Wednesday, 22 December 2010

What Your Name Says About You

Weybridges are very fussy about people shortening their children’s names. “It’s Anthony - if we wanted to call him Tony we’d have named him Tony.” They search carefully for names you can’t shorten, and then brag about how clever they’ve been. The Stow-Crats call each other Johnny, Bobby, Timmy, Vicky, Mummy and Daddy. Everybody else shortens to: Bob, Tim, Mum, Dad. To the Definitelies, Lawrences are Lol, Garys are Gaz or Gazza.

Weybridges may call their children names that are one letter off a well-used name: Isopel, or Gillian with a hard G. Thalia Upward picks a unique, individual, cool name for her daughter that will knock all the other mothers’ eyes out - and then she discovers there are five other Helianthes in the playgroup.

Upwards call their daughters: Lily, Daisy, Rosa, Poppy, Flora, Iris, Ruby
Teales: Primrose, Fern, Jonquil, Pansy, Laurel
Stow Crats: Lavender, Viola, Linden, Primrose
Weybridges: Marigold, Holly, Heather, Erica, Cherry, Olive, Rosemary, Marguerite, Hazel, Beryl
Definitelies: Bryony, Violet, Ivy, Jasmine, Jade, Rowan, Saffron, Willow, Pearl

The Definitelies are notorious for calling their children two-syllable names so that they can wail the second syllable when calling them in or telling them off (“Oh, DarrEN!”). Upwards carefully avoid these.

Upwards are never, ever called Lowri. Or Ashlyn. Or Lorne. Formerly, their names never ended in “...ine” but this rule has been relaxed.

Stow-Crats pronounce Ralph as “Rafe”; for Upwards and Weybridges it’s “Rarlph”; everyone else rhymes it with Alf. Eve-lyns are Upward, Ev-lyns are Weybridge.

In Weybridge, Lindsey is for girls, Lindsay for boys. Teales are Linsey, Definitelies Linzi.
Sharon Definitely calls her girls Brooke, Madison and Tayla. Christine Teale’s children are Cullum and Bryony. Trevor, Kenneth and Kevin are Teales. Irish/Scots names are still fashionable, but different ones: Conan, Ronan, Cullum, Callum. Craig and Darren are now dads.

Older Weybridges are Arnold, Gordon, Norman, or names borrowed from grand families: Howard, Neville. Loz, Caz, Gaz, Suz, Jez are 80s throwbacks trying to be working class. The 80s were a gift to the upwardly or downwardly mobile because you could adopt the lefty vocabulary, uniform and lifestyle wholesale and no-one had a clue where you came from.

Upwards have neutral surnames because their families massaged or changed them in the 19th century (Mudds became Maudes, Smellies became Smileys). Stow-Crats can get away with being called Panter-Downes, Bodham-Wetton, Bigg-Wither or Page-Turner. Teales and Definitelies may have strange mutated surnames like Mook, Bivvins or Custage. Teales live with names like Iball because they don’t know you can change them. Nouveau-Richards change or make up their names but don’t get it quite right, like Miss Snevellicci and Miss Ledrook in Nicholas Nickleby.

A hyphenated surname looks posh. Some bearers have removed the hyphen (Martha Lane Fox) or run the names together (Lanefox). What was the idea? Sometimes a man married into a posher family and added its name to his own. Sometimes people were left legacies on condition they added (or adopted) a name. But you may end up Fearnley-Whittingstall. Or Hall-Hall. Or Digby-Vane-Trumpington. A double surname may indicate a mother who refused to drop her own surname, but the resulting combo may not be euphonious (Sneed-Sharpley).

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