What’s in a name? That which we call a rose… blah blah blah.
There’s actually quite a lot in a name. I was reminded of this this afternoon when I read Jon Snow’s heartbreaking celebration of his friendship with Maya Angelou, and her great friend, Decca Mitford. It made me smile too, because my mother named me after Decca. When she was pregnant with me, she read an autobiography of her and was inspired by this passionate, crusading warrior queen who ran away to Spain aged 14, joined the Communist Party, fought against segregation in the USA, and refused to be cowed. So, hoping for some of that to transfer to me, I was registered with that name.
Am I anything like Decca Mitford? Am I buggery. I am poor, obscure, plain and little. I did run away from home a few times as a teenager, for no more than a day or two, slinking back with my tail between my legs. That’s about as close as I’m going to get. Sorry Mum. When Alistair and I were
deciding what to call The Blondies, the meaning of their full name was
important to me, but I didn’t name either of them after anyone.
This is just as well really, because we never use their full names in any case. The Boy is known only as ‘Bee’ for the most part, and The Girl is ‘Cuckoolala’. And sometimes ‘Cement’ (it’s a joke, not an insult). Everyone who knows me calls me a shortened version of my first name, everyone except Alistair who uses my full name, always. He called me by my nickname a few weeks ago, and I was freaked out by it for days afterwards. Seriously. He just doesn’t call me that. Instead, he chooses the form of my name that no one else uses, because it’s *his* name for me.
Growing up, everyone in my family had their own special nicknames for one another. My sister, for example, is known as Doobs. It is nothing like her real name, nothing. But through a convoluted series of leaps from one name to another, that’s the name her phone number is stored under on my mobile. When I told Alistair what her full real name is, he refused to believe me. That’s how strong these names become. By using our own name for someone, we subconsciously seek to claim them, even just a tiny part of them as our own, as an intimate, as someone we trust.
That’s what we do with those whom we care about. We don’t use the name for them that everyone else uses. Anyone can call me by my given name. But nicknames, endearments, even insults, are only used between people who feel close to one another. Darling. Sweetheart. Babe. My love. Bellend. You massive twat. Unless I was really quite atrociously drunk, I wouldn’t use any of those when I’m talking to you. Or you. Not you either. But you? You can call me what you like* ;-)
*But never Jessie. Never. If anyone calls me Jessie, they won't live to regret it.