Friday, May 25, 2018

What's in a name?

I was playing Russian Roulette with movies on Netflix while working out and watched a documentary called The Strange Name Movie. Here's Netflix's description of it:
"Ordinary people with extraordinary names open up about the ridicule, judgment and rewards that come with having an attention-grabbing moniker. What's in a name? Plenty, especially for the likes of Al Dente, Stuart Putz, Jeanine Cobbledick and Linda Slutsky."
I thought this would be a stretch to create a documentary about, but I'll be damned if all 52 minutes of it wasn't highly entertaining. Maybe it is because I have a sophomoric sense of humor and love the fact that someone would name their kid Tim Burr, Donald Duck (Senior, Junior and the Third) or Ronald McDonald.

There was also a guy named Paul McCartney who married a woman named Linda. And there was Asian American gentleman named Donald Sutherland who enjoyed the disappointed looks on hostesses faces when he made a reservation at a restaurant and they were anticipating Donald Sutherland the actor. There was also a young man named Bond, James Bond.

Okay, I've known a few people whose parents had a warped sense of humor and named their kids with these types of names. We had a receptionist at work years ago whose name was Windy Beach. She had a sister named Sandy and I believe a brother named Rocky.

Tell me that's not wrong.

I also had a doctor years ago named Sherwood B. Fein. You have to bet that was no accident on his parents part.

The movie has interviews with several psychologists who went on about the trauma and bullying inflicted on kids with odd names, especially names that had sexual connotations. One woman whose last named was Hooker was tormented in high school about the name. I think her first name was something like Lydia. At least her parents didn't name her Ima. But it turns out her family was related to Civil War General Joseph Hooker who was supposedly legendary for providing prostitutes to his men after battles. It was suggested that is where the term "Hooker" came from in relations to prostitutes, but turns out the term was in use many years before the Civil War and probably refers to an area of Manhattan where prostitutes worked called, "the Hook."

There was another man whose last name was Gay. In his interview he related how he was teased without mercy in school about the name. He said he ended up an alcoholic because of the bullying over his name.

I can totally understand how a name, especially one intentionally given a kids as a joke could cause trauma. Kids are unmercifully cruel. But what I don't understand is why if some of the names bothered them so much that they didn't just get their names legally changed or go by a nickname. If my name was Donald Duck I would probably go by Don Duck or use my middle name. The same with Ronald McDonald. If I introduced myself as Ron McDonald I don't think people would immediately think of the clown.

And if my name was Cobbledick, I would definitely change it.

Fortunate my mother wasn't terribly creative when it came to names. She didn't even bother naming me Timothy because she said people would just call me Tim anyway. It's an okay name. There was nothing in it to provoke an teasing about it. My last name is Irish. It isn't openly something you'd twist into a joke, but in high school a group of guys in band turned it into Tim Squealy. So it just goes to show you that you don't have to have a name like Ben Boggis to be ridiculed.

But as the documentary producers pointed out in the conclusion of their movie, your name isn't who you are. It is, however, uniquely yours.

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