2 December 2007

Names

Surely I am not the only one who has had a lifelong fascination with names. I am interested in people's names, nicknames, the names of bands and sports teams, the names of places and their origins. As a bored schoolboy in certain subjects that did not take my fancy - such as Chemistry and French - I would sometimes wile away my time writing poetry or inventing new names for pop or rock groups... Miles of Smiles, Wax, Kolossus Explosion, The Army, Shit'appens, Teeth, The Committee, Fifth Gear... I'd make little cartoons and write these imaginary groups' names on their drum kits. "What are you doing Master Pudding?" the skull-like chemistry teacher would growl. "Just checking the periodic table sir!"... Argon, Lithium, Magnesium - yet more great names for imaginary bands.

As a teacher, I have seen a long chain of kids' names that will often reflect the times we happen to be living in. Okay there are some parents who will always select solid and timeless biblical or historical names like James, Stephen, Michael or John - Mary, Sarah, Jane or Elizabeth - but many others seem to wish to saddle their children with dumb, fashionable names that will cling to them like ugly tattoos for their entire lives - hence for boys - Duane, Shane, Brandon or Brett - for girls - Demi, Chelsea, Tamara or Kayleigh. There are several variations on that last name including - Kaylee, Keeley, Kylie, Kelsey etc.. Throughout their lives such names are destined to hang like millstones round the kids' necks with devotees of stereotyping often pre-judging them because of their parents' thoughtless naming. The names we choose for our children reveal much about how we see the world and the people in it. I love the incongruous names that South African Zulus will often attach to their children - Innocent, Blossom, Precious, Mighty - followed by unpronounable Zulu surnames.

Previously, I have mentioned some street names in Hull that are rather exotic and hark back to earlier times - The Land of Green Ginger, Whitefriargate, Ferensway. Most world cities have quirky names to report. Please feel free to share some of your observations about names in the comments box...

An academic surname profiling website has recently transferred to The National Trust. Using this site you can see maps which show the concentrations of any given British surname both in the 1880's and in 1998. It is quite fascinating and most instructive. See link below:-
http://www.nationaltrustnames.org.uk/

6 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Nicknames can be a source of distress once meanings change over time, like to pick an example at random - a football team whose nickname is 'Cobblers.'

    P.S. When are you coming back to visit me? I miss you.

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  3. I just think your parents were brilliant coming up with Yorkshire to go along with Pudding.. It could very easily have been Vanilla, or Chocolate.. or .. Treacle.

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  4. YP: It's time to trot out one of my favorite websites, called Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing:
    http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/index.html

    I agree with By George: How clever were your parents to give you a name to go along with the esteemed Pudding AND also displays a sense of regional pride? People have named their children China, America, and India-- "Yorkshire" is cutting edge.

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  5. In the Newcastle school I worked in in the 70's we had a glut of Jasons (all blonde and blue eyed and litle sods)named after Jason King and then a rush of Demelzas and Ross-es after Poldark.

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  6. Working in retail for many years I got to see alot of surnames and wondered where they originated from.
    One day a distinguished customer came to pick up her held attire - and her last name was -Wigglesworth.
    Trying to be friendly - I said "I wonder where or what your last name originates from"...
    She scowled at me - grabbed her possessions and vowed never to return to our store.

    I was shocked by her reactions and terribly embarrassed that I had said that. In fact - I think I'm still beating myself over it.....on the other hand - I've never made a comment about people's names again....what a shame.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.