{.mutatis mutandis what is in a name.}

by devourslowly

Enjoying a place’s pleasures is not the same as embracing its values.  Rich men rarely seek lessons in ethics from their butlers or their bankers.

Charlemagne, Europe’s bear problem, the Economist, 25th February 2010

I think baby porcupine's name is Maximus

I had an old school teacher, Miss E.  Actually I am not sure if she was a Miss or a Ms… at Kiwiland we sometimes can be quite sloppy and swallow half of our consonants.  It would have been rude to clarify.  I mean, what could one really say?  Are you a ‘Miss’ because you are young single and proud or are you a ‘Ms’ because years had piled on and the Mr is nowhere to be found? Not that I think marriage is an object for all women.  I am just saying that it would have been nice to know the exact title so one can tactfully steer clear of sensitive topics in polite conversations.

Anyway, I digress.

I do however know that Miss/Ms E is a Stephanie.  That piece of trivia has always bothered me.  Prior to discovering her first name (and accepting that teachers have first names like the rest of us) I had always assumed that if she had a first name it would be something terribly stern, old-fashioned and no-nonsense.  Myrtle maybe.  Ruth perhaps.  Or even Laura.  Hum… Laura would have suited her just fine really.  Old-fashioned, prim and proper with deep-rooted kindness.  Very very deeply rooted.

Well, dash my soul when I discovered that she is a Stephanie.  There is such a lightness of touch and a genteel sense of regality that comes with the name StephanieLightness of touch, genteel sense of regality – hardly terms that come to mind when one thinks of Miss/Ms E.

Don’t get me wrong, said Miss/Ms E was a lovely form teacher to have in one’s first year of college.  She was kind-hearted and good-humoured but always a little bit detached and hardly personable.  I did notice that she was young compared to her contemporaries.  Perhaps that was her way to garner authority and respect from colleagues and students alike.

Reminiscing over Miss/Ms E gets me thinking about how 90%* of the time a person’s name would sit comfortably with his/her persona.  The other 10%* of the time parents can get the names of their kids terribly wrong.  The name Marion Morrison elucidates a pie-baking housewife who mends her sons torn trousers and brings her husband his slippers every evening.  Was it not a stroke of genius for Marion to change his name to John Wayne before taking on Hollywood?  I hardly think generations of women would had been knocked off their seats by that old-fashioned cowboy masculinity had that masculinity came from a Marion Morrison. By the way, I always thought Marion is a woman’s name.  Obviously not.

Like all good and responsible Chinese parents, mum and dad hum-ed and ahh-ed over our names.  All three of us are fortunate enough to have quite unique names.  Our parents purposefully named us in a way so that the three names combined would make a sentence that expressed my father’s political ideals at the time.  Pretty neat until you break the sentence down to three parts.  Being the simple subject of dad’s favourite one-liner, my name literally means ‘only me’.  Which is kind of funny for a laugh but terribly disturbing to have it as a life-long label.  Then by a stroke of genius, as if the Chinese name is not enough, me pa and ma then went on and called me Sarina (which is a derivation of Sara which means princess).

It is funny how names are sometimes self-fulfilling prophecies… well, parental-fulfilling prophecies for those of us who are not as fortunate as Marion and/or are too cheap to spend $100 at the deed poll for a name change.  Not that I am complaining about my high-brow ways of self-centreness and occasional delusion of grandeur.  I am a happy lassy and do not have any extraordinary nagging concerns keeping me up at night.  I do however feel sorry for family, friends and loved ones who have to put up with me.  I can only suggest you blame it on my names 😛

* Figures are purely rudimentary.  They are the end products of rough estimations based on my humble and entirely un-spectacular observations, no scientific basis whatsoever.