Monday, 31 March 2014

The Name Game

Today's Featured Mittens
Cranberry Frost
(But what would you call them if you were tasked with naming them?)
The Name Game: 
      I have a thing for names.  As you have you noticed if you are following my blog, I like to name things....such as mittens.  I have been slowly reading the book about the making of Cottage Craft of St. Andrews, NB.  I wonder if I have been subconsciously influenced by the poetic names given to the Briggs and Little wool used by Cottage Craft such as Fundy Fog, Briar Rose, Robin's Egg Blue, Goldenrod Yellow, Meadow Green, Black Cherry, Live Lobster, Charcoal, St. Croix Navy. etc.  The founder of Cottage Craft, Grace Helen Mowat, wanted her products to reflect the natural beauty of Charlotte County.

     Why do people name inanimate objects?  Is it because we develop such a fondness for things?  For example, many people have names for their vehicles.  Although I am not particularly interested in cars, over the years we too have named many of our vehicles.  The Sin Pit. Old Blue. Beulah.  Whitey.  The Red Bomb.  My father had a matching pair of Super 77 Oliver tractors which he fondly referred to as "Pride" and "Joy".  
You can see why....
 Super 77
Name Collection Hobby:
     I also like to collect names.  I have a list on my fridge of unusual first names I have gathered over the last couple of years.  My criteria for making the Fridge List is to be a name I have never heard of before.  Not to be morose or disrespectful, but the richest source of my name collection is the obituary column in my blessed Daily Gleaner.  Here are some of my favourites female names:
     And some male names:
     And the names of grandchildren and great-grandchildren reflect the current trend of naming children with surnames and/or place names, such as:
     Or spelling traditional names in an unusual way:
      My daughter Emma and my niece Ruthie have become involved in my name collection and are actively on the look-out for name nuggets in their own lives.  For example, Emma recently drove from Fredericton to Denver, Colorado.  She encountered Elezena at a Tim Horton's drive-thru in northern New Brunswick, gas bar manager Treasure Martin in Iowa, and Rosewita somewhere in between.  One of Ruthie's best finds was Abcde--pronounced Absidy, and La-Na,  pronounced LaDashna. "The dash ain't silent," was the explanation given by the mother.
The Same Names:
     When I worked at Fredericton High School in the early nineties, the school had a student population of approximately 3,000.  The maximum class size at that time was 33 students.  All of the grade 10 English classes I was teaching were filled to capacity and there were 3 Matthews in each class.  Matthew was a very popular name at that time in history and I imagine there were 3 Matthews in every grade 10 English class in the school.  I suggested to the administrator who made up the classes that she could easily create an entire class consisting of 33 Matthews.  Wouldn't that be fun?
Fredericton High School
     Recently, in doing a search among my friends on Facebook, I noticed I have many friends who share the same name.  I have many Annes, Janets, Susans, Lynns, Pats, Marys, Kathys, Jennifers.  I thought it might be neat to invite all my Pat friends, for example, to dinner at the same time.  Do you think they would share certain personality traits?  How confusing would the dinner be with all Pats answering at the same time?  We may have to assign numbers to each Pat in the manner described in a recent article in The Globe and Mail in which the author related her negative school experience being one of 4 Kathys in her class.  Being referred to as Kathy4 by her teacher apparently compromised her identity and crushed her individuality. 
Name Trends:
     As suggested by my experience with Matthews at FHS and my current observation of my own Facebook friends, names certainly follow trends in popularity.  This site, Name Trends, will give you an interesting look into the popularity of names over the years.  For example, you will see the top 100 names by decade since 1880.  Surprisingly, I do not see Matthew ranking in the top ten of any decade.  But there is Emma, in the top ten in the 1880s and in the 2000s.  When we named our Emma in 1987, I thought she was the only Emma in the world.  Then Rachel on Friends gave birth to Emma........  
Rachel and Emma and Friends
     The name Emma is still ranking high as a popular name this year along with Olivia, Ava, Victoria and Lucy.  Riley, Mason, Sawyer, Kaiden and Luca are the high ranking boy names at this website Popular Baby Names 2014.  Of course, different sources will give you different outcomes.
     This year on International Women's Day, The Huffington Post came up with a list of names that would give your girl baby strength from birth.  Powerful Baby Names for Girls .  The article does not really explain how they arrived at those 15 names.  The top 5 are:  Audrey, Mildred, Andrea, Bree and Brianna.  Do they sound powerful to you?

Witness Protection Name:
     Many years ago while driving to Sussex with my 10 year-old daughter Julia, she said to me, "Mom, if you had to go into Witness Protection and you had to change your name but keep your same initials, what would you pick for a name?" 
     Well, that was an intriguing question.  Before we reached Sussex, I had decided my name would be Bridget Finch.  I just liked the name Bridget, and Atticus Finch was one of my all-time favourite literary heroes.  Julia would be Jamie Matthews because she liked those names and the way they sounded together. 
Atticus Finch
      I took that little Julia Game to the classroom, of course, and challenged my students to do the same with their names.  I put a few other guidelines in place.  For example, keep your initials but change your name to a food.  Or  literary authors/characters.  Or a floral duo.  (I became Brie Fajita, Beatrice Fortinbras and Belladona Forsythia.)
     Now, how could I justify such an activity in school?  Play with words?  Language is fun?  Familiarity with authors/literary works?  We had fun with the game and there were some memorable outcomes.  We still call Alex LeBlanc "Alfredo Lasagna" and he graduated 10 years ago.  One student was a bit upset to learn she was named after a stripper.  I also worked in the idea of etymology---ie the origin of their names so students had to do a certain amount of research.  Find the etymology of your name at this website:  Etymology of Your First Name.  And I challenge you to apply the Witness Protection game to your name. 
Title Envy: 
     In conjunction with my naming obsession, I realize I have a taste for titles.  A few months ago, on the recommendation of Emma, I started volunteering at the YMCA as a "Y Ambassador".  My duty as an ambassador is to talk to new Y members to make them feel welcome, find out if they have any concerns and answer any questions they may have such as, "Where is the bathroom on this floor?"  I am by no means a fitness instructor or anything like that.  I have a two hour shift once a week when I wear my nice blue Y Ambassador T-shirt and exercise my jaw.  After only 2 shifts as Y Ambassador, Tom started calling me The High Commissioner.  I liked that even though his tone bordered on the sarcastic.  

The Fredericton YMCA
     Three weeks ago when I checked into the Fredericton airport to fly to Toronto, the man on the desk asked me if I was a lawyer.  I told him I was not but that he was probably confusing me with a local lawyer whose name is close to mine.  The man said, "Oh, okay.  I was going to call you Esquire." 
     "That would be fine with me," I answered.  "I like the sound of that."  I wanted to tell him I was an Ambassador and a High Commissioner to some but I held my tongue.  I did say, "I am not a lawyer; I am a retired teacher."
     The man actually stopped what he was doing and looked up at me with an expression of either deep respect or deep pity.  "Oh," he said with feeling, "you are much more important than a lawyer.  I have the utmost respect for teachers."  He continued to gaze me in wonder and awe.  I was almost embarrassed.  I tried to lighten the moment.
     "Yes, retired and still tired," I quipped, calling on my overused retort. 
     "I bet you are," he replied, still looking at me as if I was a survivor of a natural disaster.  "I don't know how teachers do it." 
     I thanked him and moved on, dumbfounded by his reaction.   
Fredericton Airport
      Then when I got to Toronto, I was discussing with Julia and Evan which route I should take to walk downtown to meet friends.  Should I take Beatrice Street or Grace Street?      
     "Well," Evan said, "you could take Palmerston.  It is a nice street.  They made that street wider than the others for the Queen to use when she was here."
     I immediately concluded that Evan was referring to me as a Queen
    And the next day when Julia and I went for a mani/pedi and I had 1,000 colors of nail polish to choose from, I went for Red Baroness. 
Red Baroness
       My possible titles:  Ambassador, High Commissioner, Esquire, Queen, Baroness.  You choose. 
I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.
I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.
Name Wisdom:
Always end the name of your child with a vowel so that when you yell, the name will carry. 
Bill Cosby
I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.
Benjamin Franklin

What's in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
 William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Until Next Time......


  1. Replies
    1. You've already heard all those stories, I think!

  2. Hilarious Barb. I told Mike that each baby name we thought of I would holler out the back door and if I liked the sound of it that way I would pick it. We hear some names today that we believe the parents forgot to try this test and now are stuck with a bad name for their child. I also have mucho problems when I am in a room with Garys and Barrys and Sherrys and Larrys. My head is on a constant swivel when it isn't really me anyone wants to talk to. We found a book one time that told us what each baby's traits would be if we named them one of those names. I think of the Mike's I know and how close they are in temperament or Jasons or Katies. Kinda of freaky sometimes. Do we get named due to our impending characteristics or did you become who you are because your parents named you Barbara??

  3. I do think there are like characteristics among the like-named.