's work in the classroom).

The truly amazing thing about this girl was not her leg, but rather her approach to life. Angelique was, in spite of all that her biology had thrown at her, unstoppable! I remember that she was always very friendly, but took no nonsense from anyone. She always stood up for the underdog (with the added advantage that few people would argue with a metal reinforced plasticised leg extension...) and even when doing PE, she strove as hard as, if not harder than, all the other kids to do well. As such, this name has a number of connotations for me: scallywag, virtuous and unbeatable.

Another example from primary school was a girl by the name of Catherine. Actually, more than one by that name. And, true to form, both Catherines had equally unpleasant personalities. The first left our school shortly after entering the second grade, much to our unanimous relief. This child, in hindsight probably a deeply troubled individual, would frequently erupt into fully fledged temper tantrums in the classroom. I remember one in particular when she trashed the reading corner, tossing books willy-nilly and overturning the bookshelf, a feat I at the time marvelled at, unable to budge the bookshelf under my own strength. Obviously, rage provided a fuel unmatched by any amount of sugar and tartrezine.

The second Catherine was with us for longer than the first. But, while physical violence wasn't her thing, her skill lay in her unmatched ability to be very unpleasant. She was one of those kids that just never had anything nice to say about or to anyone. Somehow she had friends, but I certainly didn't count myself in their number. In both cases, I learned very quickly that the one thing common to the name was the tactic you used when dealing with them: don't! Just avoid them completely!

So prospective parents, think long and hard about the names that haunt and colour your past. Consult with others about the names that shaped them and give much consideration to the idea, before frivolously applying a label to your offspring!


  1. Your powers of recall are astonishing. Remembering not just the names of kids in primary school, but also their character traits? I can barely remember to brush my teeth some days.

    That said, Warren was the name for naughty little boys in my primary and high school and even later after I left school and university (the first time around).

    And I know a nice Tyrone, if it counts for anything. So that's 2.

  2. Im not sure parents would actually name their kids after people they dont like... For example, I was nearly called Kim, but for the fact that my grandmother knew loads of very horrible Kims!
    I think you'd have to be either rather empty-headed, or very forgiving, to not think about the unpleasant connotations associated with the name in question...