12:17pm Monday 9th July 2012
By Sue Nelson
YOUNG friends of ours have just welcomed their first child into the world, a gorgeous little girl called Isla, a beautiful name linking back to her father’s Scottish heritage. Good job their surname isn’t White, or Mann come to that.
Giving your child a name they can be proud of and not embarrassed by has to be up there among the most important tasks upon the arrival of a newborn, but census reports down the decades are littered with examples of unthinking ridicule.
Apparently, there actually was an Isla White, born in London in 1846. Maybe her parents didn’t know too much about geography, it only being two years after the arrival of the 1844 Education Act, so they can be forgiven for saddling their daughter with a name that, in another time, may have been the butt of playground jokes.
I went to school with a kid called Ivor Dick and oh, how he suffered because from out of the mouth of the babes in the schoolyard came cruelty and derision.
It makes you wonder what it is in the minds of parents that cause them to inflict such misery on their offspring because they don’t have the whit or intelligence to realise the legacy they’re giving their child.
What on earth, for example, possessed Mr and Mrs Card to call their son Valentine? The fact he was born on February 14 probably featured largely in their thinking but they condemned their boy to years of smirks and behind-the-hand sniggering.
The parents of one Richard Garlick must surely have realised that their son’s name would be shortened to Dick and that in the world of work human resources types tend to list surnames first.
And the mum and dad of Christopher Anthemum should have known that his mates would call him Chris – indeed, would relish in doing so, for altogether very obvious reasons.
And why on earth, when Mrs Pipe was presented with her squawking, mewling newborn son by the midwives did she think the name that he was best suited to was Dwayne?
William Board was doing perfectly all right thanks until his mates started calling him Bill and so was Jeremy Attrick until his name got shortened to Jerry.
Isabelle Eleanor Flop didn’t have any problems until her name was shortened to Belle. Oh, she might have had the odd guffawing remark about did she Flop when she was tired, or was she a Flop in school and other such ridiculous aren’t-I-a-wit comments.
But the fact that she chose to sign her name Belle E Flop showed she probably had a wicked sense of humour and was thus able to laugh at herself before anyone else did. There was someone who certainly had the last laugh.
The same may have gone for Richard O’Shea who called himself Rick and probably revelled in people’s reactions every time he told someone his name.
He maybe kept a secret tally of the so-called jokes he heard to the extent that he could lip-synch each one because he’d heard them so many times before. People can be awfully predictable at times.
But poor old Scott Free didn’t have the opportunity to shorten his name so that people wouldn’t take the Michael. Get off scot-free he did not. Nor did Hedda Lettuce or Bea Sting, for that matter. Their parents should have been dragged up before the equivalent of a family division judge for cruelty to their children.
It can go the other way, though. Talking of taking the Michael, there’s a pensioner of that moniker living in the North East who changed his name by deed poll to Michael Bastard Macnamara (or this being a family newspaper, should that be B*stard?) following a years-long dispute over water supply to his land involving court hearings.
Word has it that he apparently relished hapless court clerks calling for Mr Bastard Macnamara and he certainly caused a frisson of embarrassment when he turned up on the doorstep of the railway headquarters in York some years ago protesting loudly about the railway bordering his land.
No one in our office quite believed the girls on reception when they rang up to tell us there was a very irate Mr Bastard Macnamara downstairs demanding to see someone from community relations. You’re pulling our leg, we chortled. Er – no, they said.
There was no way we could snigger and smirk our way around this one, especially given that he was just so very, very cross. Which just goes to show that the name’s the thing and it’s the name of the game that counts.
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