My friend Kevin was sounding off the other day about something he had heard in our local CoOp. A mother was upbraiding her son, and said, ‘Come here Hector.’ Now that’s not a name you really hear any more. Well, I suppose you might if you’re eating tofu and beansprouts in The Hive in Kensington High Street, but not in a CoOp in a small Essex market town.
There’s an unsettling modern trend for making up names for children. Mostly these look like a bad rack at Scrabble, or something out of a speech by TFF. They have however usurped a lot of the old names, though some of the older ones are still going strong. Some aren’t, and I’m not too surprised.
Of women you know, how many are called Vera? Not many I’d wager, though it was my mum’s third name. Gertrude. Ermintrude. Maureen. Doreen, for that matter. Ethel. Chastity; not much call for that in Great Dunmow, you’d be laughed out of the building. Lavinia. Maud. Brenda; I only know one of them. As it happens I only know one Agnes too, though I suspect that it’s probably big around Hipster Central, and that doesn’t count.
That’s probably enough for the distaff side of things. How are male names fairing? I used to work with a Norman, and the only other Norman I knew hated his name so much he called himself Sam, the very Sam who died last week. Eric. Ernest. The only Ernie I know is even more ancient than I am. Frank. Nobody’s called Hubert any more, which is all to the good since it was my father’s name and he was a total tosspot. Even Rons are thin on the ground these days.
Here’s the thing, though. If I’d had a son, I’d have liked to reactivate my grandfather’s name. He was born under Victoria’s rule, and the Victorians had some absolutely ace names. One of those was my grandfather’s. He rejoiced in the name Law. Fantastic or what?
By the way, I appropriated the principle of names such as Law for the lead character in my detective novel. Always known simply as Blain (a bit like Morse), when asked what his first name is he replies, ‘Just Blain.’ People think he’s being mysterious, but he’s not. He’s being truthful. His first name is Just.