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Sunday, 29 July 2007

Name Shame

Auto Parts

'I wonder, Cyndee, whether your parents are aware of this week's spelling of your name.'
(Caption to a cartoon by Ziegler in the 31 October 2005 issue of The New Yorker).

By Richard Carreno
When all else fails in hack-dom, reach out for the ready standby on how parents are naming their offspring in increasingly odd -- or least, different -- ways. Forget the passage of John and Mary. That's ancient history. Even spellings like Jennipher with a 'p', and the like, are old hat. I recently came across 'Johnathan,' but I suspect, in that case, wee Johnathan's parents were just poor spellers.

Perennial, or not, even the most hackneyed hack needs to find a bit of a new twist to the story, and thus The Financial Times reported recently that, in fact, some of the real mouldy oldies are making a comeback. In England, newly- delivered sweetie cums are now, more frequently, getting the old-time treatment with monikers like Olivia and Isabella and Jack and Joshua. In America, Emily, Emma, John, and James are making renewed headway.

British 'Christian' names -- that's what they're still called them in the Isles of Anglicism, however nominal actual commitment to the faith might be -- have been always a bit more entrenched in the traditional than in the United States. Even, a bit weirder. Just ask any Peer of the Realm for his full name.

In America, our 'first' names have hued to another path. Not surprisingly, it has alot to do with following Page Six fashion, and -- hey this is America! -- commercial interests. Remember the woman who auctioned her name on e-Bay, willing to change it to fancy the highest bidder? Philadelphia Cream Cheese, maybe?

At least, she was thinking -- money.

Much like people who wear logo-ised clothing lines, thus advertising the brands they display for free, increasingly, if my unscientific survey is correct, people are willing to brand themselves for free.

In a recent edition of Philadelphia magazine, I noticed a writer named 'Ikea Hamilton.' Would that be the same Ikea, maybe, of Swedish furniture fame?

Of course, parents have always wanted to give their young'uns a leg up by association. (What's that Louis knock-off stuff all about other than a pathetic attempt at up-market association?) Still, many American parents get it wrong. What, pray, do Delmonte (the fruit and veg company?) Lordes (and Taylor?), and John Player (the cigs?) have to do with the high life?

But things do change. Here in Philadelphia, the nom du jour now seems to be knock-offs of automobile names. Any Philly public school teacher will tell you same thing. An average classroom these days could double for a parking lot. This, even in classrooms that are comprised of mostly African-American kids. Say adios to African sounding names. Step up General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.

Even Bentley.That was one of my favourite names, encountered recently. And Jetta, Altima, Chevy, Lincoln, Edsel, Lexus, Lumina, Mercedes, Ford, Galante, Diamonte, and Escalade.

Sorry, no Buick. And, of course, Manuel (as opposed to automatic shift) doesn't count.

Some people take their auto parts so seriously that they'll go to court to maintain a high-octane handle.

The following was in the Weekly Telegraph a while back:

'A woman who did not want to go back to her maiden name after her divorce has changed her name by deed poll to ''Subaru Impreza.''

'Natalie Elliot, 22, of Seaford, East Sussex, did not want to be called Luffman, her maiden name, because people joked about it in her schooldays. Ms Impreza does not drive.'

Frankly, I'm fonder of trends in Puerto Rican name gaming. Recently, one of my charges was a girl named 'Latinaluz,' or 'Latin Light.' Great name. As important, the girl measured up.