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The Importance Of Being Sidney

I caught a phone-in on the US TV channel C-Span which was broadcast on BBC Parliament on Sunday.

In it a male caller claimed that in everyday discourse he was “not allowed” to use Barack Obama’s middle name.

Two questions occurred to me.

1. Who, precisely, is “not allowing” him to do this?
As far as I’m aware there is no law against it in the US.

2. Why should he want or need to use Obama’s middle name?
Does he for example always say John Sidney McCain when referring to the other candidate? And if not, why not, if he is so upset about “not being allowed” to say Hussein? Or is he “not allowed” to say Sidney either?

Btw it is so little used that I had to look up McCain’s middle name just for this post.

I personally think this last fact reveals more about the caller than he might realise.

PS If you see Sid, tell him.

Bristol, Piper, Track, Willow, and Trig

The above are the names of Sarah Palin’s children, though the procession sounds like an old-fashioned forward line.

She is governor of Alaska.

And now she might be Vice-President of the US.

OK, Alaska’s only got a small population; but the US? She’ll only be a heartbeat away from the whole shooting match (which given her proclivities it might well end up as.)

But never mind her politics; would you let someone who calls her children names like these run the proverbial whelk stall?

(And before anyone asks, yes, I would feel the same about a man whose children were similarly lumbered.)

Normans Conquer No More

It has recently been reported that soon there will be hardly any Normans left, and no Gertrudes at all. Other names which are on the way out include Walter, Percy (What, despite Thomas the Tank Engine?) Harold, Edna, Irene, Ada, Ernest, Nora (Compo you must be devastated!) Herbert, Olive, Agnes, Clifford, even Frank.

So new parents are unlikely to repeat the bizarre decision that those of a certain Norman (whom I have met, and spoken to professionally as a result of my day job) did. He’s even written several text books.

A man called Norman Conquest? Yes, really.

In Scotland, the tradition used to be that, since the mother chose the name, a first son was named after the mother’s father and a second son after its mother’s husband. Sometimes the mother’s maiden name was used. The use of surnames as given names was very common as a result. There are all those Murrays, Camerons, Dougals, Duncans, Gordons, Calums and Finlays, not to mention the odd Menzies or Tavish – I’ve even heard of McKenzies, MacDonalds and Brodies. However, this practice is also now tending to die out.

Despite being the third son in my family, I was named after my mother’s father. (Perhaps it took my parents so long because he wasn’t a Scot.) This caused problems when I was a lad because almost nobody had Jack as a first – in those days it was referred to as a Christian – name. A lot of men were called Jack but their legal name was John. As a child I lost count of the number of times that I was asked, “Are you sure it’s not John?” before sighing and explaining that Jack was indeed my “proper” name.

Yet nowadays Jack is one of the most popular boys’ names (I blame Richard and Judy) and all sorts of weird and wonderful monikers are in vogue.

And I feel sad to hear that the name Norman, in particular, has fallen into disuse.

You see, my other grandfather was called Norman and it is my elder brother’s middle name. I also have a cousin Norman, so I almost feel as if part of my heritage is dying.

What better excuse to embed this inoffensive ditty from Dean Ford & the Gaylords (you wouldn’t get away with that name now!) otherwise known as Marmalade?

Marmalade: Cousin Norman

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