Name calling

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now, but finally decided to write a post on the subject because of an article concerning Joseph Fiennes, who starred in “Shakespeare in Love.”

Unlike his older brother, Ralph, (or Rafe-how pretentious can you get?) Joseph is the actor who manages to keep his pants on during flights unless it’s to pee or as the French say “to evacuate”. Don’t you just love the way the French express it?

I have to confess that as a family the Fiennes hold little interest for me, but I did notice that Joseph has a twin brother called Jacob and that he also has a brother called Magnus and a sister called Martha.

Two brothers with the same initial, a brother and sister with the same initial and this happening in a family that is extremely creative, apparently. What has happened in the Fiennes family is surprisingly not unusual.

When selecting names for their children, many people I know have chosen names that begin with the same letter. I have a neighbour who has called her daughter, Melanie and her son, Michael. I know someone else who has chosen Julian and Jordan and I, myself have children whose names begin with the same letter.

This trend has struck me so often that I have begun looking out for it in birth announcements and in stories about families. There was one family of devout Christians who chose the same initial for their seven children, but that is an exception. I could picture them being called to dinner…Simon! Saul! Sarah! Steven! Oh for crying out loud, calling all sibilants!

Usually what happens is that the first two children have the same initial and if there is a third child the trend is broken. I did read in the paper a few months ago, though, about a Spanish family whose children were called Carlos, Catarina and Carmella. I don’t remember any details of the story but the names attracted my attention.

I am now on the lookout for these repetitions and I wonder what it says about me that when the newspaper relates the tragic story of an entire family who drowned, I remark, “Did you notice that all the children’s name began with T?”

A possible explanation for the trend is that everyone has a favourite sound either because it sounds good or because it is easy to pronounce, or both. Once the third child comes along, it’s as if the parents come to their senses and realise what problems they are creating for the future.

In the case of my two children, having the same initial created many problems when they began to use an airline. One of them flew more often than the other and accrued many frequent flyer points. As airline companies are wont to do, they erroneously allocated many of the frequent flyer points to the flyer who flew less often.

It’s not all bad news, however, since hand-me-downs that are labelled with initials, present no problem. The other advantage is that if you are in the psychic business and you have to guess the name of a brother or sister of Paul, you could do worse than close your eyes, as if you are waiting for a message from the spirits, and say “I am thinking of a name that begins with P. Is it Patrick or Pamela, or maybe Peter?

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