mardi 3 juin 2014

N is for Names

N is for Names

The third of June is Kevin’s day; a rather unexpected name among the Théophiles, Innocents and Constantins. Kevin is actually an anglicised (or Frenchified, if you prefer) version of Saint Cóemgen (modern Irish: Caoimhín) (498 – 3 June 618). He was an Irish saint known as the founder and first abbot of Glendalough in County Wicklow, Ireland; 3 June is his feast day in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. I couldn’t really imagine an actual Kevin around all those years ago. There is the famous Alan Bennett sketch where an elderly gentleman turns up at an old people’s home and a nurse exclaims “You’re our first Kevin!”. I know Maths has never been my strong point, but surely those dates from Wikipedia make our Saint Kevin about 120 when he died. He was apparently an ascetic and a hermit, so maybe that’s the explanation for his longevity.

Looking at my own Name Day and hoping to find something more glamourous than Doreen — Juliette, Florence, Tatiana or even Solange, perhaps — I find I have Gwladys. She was born a Princess in Wales in 460, so could even have met Kevin. She too was a hermit for part of her life and has also been described as pious, wise and beautiful. Well, one out of three isn’t bad… I once worked with a lovely lady from Nigeria. Her name was unpronounceable in English, so she decided to change it. Out of all the names she could have chosen, she opted for Gladys.

There are a lot of “ettes” around here. We know a Georgette, a Colette, a Claudette, a Henriette, and a Huguette; we’ve also heard talk of a Bernadette and a Pierrette. If you don’t end in an “ette”, the next best thing is to find two long names, or ones that don’t go that well together, and hyphenate them. Don’t be surprised to be introduced to a Veronique-Dominique or an Antoine-Guillaume.

Another trick is to hyphenate a man’s and a woman’s name, so it’s difficult to guess the sex of the owner when you see the name written down. We’ve come across Anne-Francois (male) and Marie-Georges (female).

It goes without saying that our own British names can pose a problem or two. I somehow keep getting “nom” and “prénom” muddled, so often get letters to Madame Doreen or emails that begin “Porter”. For a long time, at a social club we went to, the members called us Govan and Dolly. It was always easier to answer than try to explain what our names actually were. Now, the doctor has taken to bursting into a chorus of Hello Dolly whenever he sees me. Gavin generally fares slightly better in the name game, although he prefers not to keep answering to Kevin (see above). When not Dolly, I’m often Dreen. I will gloss over one French acquaintance who decided I should be Doreenette. Anyway, I’m seriously thinking of choosing another name and hyphenating it. Any suggestions?

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