What’s in a name? Nothing, according to people with good ones. Everybody says you can’t judge a book by its cover, but does the name Bertha conjure up a young, svelte gal? Does T-Bone make you picture a Harvard-educated lawyer? And does Candy make you think of anyone other than a stripper?
Ever since I was little I tried to like it, but as the years passed I never warmed to my assigned name. To me, Courtney felt like it belonged in a genre of blonde hair flippers and gum smackers prone to rampant giggling. I’ve never touched a pair of pom-poms (unless you count the ones that came with a behind-closed-doors outfit I once wore that wasn’t exactly NFL-approved) and even though I’m not a giggler, I still worry that my name conjures a personality I don’t live up to.
Courtney isn’t an apocalyptic name, even though it does bring to mind a drug-addicted plastic surgery enthusiast who, according to conspiracy blogs, may or may not have blown Kurt Cobain’s brains out. Which reminds me: David Bowie thought it would be a hoot to name his child Zoey; as in Zoey Bowie (and this was after the drug period). Then there’s Gwyneth Paltrow, who decided her child looked scrappy enough to take a schoolyard beating. “I name thee Apple,” she declared.
Several years ago, my friend Andrew - whose hobby was creating a list of baby names for a child he didn’t have - became alarmed when he was harassed at a work party by a guy named Rocky. As the name’s stereotype implied, Rocky was large, burly and aggressive.
“A total asshole,” Andrew huffed. “I’m never giving my kid a name like that. Naming your kid Rocky is like handing him a baseball bat labeled, queer beating stick.”
As Andrew thought about the seriousness of name selection, his voice tightened.
“What if I end up raising the jock that used to beat me up in high school?” he said, panic flooding his voice. “No—I have to name him Chip. There are no mean Chips. Chips are smiley and warm and take out good girls named Betty and Shirley on bowling dates. Yes, it’s settled. Chip it is.”
Andrew’s boyfriend raised a finger in protest but was quickly silenced by a no-sex-tonight warning look.
“Maybe I could give him a gay name,” said Andrew. “And it would become like a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’d be on our side by default.”
“Uh oh,” I said. “There’s that homosexual agenda the conservatives keep warning me about.”
“What’s a really good gay name?” Andrew continued. “Fritz? Jerome? Fabio? Tom Cruise?”
“What if you adopt a girl?” I said.
“That’s easy. Her name is Mildred. She’ll be a bookish introvert too reclusive and modest to get knocked up at fifteen.”
A name is just a name. A guy named Thor won’t necessarily beat you up in a bar. A girl named Tiffany could very well be a CEO. And although names conjure up certain personality traits (bubbly, straight-laced, jovial), these traits either dissolve or hold true shortly after a person opens their mouth.
Names are simply words that help us say something other than “hey you” when we run into each other at Kmart. Still, sometimes I wonder if Andrew’s name-destiny philosophy could work. I don’t ever think I’ve met a stripper named Mildred…
Courtney Bee's articles on sex and relationships have appeared in Hustler, Playgirl, and numerous adult books. On ellorascave.com she's the bestselling author of Athima, an erotic novella, and a contributor to the new X-rated anthology Flavors of Ecstasy III. She's also a top-ranked sex columnist on examiner.com, where she betrays her prim Catholic upbringing on a daily basis.