By Any Other Name

Over the years parents have given their offspring such names as Hope, Honor, Prudence and Patience. I presume that they hope that their children will grow up espousing these virtues.

It seems to be mainly a girl thing. Some parents of boys make half-hearted attempts by calling their son Rich, others call theirs Dick (“we want our son to have the best of everything”). These are not really virtues, though. Few boys are given names like Strength, Gentlemanliness or Notafraidofhisfeminineside.

In Hispanic countries they regularly use the name Jesus and, well, no pressure there.

Some celebrities inflict their kids with names like Zowie Bowie, Moon Unit Zappa or Lets Open the Dictionary At Random Geldof. I can only assume that they hope that either the kids will grow up with a self-deprecating sense of humour, or that they will develop a tough inner core, like the boy named Sue.

So, does it work? There is some evidence that it does. While it’s not his actual given name, Mr and Mrs Woods referred to their son all his life as Tiger and that certainly produced results, though presumably not the ones they were expecting.
But as conclusive proof I offer the case of Mr and Mrs Dwarf.

There is no way that they could have looked at one of their tiny, new-born sons and decided that he was going to grow up bashful. All babies sneeze, with a delightful look of startlement on their faces, but how could they have known that this would in time become another son’s principal character trait? And as one other son slept, as all babies do, they surely couldn’t have known that he would in fact spend most of the rest of his life doing this, or they would simply have called him Teenager.

The inescapable fact, then, is that each name moulded each child. Along with the three above, Happy grew up happy and Grumpy grew up grumpy. Doc was a bit of a disappointment to them, since he seems to have become a miner like his brothers, but he did wear glasses, which meant that he had at least visited a medical person at some stage in his life.

They finally blew it, however, when their seventh boy arrived. They had been so sure that this one would be a girl (they were going to call her Buxom, they were keen to have grandchildren), so had no boy’s name in mind. They panicked and made a huge mistake, as the Child Welfare Officer kept pointing out when he called.

Lest you feel too sorry for Dopey, though, keep in mind that he became one of the most loved of all characters in fable, he got more kisses from Snow White (what was her mother thinking, by the way, did she not like the name Chastity?) than any of the others and also (and I can’t emphasise this strongly enough) he owned one-seventh of a diamond mine.

Eat your heart out, Prince, you don’t even have a kingdom.


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