And how are you today, Mr. John Doe?
Mrs. Smith? Meet Mrs. Jones.
What jaded labels. I was reading about Vlad the Impaler the other day, and thought, why don’t we still use names like that? How dramatic! How efficient! In three words we know all we need to know about good old Vlad–who he is, where he hales from, what he does for a living, and how he does it.
About as adventurous as we get in this culture is naming children after cities: Austin, Paris, Cody, Tyler, Cheyenne, Phoenix, Denver.
Or the New Ager favorites: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Rain, River, and Wednesday.
If names such as these are meant to impart some of their qualities onto the human bearer, I think we should revert to sobriquets that the ancients used to announce to the world their true meaning and awesome power!
- William the Conqueror
- Alexander the Great
- Suleiman the Magnificent
- Boniface the Innocent
- Attila the Hun
- Cruella de Vil
Or simply “Maleficent.”
Those titles cause enemies to equivocate and lovers to swoon, and give a hint what conversation to anticipate over steins of mead and hogsheads of ale.
Even if most of us could not bear the burden of a name such as “The Equalizer” or “The Ponderous,” adding such an appendage would help those we meet size us up in an instant.
Imagine being introduced to these conversation-starters at the next cocktail party:
- Melvin the Mediocre, who wallows in mid-management
- Paul the Malingerer, your idle friend
- Tom the Oily, the hygienically-challenged teenager
- Peter the Persistent, the office pest
Back to those city names. A better trick of naming is to reference the area of origin. It actually makes some sense to attach your name to a geographical area. When active in national education circles, I often introduced myself as “Phil of Kerrville” or “Phil of Fredericksburg” to distinguish myself from the Phils of Philadelphia.
Imagine the grandiosity of answering the phone with, “Greetings, this is Granville of Gillespie,” or “Hello, Harrison of Harper here.” It would have the added benefit of startling and confusing the caller from Outer Linoleum trying to extend your car’s service warranty.
These adjective appendages would come in especially handy in a town such as Fredericksburg, where surnames already carry the burden of family history that can be confusing to newcomers. How much easier it would be to distinguish Hedwig Kleinschmidt of Hye from Hedwig Kleinschmidt of Doss, or Wyckoff Wunderlich of Stonewall from Wyckoff Wunderlich of Cain City.
Another tack would be to attach a description of what you do for a living:
- Edward the Electrical Engineer
- Mike the Mechanic
- Curtis the Cowboy
- Christina the Certified Public Accountant
- Iris the Insurance Underwriter
- Stan the Septic Installer
- Cedric the Census Taker and Childcare Director
Besides clarifying our careers to strangers, bearing such dramatic appellations would make us feel like we are the lead characters in a new children’s adventure series, or a really ineffective Batman villain.
There are no limits on naming options:
- Graham, Collector of Lost Cats
- Pete, the Public Commenter of Public Meetings
Choose your label:
- the Coupon Collector
- the Yelp Reviewer
- the Rambler
- the Gossip
- the Mumbler
- the Repeater of Endless Lies
- the Relater of Rambling Accounts
- the Payer of Bills
- the Twitcher of One Eye
What would your New Name be?
Until the next crusade, I remain yours, truly, Phil the Scribbler.