Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Pretentious Or Just Lazy?

Maybe I’m a little more conservative than I thought. A lot of people are discussing baby names right now around here, and everyone is talking about what they’re going to name the baby and then what they’re going to call the baby.

Excuse me, but if you name the kid something, shouldn’t you call it that, too? If you liked the name enough to saddle a child with it, shouldn’t you actually use it? Why bother to name a girl Marylou and then call her Mary? For that matter, why bother to name a kid Robert and then call him Bob? If you’re going to call her Mary, then name her Mary. If you’re going to call him Bob, then name him Bob. If you don’t like Mary or Bob enough to name your child one of those names, then DON’T CALL THEM THAT!

I guess I feel this way because my family actually uses my given name, and I usually use my sister’s given name, as well. Beyond my immediate family, things change, but then, if you’ve read anything on this blog, then you know how I feel about my extended family. My parents saw fit to name my sister and I Jennifer and Michael, respectively. And amongst ourselves, we are called Jennifer and Michael. My parents call us that. We call each other that. My wife calls me Michael. Even my grandparents call us by our given names. And I like it that way. My parents gave us those names for their own reasons. Those reasons might be as simple as “I thought it sounded nice.” It doesn’t matter. They had their reasons. And I respect that.

At work and at play, it’s a different story. Almost all of my friends and co-workers call me Mike (which I don’t mind) or Mikey (which I abhor). But I don’t mind going by a nickname at work and with my friends. It’s a way to separate my family life from everything else. Anyone who calls me Michael is family. Anyone who doesn’t, for whatever reason, isn’t.

And I think that’s how it should be. Nicknames are ways for friends to show affection. It’s a way of claiming you, in a way. Even when it’s not friends, and it’s an embarrassing nickname, it’s still a way of claiming you. But family already has a claim on you that, like it or not, is nearly impossible to break. That’s why I love it that my wife calls me Michael. I know it’s only because she’s heard it so much from my family, but still, the claim we have on each other is such that she shouldn’t have to give me a nickname to claim me. And she doesn’t. Oh, we have pet names for each other, but when we are talking about each other, or having a serious conversation (read that as argument or fight, I suppose), then we use given names. It sets a certain tone that I appreciate.

And so that’s why I don’t think you should EVER discuss what you’re going to name your child AND what you’re going to call him. Any nicknames that do develop should be organic and come about because of life experiences, not be preplanned, prepackaged and preapproved.

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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain

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Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu