Angela by any other name would be as sweet
Angela is so not “me”. I’m definitely a Clementine. Maybe a Rebecca. Seraphina at a pinch, especially on the days I wear stripes and drink rosé and lounge on a yacht – which, of course, is never. But I would if I wasn’t called Angela.
Sorry, Mum, but Angela is a library monitor’s name. It’s capable and no-nonsense – which I am, I suppose. But how was I ever going to pull off whimsical with those thudding syllables? An-Ge-La. Like ‘potato’ or “phlegmatic”, it’s a word that sulks rather than skips off the tongue.
My husband is similarly burdened. Think of an English name beginning with N, popular in the ’60s and often suffixed with the expression “no friends”. Poor bugger. He’s so not his name. He’s a Tom, a Will, a Sam. A belly laugh of a man living under a dullard’s name.
Our children have magnificent monikers. Eloquent, serendipitous, lilting names – and I’m not showing off my vocab (much), just illustrating how beautiful words can be when vowels and consonants are perfectly paired. Our first would rather be anonymous, but the second – who fancies herself on Young Talent Time – is called Lilibelle. It’s a flibbertigibbet of a name, and she is. And unlike every Sharon and Tracey I know, she adores it.
“What’s in a name?” asked William Shakespeare (who might have been overlooked if he’d been christened, say, Colin). Plenty, as it happens. If Romeo Montague had been a simple Rob Martin, Juliet might not have found herself in such a pickle. Norma Jean? No wonder Marilyn Monroe couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. Likewise Sigourney – aka Susan – Weaver. And do you reckon Bruce Willis could have pulled off the gun-toting “Yippee-ki-yay” cop if he’d stuck with Walter Willison?
I thought half the population had name shame, that there’d be dozens of dashing men who should be called Max trapped in the bodies of a Darren. And Dawn, which rhymes with “yawn” (OK, hold the emails) – there must be a few of them who wish their parents had funked it up a bit. Aurora, say? Rory for short.
So I emailed my mates, presuming some must loathe their names. “Love mine,” says Sarah. “It’s soft and pretty and sibilant, though I wouldn’t mind Agatha because it’s boho and says ‘don’t mess with me’.” Jacinta adores her name, as does Harriet, who was named after a royal courtesan: “Having a name that was famous in history is so exciting – particularly when I learnt what a ‘mistress’ was.”
Steve wishes friends would drop the Stevie and Steve-o: “I like Stephen, but everyone would think I’m a pompous twat.” Phil, too, tries vainly for Philip. Hilary admits she’s grown into hers after a childhood of hairdressing ambitions and wishing she were a Nicky or Vicky: “Thank heavens my parents had better judgment.”
But it’s Helen’s email that brings me up sharp: “I’m Helen Maria – always have been, always will be. Have worked my whole life to make Helen Maria the best she can be. Love that my parents chose my name, as if in choosing it they chose the person I would be.”
And then this mother-of-three tells me something I’d never known – perhaps have never asked – in eight years of friendship: “I had two miscarriages. Their names would have been Louis and Elfa.”
I take it all back. Angela is a fine name. The one bestowed on me by a mother who couldn’t have loved me more. Plus, it could be worse – had I been a boy, I’d have been called Craig.
Catch Angela Mollard every Monday at 9.30am on Mornings, on the Nine Network. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/angelamollard
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