What’s in a name?
I’ve just been reading an interview with Alexandra Shulman, Editor of UK Vogue for the past 20 years. She was saying that when she was aged between 6 and 8 years old, her only ambition was to be called Gillian, get married and have children.
Have you ever wondered how your life might have turned out if you sported a different name from that given to you at birth? Throughout the ages, it has been traditional for sons to carry the name of their fathers so the ancestral line can be continued. There is a type of ‘power’, therefore, invested in a name. Parents select a name with significance and meaning for them but as the unborn child is unavailable to comment, their choice can turn out to be less than satisfactory.
According to Twyla Tharp (author of The Creative Habit), the ancient masters of Japanese art were allowed to change their name just once in their lifetime. The new name could only come into existence once they believed they had mastered their skills to a point to which they aspired, artistically. After the change took place, they could never revert to their former name. For the remainder of their lives, they worked at the height of their power and talent using the new name. The change signified artistic maturity. This still happens today – Cassius Clay to Muhummad Ali, for example.
I was named Susan Jane and, of the 6 other Susans in my class at school, 4 also had Jane as their middle name. It’s not altogether surprising that we were a noisy bunch, always vying for the teachers’ personal attention and not wanting to go unnoticed in a midst of others with the same name. My mum, and her sister, both had unusual names that no-one could spell. This was one great reason for giving me one that required no thought at all. These days, Susan, is not a popular name for new born girls. With Susan as your name, you’ll more often than not date stamp yourself between the ages of 50-60 something. Even though I changed it to Sue with the advent of my first boyfriend, there are still zillions of us continuing to attract attention, sometimes using unusual coloured hair as their trademark of choice, more often than not with chatty (read noisy, in my case) voices.
As a small girl, I wanted to be called Hermione. I read the name in a magazine and fell in love with it from that day on. Until the onslaught of the Harry Potter books, I had never heard of anyone called Hermione, let alone met them, and that certainly added to the thrill. Oh, how wonderful it would be to be that unique! To be honest, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it and my rendition was more like herm- ee-own rather than the correct version, herm-i-on-y. At the request of a friend, I recently looked up its meaning – ‘of the earth’. How apt. For someone like me, who is less than grounded most of the time, this name would have been a great leveller. I occasionally adopt an imaginary Hermione as my more sensible twin, someone who wouldn’t act like a Sue would. It can come in quite handy when you’re stuck or unsure of how to proceed. We know that seeing a situation from a different perspective can bring creative flow and ideas into your head, so great for sorting out work issues and the like, but it can also work wonders in your closet.
So here’s some fun questions for you:
- Do you love your name? If so, why?
- What other name would you have liked to try?
- What would it give to you to be known in this way?
- How would having a different name affect your chosen appearance?
- What would be your favourite color(s)?
- Would you be more feminine, frivolous, dramatic, natural, traditional, quirky (or choose your own adjective) or stay exactly the same?
- How could you bring some of these new characteristics into your current wardrobe?
- What would it feel like for you to do so?
- What have you learned ?
- What actions might you now take as a result?
Have fun with it. You never know what insights you might gain as a result.