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What's In a Name


by Martha Powers

My niece Julie's going to have a baby and she asked for name suggestions.  I'm not good at naming things.  I'm just not very inventive.  I tend to go for the obvious.  If left to me, all dogs would be named "Spot" or "Lassie."  When the kids were little, they wanted a nickname for our green station wagon.  The only thing I could come up with was "Greenie."  Even Jean booed and she's usually on my side.

Bill's good at naming.  When I need suggestions, I defer to the master.  He especially likes puns, a brand of humor I am totally inept at.  His idea for a great television show is one on prohibition called The Dearth of the Booze.

Naming children is especially difficult for me.  All names trigger memories of people I have known bearing that particular name.  If the memory is good, I warm to the person immediately.  If the memory is bad, I automatically become hostile.

I like good, solid non-fancy names like Kathy and Agnes, Lois and Lynn.  You know from past experience that these girls will be wholesome, rosy-cheeked and have the minimum of bad habits.  Women with these names will bring you a casserole when you've been stuck in the house for a week with two kids with the measles and a broken television set or a husband recovering from knee replacement surgery who thinks you have nothing better to do than wait on him.

Names like Georgette, Belinda and Cassandra I try to steer clear of.  When I was a kid, girls with names like that always showed up at birthday parties in pink, lacy dresses with lots of satin ribbons in their hair.  They could gobble down cake and ice cream without getting a drop on their dresses.  I always looked like I'd been run down by a stampeding Sara Lee truck.

Melissa's not bad, but I think that's because I went to school with a Melissa and she could spit farther than any girl I ever knew.

You know a lunch with Clara and Edwina is not going to be a rollicking affair.  You'll end up at a health food restaurant and spend the afternoon talking about gall bladder operations and documentaries on snail breeding.

With Becky, Dottie and Babs, you'll reminisce a lot about high school and discuss all the boys and men you’ve dated.  The only upside is that you’ll generally meet in trendy restaurants and never pass up the dessert tray.

Steven, Joshua and Paul are definitely names of future lawyers.  These men will smoke pipes and carry briefcases most of their adult lives.  They will never be arrested for stealing chickens.

Brent would be a good name for a lifeguard, but it would be a tough name to live up to.  A Brent would have to be permanently tan and wear a lot of gold medallions.  David is a good name for a boy.  Davids usually turn out pretty well, but during grade school they are suspended for things like letting toads loose in the girls' bathroom.

I never trust salesmen whose names end with “y”.  “Buy this car and you’ll never regret dealing with me, Billy Fulton."  Already you know the engine is faulty and it'll die when the temperature drops below 41 degrees.

A lot of politicians have names ending with "y" and you can see what a mess they've made of the world.  Vote for men named John or Victor.  Abe's sort of on the fence.  Since it was short for Abraham, you can picture everyone voting for a man who's a cross between Charlton Heston and Billy Graham.

Things might have been different if some of the famous people had other first names.  Little Freddy the Ripper would have grown up less hostile.  Instead of Hillary Rodham Clinton, picture Maisie Clinton baking cookies and winning prizes for her roses.  You can bet your life Bubba Claus wouldn't have shown up on Christmas Eve with presents.

Futurists tell us that eventually instead of names we'll have numbers.  Just remember, never trust anyone called 437.

Martha Powers is a former humor columnist who left behind the winters of Chicago for the sun and sand of Vero Beach, Florida.  She is the author of eleven published novels.  Martha writes fiction thrillers but finds that killing off the bad guys isn't as much fun as writing for laughs.  She can be reached at:


©2005 Martha Powers for SeniorWomenWeb
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