Monday, January 30, 2012

What's In A Name?

Have you ever read Crow Lake by Mary Lawson? I highly recommend it if you haven't.
This is one of the many profound words she put on paper: I remember reading somewhere a theory to the effect that each member of a family has a role - 'the clever one', 'the pretty one', 'the selfish one'. Once you've been established in the role for a while you're stuck with it - no matter what you do people will still see you as whatever-it-was - but in the early stages, according to the theory, you have some choice as to what your role will be.

I've seen this in action. The way you're stuck with a role that you have let go of ages ago, but not others.
In South Africa there's a fabric softener brand called Sta-Soft. Everyone talks about Sta-Soft, whether it's really Sta-Soft or not. So, in actual fact, every fabric softener is Sta-Soft, even though it's not. If you know what I mean.
A lot of psychology goes into the names of products. The name has to be able to do it's job. Although sometimes it doesn't. Well, not for me anyway - like 'Spotted Dick' pudding. Seriously? Spotted Dick? That just sounds to me too much like a penis with acne, so no - no Spotted Dick for me. Ever.

My eldest son tells me the other day that a boy in his class had an accident. Unfortunately it was of the poo variety, so rather embarrassing. The boy's name is Mark. He is now Skid Mark. Ten years from now when he's still explaining why he's called Skid Mark, it will be long after the accident - an accident that probably would only have (publicly) happened once - but - the name will be stuck.

My youngest son is referred to as Cuddle King or The Eternal Optimist. He is both of these things most of the time. I wonder, though, if by calling him these names we reinforce this. My middle child on the other hand is referred to as The Voice of Doom or The Eternal Pessimist. Now, these name are not used to his face, but even so - are we reinforcing something else here just by attaching these names to him?

And as the youngest son has these names, and the middle one his, the eldest one does not. Does this have any influence on him being unable to decide what he wants to be when he grows up? Subject choice time has come for high school and he stares at the options looking a bit dazed and confused.

Mr Husband was from a very early age labeled Negative. Piecing various stories together, I think he was probably an earnest child, a worrier, brought on by his father's loud verbal daily commentary of the expectant financial ruin of the family (which never came) and the state of the country and the approach of Armageddon (which never came)... So that even when he gradually stopped being negative, he was still called that - every time he just remotely expressed concern about something.

Me? I'm called Lovey. Mr Husband calls me nothing else except that. So, it gets a bit tricky when we have a fall out - especially the way things have been of late. I have told him, "Learn to call me by my name!" He seemed appalled at the idea.  To him, I am Lovey. Or My Love.

My Love.

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