What’s in a name?

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2013

After 15 years, a girl in Iceland has legally won the right to her own name. Her mother named her "Blaer," which means "light breeze." Government officials rejected it, because Iceland is really funny about baby names. Parents must adhere to grammar and pronunciation rules: For example, “Carolina” and “Christa” are not allowed because the Icelandic alphabet has no letter "c." According to MSNBC, “Blaer” was rejected because it “was a masculine name that was inappropriate for a girl.”
Can you imagine what they’d say about some of our Southern names? Bubba and Bo-Dean and Jimmy Carl would give them running fits. Not to mention Jenny Lou, Lurleen and Frankie Jo.
Take my brother, T-Bob. He’s actually named after his father and grandfather, which makes him T-Bob III. He looks, sounds and acts exactly how you’d imagine a man named T-Bob would look, sound and act. He was born to be T-Bob.
My sister, Moonbeam, was christened Katherine Gail, but she was Moonbeam before she could walk. She still is, and it still fits. She moves peacefully through life, floating in a parallel universe and eating roots and berries that were harvested humanely.
Names are so personal; why would a government committee prohibit any moniker, as long as it’s not $%!@&?!, or even worse, Yo Mama &$%^@#?!
I read a book about unusual names once, and quite a few stayed with me. These were actual names written on actual birth certificates: War Baby, Saturday Night Coffee, Lucy Never Seen Joe, Navy Dawn, River Deep, Drywall, Frog Pants and Sweet Sugar Plum.
What’s really interesting is the names we don’t see anymore. When did you last meet a young woman named Alice? Or Evelyn?  Emma, Hannah and Sophie are pretty popular retro names, but what about Sadie, Martha or Marian? I had a great-aunt named Bell. No “e,” just Bell. The late comedian Jerry Clower’s wife was named Homerline, which today would be cause for a lawsuit.
I used to think if I had a son, I’d name him River. A girl would be Allison, after the Elvis Costello song. Turns out all I ever had were dogs, and the best name I ever picked was Lily. She was so obedient she never wore a leash, and so beautiful—pale cream with amber eyes--people stopped and stared at her on the street.
I’ve already got a name for my next dog: Folly. I just think that’s the greatest name ever. It would probably be best for a female though. A male named Folly might be bullied.
Back to human names: My mother did not have a name picked out for me. Shortly before my birth she saw some old Doris Day movie with a character named Julie. It didn’t really register at the time, she said.
The day I was born she got on a stepladder and finished painting the kitchen, ate a ham sandwich and called a cab. My father rushed to the hospital shortly after my shrieking arrival.  “Have you decided on a name?” a nurse asked.
“Julie,” my mother—who briskly delivered me in 42 minutes with no drugs—suddenly announced. My dad blinked: As an only son with three sisters, he’d been hoping for something else.
“But what about Betty, Glenda and Adeana?” he asked.
“They can have their own daughters,” my mother said firmly. “This one is Julie.” And that was that.
I like my name. And I’m so grateful she didn’t go to a movie starring Zasu Pitts.
Julie R. Smith, who may buy a hamster just to name it Folly, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.

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