Friday, October 5, 2012

Changing Names

A recent online article caught my attention: Nicknames are declining since fewer parents are relying on Biblical and saints' names for kids or on old family names, as when Roscoe Fiddleworth III names his first-born son Roscoe IV. (My own name, Gerald, was chosen as a proper saint's name at the time of my christening, at the urging of the parish priest, since my parents named me Jerry, as I am always called.)

"Fiddleworth" is borrowed from P. G. Wodehouse, whose Bertie Wooster has friends with wonderful nicknames like Tuppy, Bunky, and Catsmeat--prep school monikers, presumably, that live on in the perpetual adolescence of their owners.  On this side of the Atlantic, we have Scooter, Dot, Skip and other friendly tags I will miss if nicknames gradually disappear.  This is hardly a tragic occurrence, but I lament the loss nevertheless, like the option of calling an Edward "Ted" or "Eddie" or "Teddy," or all three.

There is something warm and homespun about such nicknames, but we are in an age of trendiness and tattoos.  Tradition is in decline.

I grew up with a lot of kids named Mary Ann, Judy, Bob, John and Dave. These are being replaced by an exotic selection of names of questionable taste, as in the pervasive Brittany and Tiffany that I noticed in my classes a few years ago. I know a young man named Bristol, which I had early associated with Sarah Palin's daughter, so unisex names are in.

This could not happen in France, which tries, through the Academie Francaise, to regulate the language, and apparently local officials there will not approve birth certificates using certain creative names that here, in the land of the free, include such bizarre choices as the following names that have burdened some recently born infants whom I pity:

     Aria, Lyric, Shadow, Trinity, Genesis, Sparrow, Sunday, Apple, Goodluck  and, in my own classes, students named Sky Rocket and Forrest Stump. I have seen the name Storey Book as well as Stormee Skye and Dwain Pipe. If I had such a name, I would grow tired of being laughed at and have to spend money to have it changed.

With such names as Apple, Sparrow, and Sky, who needs a nickname?

1 comment:

Ned Kessler said...

I like nicknames and am glad my mother gave me one. I was baptized "Edward James," the same as my father, so I'm a Junior. My mother realized I'd get a nickname whether I wanted one or not; people would make up ways to distinguish me from my father. Mother didn't want "Big Eddie" and "Little Eddie," and she shuddered at the possibility of someone calling me "Junie." So Edward Jr. became "Ned" from the beginning. Her explanations varied over the years as to how she chose that nickname. Sometimes she said because it was a good Irish name. Other times, it was the name of a character (whom she admired) in a book she read.

At times during my teen years I wasn't sure I liked it. But after this many years on earth, I'm quite comfortable with it.

Without it, my (now adult) children wouldn't be able to say on occasion, "Dad, you're such a Ned."