Names

“Can I have your name please?”

“Anne.”

“Pan?”

“No, Anne. Like Green Gables.”

“Man? I don’t know a Man Green Gables.”

“No, Anne. A-N-N-E. Like Frank.”

“Your name is Frank?”

“Ugh, no! It’s Anne!”

“Okay, I’ve heard Pan twice now, so I’m assuming it’s that.”

“Sure, fine.”

“Last name?”

“Smith.”

“Pith?”

“Yes, I’m Pan Pith. I can change this all online, right?”

“Yes, of course Ms. Pith.”

Crisis at the Records Office

“And you are?” the clerk asked without looking up.

“Well,” Karl said, “that’s an interesting question. I mean, my name right now is Karl Apel. That’s Karl with a K, of course. But I’m here for a name change, because I don’t like my name. So am I still Karl? Is my legal name my only name? Is a rose still a rose if it’s not called a rose? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself lately, you know?”

“Mmhm. I getcha. But your legal name right now is Karl Apel? K-A-R-L, A-P-L-E?”

“A-P-E-L, actually,” Karl said.

“Okay. Here’s your number. Take a seat over there, and please sort out any existential issues prior to being called by the next available agent. Next please.”

Karl stood and went to sit in the waiting area.

New Name

“Meghan Yoon?”

Meghan stepped forward. “Here, sir.”

“Okay, what name would you like this year?”

“Can I keep the same one?”

“No. You must change your name today. You know the rules, everyone changes their name once per year.”

“But why though?”

The clerk sighed. “One every year,” he muttered. “Because that’s how things have been done, and how they need to continue. Because the new Renaming Act of 2035 sets out how everyone must change their name, once per year, in order to ensure that no name becomes better than others. And because if you don’t, you’ll be fined and face possible prison time.”

“But I don’t think it’s a good law. It doesn’t help anyone. It just makes everyone confused about who they are, and I think might be a means of con – ”

“Ms. Yoon, you have five second to choose a new name, or I’ll call security and you can deal with it that way.”

“Okay, um, is Chantal Broady taken?”

“No, congratulations Chantal. Next please.”

Chantal left the office, still uncertain about this. The clerk flagged her file.

A Good Question

“I’ve decided, ” Blake said.

“On?” said Mellisa.

“A name.”

“A name for what?”

“For my car, obviously.”

“Oh, right, of course,” Mellisa said, giving him a look that said it wasn’t obvious.

“So?” said Blake.

“So what?”

“Aren’t you going to ask what it is?”

Mellisa sighed and said, “Okay, what’s the name?”

“Valerie.”

“And why Valerie?”

“Because it’s such a sexy name. It rolls around the mouth and off the tongue.”

“Ah. And you need a sexy name for your little beater of a car?”

“Yeah. How else will I feel masculine and shit?”

“Good question, Blake. A very good question indeed.”

Pronunciation

“Sorry, what’s your name?” John asked.

“Deep-all,” Dipal said, pronouncing it slowly.

“Great, nice to meet you Dipol,” John held out his hand. Dipal cringed at the pronunciation, but shook the hand anyway. “What brings you to this little shindig?”

“Here for networking, meeting people in the field, that kind of thing.”

“Ah, yes, good plan Dipol,” John said. These networking events are always so good, right?”

“Yes, I’m told they are. Hopefully it will be useful.”

“I’m sure it will, Dipol.”

Dipal pursed his lips, wondering why his interlocutor insisted on continuing to say his name, and to say it that way.

“Any big plans for tomorrow, Dipol?” John said. “There are some great presentations happening on inter-office synergizing, I know.”

“Um, yes, I suppose so. Excuse me, I need to go and, uh, register.”

“Oh sure, the table is right over there, Dipol,” John pointed.

“Thank you,” Dipal said, happy to be leaving the man, and the conversation, behind.

A Boy Named Sue

“Hey Sue, how’s things?” Vincent asked.

Sue looked up from his work and grimaced. “How’s things? Hardly a grammatically correct sentence, Vincent,” he said.

“This from the man named Sue?” Vincent grinned, thinking himself original.

Sue’s grimace deepened. “Ha ha. How drole.”

“Wasn’t it?”

“I’ll have you know, Susan was, at one point, a name for both males and females.”

“Well, it’s currently a name for women, Sue. Why not change it?”

“Why should I change, it’s society that sucks.”

“Indeed. Hey, was that – ”

Sue put his pen down with a slap. “- song by Johnny Cash written about me? No. Do I look old enough for that? Because if you say yes, I’ll slap you into tomorrow.”

“Ooh. Someone’s a little touchy. That time of the month?”

Sue took a deep breath, and appeared visibly calmer. Inside, though, the storm grew in intensity, and he started: “Aside from the rampant sexism prevalent in your statement, Vincent, the fact of the matter is that yes, I do become rather annoyed when people pick on, or apart, my name. It is a name. It is the name that was given to me. I have taken ownership of it, at least insofar as it is an indicator of who I am. While you may find great mirth in that, you do need to pay more attention to my reactions, which were ones of disapproval at your mockery. I do not enjoy the constant repetitions of the same jokes about my name. If you want to have fun with it – and in the right occasion, which is not now, I don’t mind if you do – then please, at the very least, think of something more original.”

Vincent stood for a moment, stunned by the diatribe, before he knocked on Sue’s desk and said, “Well, okay then. Have a good lunch, Sue.”

“Thanks, Vin.”

Vincent cringed as he walked away, and Sue smiled, knowing the hate Vincent had for any shortening of his name.

What’s in a Name?

“Phylis, what are you doing?”

Phylis looked up from her book to see Robyn standing over her, blocking the light.

“What do you mean?” Phylis asked.

“Why the baby name book?”

“Oh! That. Um. Not what it looks like.” Phylis quickly closed the book, blushing.

Robyn sat down beside her. “Really? Cuz it looks like you’re choosing a baby name.”

“I’m not. Just looking for a, uh, new name.”

“For your baby?”

Phylis smacked her friend on the arm. “For myself.”

“Why? What’s wrong with Phylis?”

“I sound like some kind of disease!”

“No you don’t, Phylis is a great name.”

“Say that when you’re learning about syphilis in health class.”

“That was like, a decade and a half ago.”

“Still traumatic.”

Robyn sighed. “I like your name. I think it’s fine, and no one thinks of an STI when they say it.”

“Yes they do. And the ones that don’t think of their grandma. I need a new name,” Phylis reopened her book and stuck her nose deep within.

“Well, choose carefully, then.” Robyn pushed herself to her feet.

“How about Robyn? I like Robyn.”

“I like me too, but it’s my name. You can’t have it.”

“Robyn it is. I like it. Good ring to it. Lots of good memories. Thanks Robyn!” Phylis stood, handed the book to her friend, and walked away, a happy bounce to her step.

Robyn sighed, sat down, and started flipping through the book.

Leaving Jed Behind

“My life as Jedidiah began simply enough. My parents were good little WASPs in a good little village. They were born there, they grew up there. They were high school sweethearts, got married right after graduation, got jobs. Straight out of the 50s. It’s a weird town.

“So they named me after my great great great great grandfather. They thought it was a strong name. A good name. Growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s was terrible. Jedidiah? That’s an old person’s name. It’s hard to say. It gets shortened to “Jed”. And it’s one of the Bushes. Blech.

“Anyway, when I got to university, everyone thought I was this Luddite Amish kid, off on his little outing into the world. Or they thought I was some small town hick who knew nothing, hated minorities, and believed the market should be free in everything except for people. No one wanted to be my friend. Professors asked if I could come help them raise a barn, or how I had perfected time travel. It sucked.

“So off I went to the courthouse. I changed my name to Nick. I grew a beard over the summer, right before growing beards was cool. I even got some glasses, though I didn’t actually need them. I came back, and everyone thought I was someone else. It worked like a charm. Suddenly I was popular, I went on dates, and things were ideal.

“I left Jedidiah behind, and became Nick. My parents threatened to disown me, so I stayed away for a couple of years. They called me one day, we had it out, and now things are fine. I go home once a year for a couple of days. Everyone in town calls me by my old name. I’m someone else briefly. Then I come back to the real world, and I can be myself again.

“So that’s my story. A bad name, mostly left behind. I didn’t expect anyone else from home to be…well, out of there. Everyone stays. It’s just how the town is.

“I’m happy not to be Jedidiah. It’s nice to see you, Stanton, but while we’re out here, I’m Nick. Please, don’t call me anything else.”

A Name Like Jedidiah

Nick’s name used to be Jedidiah. As Jedidiah, he did not like his name.

It was nothing to do with the history of the name (biblical), or its source (his parents). It was simply the cumbersome nature of it, the weird bouncing of the mouth it created, and the backward, old-timey connotations it carried. Few youth were named Jedidiah – it was a name you expected of an elderly Amish man who scorned electricity and medical science.

On his nineteenth birthday, Jedidiah changed his name to Nick. Quick, easy, and sharp, he thought. Nick was hip. Nick was cool. Nick got the job done.

The intersection of his past and present came eight years later, at Tamara’s party. Nick arrived early (at 6, the party’s stated start time), and was the third guest to arrive. Tamara’s boyfriend Omar was with her, which made sense. But when he saw Stanton standing in Tamara’s living room, Nick froze.

“Jedidiah Pritchard, it’s been a long time! How the hell are you?” Stanton said.

“Uh…uhh…” Nick said.

“Wait, what?” said Tamara. “Jedidiah?”

Nick’s face flushed, and Stanton looked confused. “Yeah. This guy. Jedidiah, right?”

“That’s Nick,” said Tamara. “We’ve known him for like, five years. He showed me all around when I first moved here, and even introduced me to Omar. I think you’ve confused him with someone else, Stan. A brother maybe?” Tamara turned to Nick. “Do you even have a brother? You’ve never mentioned him.”

“Uh…no. No brother.”

“So what’s going on?”

“Yeah, Jedidiah. Why are these folks calling you Nick?” Stanton asked.

Nick sighed, grabbed a beer from the table, and said, “Let me tell you a story. It’s about a dopey little kid in his first year of university with no friends and a name that even the professors made fun of.”

A Car By Any Other Name

Steve bought his car on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. It was a small sedan, used, with air conditioning and power windows but no other fancy additions. A functional vehicle, useful for Steve’s purposes, but nothing beyond getting him from A to B.

On his second date with Tia, three years later, she asked him, “What’s your car’s name?”

“What’s that?” Steve said, holding the passenger door for her. She sat and he closed it, then got in the driver’s side.

“I said, what’s your car’s name?”

“Uhh,” Steve said, starting the car. “I don’t know, I didn’t really think of naming it.”

“Your car doesn’t have a name?” Tia said, looking affronted. “How can you not name it? It’s essential. You totally have to name your car.”

“I dunno, it’s not something I ever thought of, I guess.”

“How about Leroy? No, that’s no good, it’s not a Leroy. Fergus? Kennedy? I like that one. How about Kennedy?”

“Uh, sure, I guess,” Steve said.

“Well, that’s no way to respond! You’re supposed to be excited about the name. Hmm, do you want a boy or a girl?”

“It’s just a car, I dunno. Girl.”

“I see what it is, cuz you’re always getting in her.” She laughed the manic laugh of someone who can’t read others. “How about Jennifer? No, I knew a Jennifer once, I didn’t like her. Kyla? Elaine? Or maybe something slutty, like Candy or Destiny?”

“How about ‘Greeny’,” Steve said.

“Ew. That’s just a colour.”

“I know, but it suits, right?”

“I know what you want. You want Tia. You want to call her after me, take us both for a ride, right?”

Steve shifted in his seat, uncomfortable, but not wanting to blow this. The only other date he had been on in the past year had been a disaster, and finding someone to take on a second date, and who would agree to one, was hard enough. He sighed inwardly and smiled outwardly, adopting the part.

“Yeah, Tia’s good. I like it. She’s a great ride, I could take her out all night.”

Tia giggled, then swatted his arm. “Well, we’ll just see about that.” She continued laughing, looking back and forth between the road and Steve.