Names are in the news again.
You really can’t fault the organizers of the campaign to banish the uttering of mass-murder suspect James Holmes’ name. If it turns out that he is, in fact, guilty, they want to keep him from becoming famous for committing an unforgivable crime. Shunning is certainly a painful and effective punishment – excruciating even for the most anti-social and maladjusted among us. And if one could truly be left without an identity and so completely erased as to have never existed, that would be profound. But you know how we humans are. We’re always going to slap a title on things, even if it’s “That Thing Without A Name.”
I question the wisdom of turning our backs on evil – it’s much better to remember it and, if possible, tell stories about how it got that way. For my money, the name “James Holmes” is rather ordinary and already quite close to invisible. Sorry for the offense to all the James’s and Holmes’s out there. It would be a mercy to them if the name’s connection with this horror was covered over forever.
A flashy name can be a marketing tool. Chad Ochocinco is a football player who used to be known as Chad Johnson, but he changed it to be a Latin echo of the number he wore on his uniform – “85”. He was pretty good as Johnson, but more flamboyant and memorable as Ochocinco. He played better as Johnson, got more press as Ochocinco, and was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Chad just got married and his new wife, Evelyn Lozada, let it be known she did not want to become an Ochocinco. So much for the show biz name – he’s going back to Johnson. “Chad Lozada” sounds nice, though. What would be wrong with that?
Over in London, Mitt Romney learned how difficult it is to be perfect when everyone is watching every move and examining each word. The British press is aggressive to begin with. They pounced on poor Mitt repeatedly. In one gaffe, the expected Republican nominee gave the head of Britain’s Labour Party by the wrong honorific. The Wall Street Journal says:
Unfortunately, as Mr. Romney was seeking to get back on track, Mr. Romney incorrectly called Mr. Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, “Mr. Leader.” This is not what he is called, as the local media was quick to point out.
Britain is so overloaded with titled people, it would be difficult for a visitor to keep track. I credit Romney with a good guess under pressure. Why not “Mr. Leader”? I don’t know how the British Labour Party chief is supposed to be addressed. His party is not the one running the government, so would “Your irrelevance” be appropriate? And what about the Brits addressing Romney? That can’t be easy. What do you call the presumptive presidential nominee (but not yet) of the party out of power in the executive branch but very much calling the shots in the legislative branch. “Mr. Squarejaw Pricey Pants”?
Clearly, names are frustrating, provocative and exhausting.
But a good one will take you far.
What honorific would you attach to spice up your name?