Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Naming Game

It’s not easy having the same name as everybody’s Great Aunt Edith. Especially when your parents get original and spell it wrong just to make sure your life is even more miserable.
I am called Weedy Eedy (in my skinny years) and Greedy Eedy (in my fat ones). And then there is Needy Eedy during those grim days when I eat school lunch in the cloakroom in case no one wants to sit with me at break. Warning: this tale gets sadder.
It doesn’t stop with the Eedy thing. If you have a name like Edyth, the chances are you’re not going to have a decent surname like Harris or Nchunu. It would have to be something like Bulbring, with a funny, foreign double dot on the “u” that gets abandoned at my coming of age when I can’t get the computer to behave.
So because of my problematic surname there are days when I am Bully, Bullybeef, Bullfrog, Bulldust and then it all gets very ugly when my friends get brave enough to say words like crap and shit out loud. Thanks Fatty, Bones, Greasy and Stinky for all the good times growing up with you guys in Port Elizabeth.
Having a bad name has given me a taste for names. In Pops and The Nearly Dead, I call my main character Randolph. He longs to be called Red (cool) but ends up with Randy (ouch) which is hard core when you are a horny fifteen year old boy. His love interest is called Regina (rhymes with vagina) Versagel. And if you say Regina Versagel fast enough over and over you know how badly it can go wrong. Revenge is sweet, in my twilight years.
In my very first book - The Summer of Toffie and Grummer - I give my main character the name Beatrice Wellbeloved. Mainly because she isn’t much loved at all. It is only when she learns to forgive, let go and love herself and other people that she can "be well loved" (gettit!).
And then there is my calendar girl April-May February in Melly, Mrs Ho and Me. I choose the name to illustrate how much at odds her parents are from the day she is born. They want to call her by their favourite month of the year – but can’t agree on what it is. So they give her two calendar names and live with the uneasy compromise until they get divorced - and split her name.
There is hardly a name in any one of my books that does not have a hidden meaning or a personal association for me.
So it is with Confessions of a Virgin Loser, the m-book I write in the cold month of July for Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation (Steven Vosloo - see how sensible some parents are) and his bunch of cellphone addicts (whose names I don’t know).
What name to give the Virgin Loser? He is earnest and anxious and fervent and serious and staid, combined with some troubling loser tendencies. And the story he tells is the honest account of a course of events he embarks upon under great pressure from his peers to lose his virginity. It is told with candour and honesty. It is frankly told.
Hello Frank, you lovely Virgin Loser.

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