Friday, September 19, 2008

On Why My Sister and I Have Kick-Ass Names

PLEASE NOTE: Apparently, I have failed miserably to write a post after the style of The Onion. My readers have not appreciated the humor in what I was saying, so I'm adding this header as a clarification....this post is meant as a self-depricating joke. My name is Mac; I like my name, but I am in no position to cast asperions on others' names. This was an attempt at humor; I figured the "kick ass" in the title would be clue enough. My apologies to all I offended.

As I sat in my daughter's classroom today for a parent-teacher conference and looked down the list of names on the sign-in sheet I was struck by how awful some people's names are. America has gone mad for alternate spellings, last names as first names, egregious use of apostrophes, and just plain making shit up.

I know, I know, some people will counter that my children have "odd" names. I riposte that they are all centuries old names, and that they all predate the founding of our country.

Marley = old form of Marlene (even though she is named after Robert Nesta)
Xiomara = from the Celtic, via Castillian Spanish "Guiomara >>>>> Xiomara"
John = Jesus' favorite
McLarty = my paternal great-grandmother's maiden name
Calliope = Greek muse of epic war poetry
Marisol = María de la Soledad

I've tried to get Mickelle to consider Danish names given her Fonnesbeck Danish heritage, like Travis and Erin did by using the Danish equivalent of "Ralph" for their son Brecken. But, she won't even discuss it.

So, having disarmed my critics, let me say that naming your kid something made-up like Nqueedah, Tielar, Spensyr, D'art'alan, Zavyionnne (yes, that's three n's), Leee, I could go on, is unnecessary. I am a Luddite of nymic invention. We have thousands of perfectly good names. Rather than naming your kid something they have no chance of ever finding on a premade keychain, why not name them after someone......something they can relate to, something that will inspire them. I admit, that being named John makes me happy wheneve I read that Jesus named him Boanerges, or "Son of Thunder." I share this legacy via my name.

But, we have several naming conventions in our larger American culture. The pattern for WASPs is to either give them some Anglo-Saxon last name as a first name: Carter, Dalton, Jackson. Still more common, and more boring, is a assembly-line consanant game with combination of vocal couplings.........take any sound like "ay" or -ly and then change the initial consonant:


You see the pattern here, even without consonant clusters, the possible names are endless, and endlessly boring. There was a time from about 1999-2005, when if we knew someone from Utah had had a baby, I'd ask, "did you name it Taylor or Tyler?"

So, my own name......John McLarty Williams III. My Dad was Jr. His dad is Sr. In the family, Papa is "Mac." My dad was Johnny Mac, and I'm, get this, "Little Mac." My cousins' kids still call me Little Mac. Anyway, I've never been called, nor gone by, John in my life, save the first day of school every year. Mac sets me apart. It is an old name. There are a million Matts, Bobs, Mikes, Scotts, Jasons, Kevins, and Joshs. We Macs are a precious few, and people remember my name. It provides me with character and panache. My parents could've named me Jason or Steve or Jedidiah, but I got Mac, it's a kick-ass name, and I love my name.

Now, the disinterested lector will try and lamely counter that I have contradicted myself. I have not, dear reader. My name is a real name, an ancient one. It's not spelled Maq or Maack or some other crazy way. There are three spellings: Mc, Mac, and Mack. Johnny Mac and Laura chose the middle one for me.

Even better than my own name (and I realize that most people love their own names) is that of my sister. Her name, Susanna Marie Williams, is classic. It's got that Southerness that can't be invented. Susanna is Biblical and belonged to my paternal grandmother's mother. It's both an old family name AND that of a Bible heroine. While my sister's name has always had my favor, as I looked at this picture of her today, I realized just how great a name it is. No one names their kid Susanna....Suzanne, sure, but not Susanna. Susanna Marie, just say it.....Susanna Marie. It rolls off the tongue. Look at this photograph and try and give her any other name. It won't do, no matter what it is.

With all of this said and done, it's totally asinine to make fun of other people's names; it's rude; it's juvenile; it's pedantic. And yet, I can't help myself, even as I think that all names are equal when they're yours (save maybe, these). I guess mine and Susanna's are more equal than others.

UPDATE 9-21-08: Some people have failed to see the comedy and point of this post. Please read the comments for clarification.


Anonymous said...

what some B.S. If conceit was consumption, you'd be consumed, Mac. John McLarty or whatever "kick-ass" name you prefer at the moment...the last paragraph of this blog will prevent my return again...

I am sure we will both be better off.

Mac said...


I'm totally admittedly conceited. If you don't read through the lines at the end and see that I'm admitting I'm wrong for making fun of others names, read it again, please. I called myself, rude, pendantic, and asinine. I made reference to Orwell's Animal Farm, including the smug self-righteouness of the pigs' claim that some animals were more equal than others. Paraphrasing that famous quote from the novel indicts my whole posting, which was the point.

Everyone's name is unique, theirs, and given in love by their parents. Not liking someone else's name is akin to not liking them, their family, their ancestry.

I expected this post to garner no small amount of criticism, which was the point.

And I reiterate, I am one of the most prideful people I know, but you've got me wrong it again (or I'm just not a gifted-enough writer to make my point clearly).

Cindy said...

Mac, Personally I thought this blog was funny, but I totally agree with you! That's why my daughter's name is Caroline Grace. :) People need to lighten up.