03 November 2009

In Fall a Young Man's Fancy Turns to Love...

...it seems. A middle-aged woman's, too, but it appears the young man is or young men are having more success.


Names, reader, are strange things, and they play a surprisingly large role in my life. As it happens, I hate my name. This will not make much difference to you, as you don't know my name, but hate it I do. Fortunately, it's one of those names that you can make a number of other names out of, and most of those names I like much better -- unfortunately, I can't decide which one I like most of all, so I just introduce myself by my real name (also, I feel curiously that introducing myself by another name would be a lie). Undoubtedly my favourite of all the names I get called is the one O.M. calls me. Second favourite is the one that sounds almost like my name but isn't. But because both of these are long I don't think they will catch on. So I am known by my lousy real name, or, to a very few, by a family nickname.

If I tell you that this family nickname is limited only to those invited to call me by it, and that if you call me by it uninvited I will, in fact, tell you not to call me by it, you may get some sense of my involvement with names (interesting fact: my VTTT called me by this nickname after knowing me for two weeks, and he is the only person I've let call me by it without invitation, and after so short a time). But you would not have the full sense. For I have, gent. reader, a bizarre taxonomy of naming that no one has ever managed to figure out, including me (and BF and I once spent a fair amount of time trying to do so).

The initial rules are fairly simple:
  • If I don't know you at all, you are called by both your names when I refer to you in conversation. So, for example, all famous people I talk about are called by their full names: "Brandon Flowers," "Roddy Frame," etc. (the exception here is writers, who are called by their last names).
{subsective remark: I hold in enormous contempt those people who refer to the famous by first names only. These people come under the label "morons" (a label with a different but hazily different meaning than "idiots," but that's for another post). If you don't know someone famous personally, don't call them by their first name.
  • When I get to know you, I will then call you by your first name.
  • If I know you, and you are my age or younger, I call you by your first name.
  • If I know you and you are substantially older or in a position of power over or in relation to me, I call you by your surname plus an honorific.
Pretty simple, you would think. But oooooooooooh no! For there are bizarre byzantine byways here. For example,
  • If I know you and like you very much, I will probably continue calling you by both your names, to your face.
  • If I know you and dislike you, I will continue calling you by both your names, but not to your face.
  • If I do not know you and do not know your name, I will almost certainly give you a nickname, which I will use in all conversations about you, even after I know your real name. Once I come to know you, I will cease to use that nickname.
except in certain unclear and non-parameter-defined instances. So...my VTTT will always be my VTTT to me (and, in fact, I have no idea whom S.A. is referring to when he calls him by his actual name, and in fact in fact I find such references vaguely distasteful, as if he's calling him by some made-up name),

( and furthermore, if he weren't called my VTTT, I would undoubtedly call him by both his names.)
  • If I have given you a nickname and then come to know you, but have known you only by that nickname for a long period of time, you will retain your nickname (even if only in my mind alone) forever.
{subsective, speculative, interpretative remark: in both cases above, it seems that there is a tipping point after which your nickname simply becomes your name. After that, your real name will always sound weird to me.
  • If you have an amusing name, I will continue to call you by both your names forever, or the name that is amusing only. So Seamus Right has always been called Seamus Right, even after I got to know him quite well. And Mr. Perfect, the tango dancer, is always called Mr. Perfect.
  • If I am romantically or sexually attracted to you, and only I know it, I will use your name to other people as little as possible, and I will be careful inside myself when I do, because just saying it will remind me how much I like you, and I'm afraid other people will see that on my face.
  • In contrast, I will use your name unnecessarily often in conversation with you, because saying it will be a secret mark of love for me, so when I say it I am telling you I love you.
  • If I love you and we are involved, I will almost certainly often call you by just your last name plus whatever honorific is applicable, e.g., "Dr. Higher."
  • If I do not like you, but I don't want people to know that I don't like you, I will not use your full name or otherwise, but will simply call you "that man/that woman," plus a descriptor of you, e.g., "that boy who plays the piano."
  • In some cases, if I am sexually or romantically attracted to you and other people don't know it, and I don't know your name - or I do - I will also refer to you in the manner above.
So, you see, it's all quite complicated and mysterious. Names, it's plain, mean quite a bit to me, although it's unclear just how. Perhaps I am secretly Native American. Be thankful I simply call you "reader": consider what I could be calling you.

O.M. complained about my predictions. "Why can't everyone get to be happy?" she asked. So here are some predictions in which everyone gets to be happy:

Sometime in the near future...ONE WOMAN will encounter a man she is attracted to...ONE MAN will kiss a woman he is attracted to...and ONE WOMAN will keep her job. THREE PEOPLE will find themselves loved by the same person. And, in the LONG RUN...all will be well.

And finally, let us all spare a moment of silence for Claude Levi-Strauss, dead today. He was a seminal social anthropologist, a sensible man, a stereotypical vision of a French intellectual, and my friend M.X.'s mother's boss. M. Levi-Strauss, I, personally, salute you for your essay on the incest taboo. It was very helpful to me.


Anonymous said...

Is it my imagination, or does Claude Levi-Strauss (in the Wikipedia picture circa 1935) resemble a bearded John Turturro?

Vespertina Quies said...

It is not your imagination!