Names are important and frequently problematic. There are plenty of examples in myth, religion and fiction of the power that comes with knowing the True Name of something or someone.
My own name has certainly caused me problems over the years. One of my earliest school memories is of being very distressed when the headmaster mis-spelled my name on some paperwork; he told me it didn’t matter, but it mattered to me.
Much later, when I moved to Spain, no one could pronounce my first name. I got fed up with the way it was being butchered, so started using my second name, Elizabeth. But the Spanish translate names, so I eventually went with flow and was known as Isabel for the best part of 20 years.
Even so, I am really quite attached to the name my parents gave me: the combination of first and last name is uncommon and it’s been mine for quite a considerable time.
A couple of weeks ago, the BBC ran a story on the Pontins holiday parks, saying that the company had discriminated against those whose surnames were on an “undesirables list”. Essentially, this was a list of popular Irish surnames.
The article included this phrase:
“Pontins, which is owned by Britannia Jinky Jersey, has six holiday parks across England and Wales.”
For one brief, bright moment, I thought that Britannia Jinky Jersey was a person’s name and, oh, how delightful a name it is!
Despite my attachment to my own name, I am almost tempted to change it.