The Name Game

By Duncan Christie-Miller

‘I’m sorry, I did not catch your name’.
‘What was your maiden name?’
‘Good morning. My name is …’
Making your name. Name, Rank and Number. Nametapes.

Names : everything we see, use or are has a name – or many names. We associate a name with a characteristic, a usage or an emotional memory. In the Army, young Officers are nicknamed Ruperts – so describing an air of innocent uselessness combined with a penchant for wearing checked trousers.

How about nicknames? Shiner Wright, Dinger Bell, Taff Jones (except in any Welsh regiment where all Jones are given a number – Jones 84 for example).
And do you remember the agonies you went through naming your children? Does Amanda go with Arkwright? Does Jeremy fit with Corbyn? Does Boris go with … Pasternak? (got you there I suspect!)

The most popular girls’ and boys’ names in 2020 so far are : Olivia, Emma, Ava and Sophia with Liam, Noah, Elijah and Oliver heading the boys’ list.

Noah? Well, there must be parents out there who want their boy to become a vet or a merchant Navy Captain.

And pets’ names – how embarrassing to have a loose dog in Richmond Park chasing deer. How mortifying to run after it shouting out all three of them – Jesus Christ Fenton. Or to own the last horse in the race called Quicksilver?

Then there are names which we love. James Bond. Bill Slim. Bulldog Drummond. Vera Lynn. Grace Kelly. Bobby Moore. Mary Berry. You only have to say them to conjure up a clear mental image of the person. Try it out : Diana …

And the joint names which bring about clear images : M&S, Ant & Dec, Gilbert & Sullivan, Laurel & Hardy, Huntley & Palmer, Rolls and Royce, P&O and Lea & Perrins.

Then there are names which exude menace : Stalin, Hitler, Frankenstein, Arsenic, Death Cap, Shock& Awe, Blitzkreig, Spitfire (hey steady on that was a good one), Vlad the Impaler, The Black Death, STASI, Cruella Deville and The Inquisition to name but a few.

VW was advised not to market the Sharan in the UK as it could not dance around a white handbag. The Grylls son seems to have done quite well with what could have been an unbearable name. Elon Musk has called his child X AE A -12. Is a star born? Or will this mean refusal at every Immigration desk? I knew a man with the surname of Arrow. His first name was Bowen. Or James Edward Tasker who was the slowest runner in the entire school.

So, next time someone asks your name – think about it and if necessary just mumble a bit. Especially if it is double-barrelled.

Duncan Christie-Miller October 2020 ©