Thursday, July 25, 2013

What's in a name?

A few days ago on this very blog I correctly predicted the royal baby would be named George.  I urged the royal family to name him Otis.  Obviously, they don't read my blog.  I don't know why Americans are so fascinated with the royals.  They're a bunch of boring stuffed shirts.  Well, we obviously aren't going to have a King Otis anytime soon. 
I have long resented my own parents for giving me such a common and ordinary name.  They deliberately set out to come up with the most ordinary common name they could think of--according to my mother. At least they didn't think of John or Jim.  Oh, how I would've vastly preferred Percival, Zebulon or Jedediah.   This became especially bothersome when I kept running into other David Riley's. There was one at my high school.  There's another writer named David Riley.  I don't know if any name is entirely unique unless it's something like moon unit.  And I suppose David Riley isn't as common as a lot of names.  My brother's name is even more common than mine.
My dad and his brother (my uncle) both hated their names.  And for good reason, though I'm not saying what they are. 
In fact, after I was informed by my mother that my name was deliberately the most common and ordinary name they could think of, my mom asked me what I would have liked.  I said Jedediah. She insisted there was no such name.  On our next family camping trip I booked us a reservation at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in California. She did not appear to make the connection. (Even back then in my youth, I was making travel reservations, but that's another story)
I know there are pen names. I know you can legally change your name.  But, at some point, one tends to just live with it.  Pen names are pretty much for losers (That'll probably tick a few folks off). And some folks initialize themselves.  That seems to work. But middle initials are often dropped by publishers, employers and just about everyone. 
I once applied for a job in the agency that processed birth certificates in California. My goal was to deliberately botch people's birth certificates and give them better names than their parents--at least middle names where people might not protest too loudly.  So, John might become Trevor and Maria might become Cinderella.  Alas, they did not hire me and my evil plan was thus thwarted.
More so back in California, I came across a lot of Asian people who swore Immigration had botched their names and the name on their green card didn't even resemble their true names. They were resigned to living out their days with their government name.  Boy, I wish I could've gone to work there.

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