What’s in a name?

More than you can think.
Bestowing a first name upon a child is an important decision.
It is an important decision because the chosen label will often mold the man he will become.
A Jeeves couldn’t obviously be anything but a butler, but a Jefferson would clearly have brighter prospects for posterity.
And could Lady Gaga ever be president?

My first name is Alain. It’s a common name in France and I always enjoyed it. But unforeseen problems started shortly after my arrival in the United States.
Well-intentioned but misguided people took it upon themselves to call me “Al”.
I am sorry to say that this initiative didn’t sit well with me. I don’t mind being called Alan but I won’t tolerate any abbreviations or nicknames. Alain I was born, and Alain I shall remain.

I have never understood the self-mutilation ritual that Americans inflict upon themselves. Is it a new form of circumcision?
A noble sounding name like Charles becomes Chuck, Abraham becomes Abe, William becomes Bill… What’s the matter with you Yanks?
Are you so self-conscious about ancient and honorable names that you need to drag them into the gutter to make it more palatable to some of your trashy friends?

Even more annoying than this “cutting” practice, is adding a suffix to a name.
The addition of “the Second”, “Third” or “Junior” to any name, reeks of vulgarity and should be avoided at all costs.
Using initials is also a great American habit. PJ’s, CJ’s, JR’s are now swarming through the land and should be shunned, or even deported.

The apparition of odd names is also very disturbing. Naming somebody “Chastity”, “Beyoncé”, “Casserole” or “LaToya” strikes me as very puzzling indeed… Is there such a shortage of old and glorious names? Do we need to be so crass to be noticed? I don’t think so.

I know a man who was called Chucky when he was a chubby toddler.
He grew up to be an imposing six-footer and realized that Chucky was not adequate anymore.
He asked his friends and acquaintances to start calling him Chuck.
After years of hard work, Chuck became an accomplished opera singer and decided to change his name to Charles, his baptismal name.

Charles did well in the operatic world and developed a particular fondness for Italian arias. Being in the constant company of Italian composers and artists provided the right environment for another metamorphosis.
Remembering his fading Italian ancestry, he changed his name again to Carlo.
A much better sounding moniker than Charles in the rarefied world of Opera.

I don’t mind this reverse progression; as a matter of fact I applaud it. Familiarity might work well for demagogues but it can also be condescending and insulting.
“My name is William Robespierre Beauregard, but since we obviously don’t come from the same background, you can call me Bill and I’ll continue to call you Chico”. How does that strike you?

My advice to you: if you are lucky enough to have been christened William (a noble and ancient name), don’t cheapen it to be popular. Wear it proudly as it was intended.

Popularity is fleeting, good names are not.

Alain

 

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