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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What's in a Name?

As an exercise  in my creative writing class recently our tutor gave us two names and asked us  to write a short piece  about "Si and Margaret"attempting  to outline  their characters. As you would expect with several different personalities in the group everyone  had a different take on who Si and Margaret were. It got me thinking about names, and naming  things in general.
A name is a very important thing  for most of us, the moniker we have been saddled with will tell people about us before we even meet. A Vivienne, or a Lilith will conjure up a different picture in your  mind  than say a Susan or an Edith.

I always hated my name "Tracey Smyth"- two of the most common names ever put together, like John Green or Alan Jones. As I have got older and now  know no other Traceys I don't mind it so much. There was a time in my  teens when I  adopted my middle name Elizabeth, and my mother's maiden name of Harrison. I wasn't pretentious at all of course so a little double-barreling wasn't out of the question. I would sign my letters to my parents from school "Beth Harrison-Smyth", my parents  to their credit either didn't notice or realised I would soon get over it.

Double-barrelled surnames used to be the choice of the nobility. Those women who married down who wished their higher social status to be maintained while also raising the status of their new husbands would become double barrelled rather than adopt a name they saw as of lower status. Some names work well together, think Palmer-Tompkinson, or Lane -Fox. In recent times though every Big Brother wannabe and promotions girl is an O'Hare-McKechnie or Robertson-Watson, ghastly ugly mouthfuls. My own ( probably outdated) opinion is, if you want  to get hitched, adopt one or other name and stick with it.

New double barreled Aisleyne Horgan-Wallce
Old double barreled Martha Lane Fox OBE
                                                                       

Now I am in danger of sounding like a Daily Mail reader, but double barrels, if not centuries old make my flesh creep. Made up christian names however, send me to the fair. I'm all for celebrities calling their children Apple, Sage or Memphis if it floats their boat. After all if you are the child of a prominent actor or rock star you are expected to stand out from the crowd, and at least these are names, not of children , but of  something. You could decide to go all Shakespeare on us  and make up your own ; like Kelby or Shanice or anything with a hyphenated Lee on the end ( Sammi, Bobbi etc) or, you use a real name but spell it creatively Daryn. Lynzi, Traycee but  those, especially if combined with a naff double barrel will not show off your uniqueness, or coolness, or upward mobility, sadly  they will just make you stand out as a pretentious wannabe.