Tuesday, 8 July 2008

One's name, on the lips of others

One of life's simplest (free, healthy, non-narcotic) pleasures: hearing one's own name on the lips of others. Just like flattery – which we are apparently powerless to resist, even when we know it to be potentially insincere – our name has a powerful hold on us.

Shakespeare knew this. Hey, sure, Shakespeare knew everything, didn't he?

– A tutor of mine (me and my tutors, eh? Not a blog post escapes their ghostly influence), indeed, proclaimed Nuttall's Law – whereby he challenged anybody to provide a psychological phenomenon or modern philosophical concept or theory that had not somewhere been prefigured or implied in Shakespeare's work. I certainly never saw him stumped.

(RIP, Tony – an enormously clever, ceaselessly interested man. I once found myself walking into the Old Quad at New College – photo below – behind him. And, even though he'd been teaching there for almost 20 years, I watched him stop in the archway, for a good ten seconds, simply to absorb what was (I was almost guiltily reminded) a spectacular sight.)

Anyhow, yes. Shakespeare knew about the pleasure afforded by hearing one's own name. Early on in Hamlet, Claudius greets Laertes thus:
And now, Laertes, what's the news with you?
You told us of some suit; what is't, Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
And loose your voice: what wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
Ingratiation. Four times in one speech. Possibly over-egging the pudding, there, Claudius, old boy.

But imagine, dear reader, a scenario in which one were deprived of this simple pleasure. Imagine a scenario in which one were afforded no joy whatsoever at the sound of one's name.

Imagine, indeed, a scenario in which one might be just as accustomed to seeing one's name on the lips of others as to hearing it.

Surreal? Yes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you possibly the most unfortunate first-name I have yet encountered:


What a lovely name for a little girl.


Rebecca said...

That's nothing. I'm calling my first child: 'Blobfish' - the beauty being that it is a lovely name for either a little girl, or a little boy...

Billicatons said...

... or a little hermaphrodite. Winking and snarling in its lovable fashion.

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