Yes, this is what we said after one of our children was born: we’re just like that I’m afraid. In the same way, I suppose, as Frasier and Niles greeted each other with ‘Dumas Freres!’ when they were about to embark on their joint biography as brothers. Can’t find that scene but here’s the aftermath…
Still, I am pleased that they have finally recognised the vast church in South America by appointing an Argentinian Pope; how radical he is, though, remains to be seen. I guess he might just drag the church kicking and screaming into the fourteenth century…
He will be called Francis. Now, Francis is a name I can get on board with. I know where it comes from; it’s easy to understand; I’ve heard it before, I know what it is in various European languages, and so on. But I get really bothered by strange names whose derivation I don’t understand: I’m not talking about, say, Inuit or African names which I wouldn’t expect to get – but where people in, say, North America, have weird first names I feel impelled to know why. Like the name Niles, for example. What is Niles? What does it mean? What is its derivation? What are the cultural references? I know it’s odd but if I’m introduced to someone with a strange name it’s almost as if I can’t talk to them until I’ve understood why they’re called that. Many’s the person I’ve offended at parties by asking them about the derivation of their name: it’s a personal question after all. And they often don’t know the answer anyway.
Does anyone else have this hang-up? I know it’s weird but I can’t help it. Ah! Mark has immeasurably improved my life by looking up Niles for me: apparently it is either an Irish version of Neil or it means the river Nile. Thank God! Now I can watch Frasier again.
The Artist Formerly Known as What?
Another thing that bugs me unreasonably is when people – usually artists – decide to be known by one name only. Like ‘Rankin’.
I got all excited the other week when I thought Ian Rankin was going to be on the radio; then I realised it was merely a truncated individual called Rankin. I can’t decide why this bothers me so much: whether it’s a kind of arrogance, like Lords using only their title (‘I am Shrewsbury’) or whether it just doesn’t feel grounded: when you know someone’s full name they are positioned; you feel you know something about them. The first name tells you about the person; the surname tells you where they come from. I’m hoping this isn’t some kind of atavistic snobbery buried somewhere in my bones, but I’m not much given to snobbery.
What’s in a name, after all?
In other news, I have written a short story which I hope Everyday Fiction will find intriguing – once they’ve published the one they’ve already got. Oh, and I didn’t win the poetry prize. But I more or less knew that.