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Poetry Magnum Opus

On the Nature of Names


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I sometimes think it would be better

if children could choose their own names

and not be stuck with the la-la pomposity

of their parents. I suppose you can change them

but few people actually do. I used to live in Texas

 

and think with a twinge of the Hogg family,

whose paterfamilias absolutely insisted

on naming his innocent wee daughters,

so new to the world, : "Ima: and "Yura",

and should therefore have been assassinated.

 

How do you choose a name for your child?

So-and-so Junior? That is so lame,

not even a fuckin name, just the enclosing

cloak of your Daddy's jittery ego. That's how

we got George Bush, Jr., and the War in Iraq.

 

Women (being intelligent) simply don't do this:

we see no Julia, no Jenny or Marcia Juniors.

Grandparents' names definitely come into the equation,

respectful or sycophantic, as uneasy cash-strapped parents

wait to see how the money will fall.

 

Japanese (and Chinese) names are poetic,

totally untied to the Bible: they breathe an anxious hope

for the future of the child, affixing strength

not only in the content of written characters,

but in the stroke count, the appearance, the season.

 

Sometimes names can be beautiful.

I had a friend, his name was "Kakechi",

not a sound that would drive you to transports of joy

unless you knew the meaning: 'Chi' is a thousand

and 'Kage' is shadows: a Thousand Shadows!

 

God, I could wish for a name like that!

Instead I am just another Irish Brendan

named after the ancient sailing oul' saint

who made it to America way before the Vikings

or yer man Columbus: first Paddy on the shore!

 

I can see the 'Indians' coming down to the beach

looking at this pale-faced Celtic person

in his dirty shit-stained robes (been a long voyage)

holding out his scapulars and sprigs of shamrock

and saying, "The fuck you from, mate?"

 

Some people try to hide their names.

They do. They're not bad people or foreign spies,

no, no, nothing like that! They're just embarrassed,

generally for some silly social reason. There was an excellent party

on the Wannsee with champagne and fireworks

 

when grandfather and mother met their host, Mr Goebbels,

who introduced them, smilingly, to Frick and Frank

and Ribbentrop, who said Chermany has no interest in Ireland,

because you are a small insignificant little country

and then winced, when Grandmama spiked him with her heels.

 

Goering was a gangster but always good fun,

a murderer with a taste for sweets and toys.

So sad they all got hanged or shot, said Grandmama,

one doesn't expect it from the ones one knows , yet

our grandchildren are hardly better. No moral backbone!

 

We did not name our child after Grandmama.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Japanese (and Chinese) names are poetic,

totally untied to the Bible: they breathe an anxious hope

for the future of the child, affixing strength

not only in the content of written characters,

but in the stroke count, the appearance, the season.

 

It must be an interesting study on the nature of names. You are so right about Japanese and Chinese names - poetic and hopeful, and meaningful as well.

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A very interesting and entertaining rant, Brendan, but many could resent a wholesale rejection of naming their children. You are certainly right about the Jr's. and the I'sts, II'nds and III'rds, as well as those-out-of-nowhhere and mostly tasteless concoctions, but many use names of some ancestors to honor them and perhaps to endow the grand- and great-grand kids with some of their ancestor's excellence of character and success in life. Being Irish, you, I am almost sure, believe in fairies and magic. Most couples I know look for euphonious effects esp. re last names. Some fail more or less gloriously. :icon_razz:

Edited by waxwings
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