Sunday, August 22, 2004

By any other name

You would think that names are a simple thing. Your parents spend much time contemplating the names that are designated for their progeny - given that they are going to be saying that name for their rest of their lives: they had better like the sound of it. My mother had originally thought to call be "Deanne", which may I say, although a nice enough name I am sure, it is just not me. One name that she had ruled out from a very early stage was "Megan" - I think she had a very long plane flight once with a mother who was constantly calling out "Meeeeeegan" repeatedly that it etched a painful neural pathway for my mother. Eventually my mother decided to name me after herself (well a variation on the theme anyway) and always uses the full name to refer to me. Of course, this means that whenever my name is said in its entirety - I immediately infer a parental calling.

As is the Australian way, all names must be shortened to become socially acceptable. Thankfully, I have one of those names that is shortened quite easily and acceptably so. So there is a heirarchy of name calling that I have found in my life.

Stage 1: Cathryn - Parental term only. When uttered from the mouths of the parental units it feels perfectly natural. From anyone else, it can seem a little pretentious.
Stage 2: Cathy - Socially acceptable and the fall-back position for introductions. This proves to be the most common name that I am referred to.
Stage 3: Cath - This is the pinnacle. Reserved for intimate partners and the very best of friends. If someone leaps to this level too early - I can be violent. This presumes a level of intimacy that cannot be faked or circumvented.
Stage 4: Any other names - whether they be within the confines of a relationship or from friends, these names generally remain private. Although my ex-husband used to call me "Muff" - can I tell you that it was a little disconcerting - perhaps he should have just called me "Labia" and just got all pretext out of the way.

Alain de Botton (the demi-God) discusses the issue of name calling in "On Love" and nails on the head when he declares that the use of intimate names really does suggest a level of knowlege that the rest of the world does not possess.

So what I am wondering is why B insists on calling me by my full proper name. My mother loves it - she thinks it is great that someone is using my proper name. But I can tell you it feels a little wrong at a moment of passion to hear my "parent's" name being used. I suppose I should be thankful that it is still MY name I am hearing and not someone else's.

1 comment:

DMANCMCNO22 said...


I stumbled onto your blog, because of the title. I figured that you were a woman, being that most men that I know would never delve into the fact, or worry whether they were "classy" or not, much less title a blog on it.

It is weird, because my ex-fiance called me by my proper name (Michael Scott, instead of just Mike, or Michael). She said that it was because she loved me, as my mother did (because my mom was the only one that had ever called me by my proper name before). It was a distinct way for her to set herself apart, from the rest of the people in my life. I did not know to appreciate it at the time, but she is still the only other woman to ever call me by that "proper" name. I miss it, and it has been over 12 years, and about 40 women (dating wise) that have passed since I have had someone call me that, in an endearing way. I hope you appreciate it, and don't look to much into it. :) Peace, DMAN