Monday, September 14, 2009

Naming - Part II

After the Army I came to spend most of my time up in Michigan. Despite the three years of being called George in the Army I had not yet come to like my name. Since I was now making new friends, I saw an opportunity to choose a name that I could like, and could become known by. At the time I was reading Francoise Sagan's third novel, Those Without Shadows; there was a character in it whom I liked. His name, Alain, I liked even more. I wanted to become Alain Fitzgerald but I knew better as I had no talent with languages and wasn't even sure I could pronounce Alain correctly. I settled on Alan, recalling that my mother had wanted me to be --well, not Alan, but Allen -- close enough.

I liked it when I'd read about other people changing their names, such as when Lucy Johnson called a press conference to say that from thereon she was Luci.

Then there was the now little-known Russian-born but British-raised novelist, William Gerhardi. He was one of England's most darling writers of the 1920's, the one to whom no less than Evelyn Waugh said, "I have talent, but you have genius." But Gerhardi's fame didn't last. Publishers stopped publishing him; he became impoverished.

By the mid-sixties esteemed writers like Graham Greene, Anthony Powell, C.P. Snow, and others, according to an article in Time magazine, "called for his rediscovery." Gerhardi "emerged briefly in the London press at 71 when he changed his name from Gerhardi to Gerhardie, explaining to a puzzled reporter that Dante, Shakespeare, Racine, Blake and Goethe all had a final "e" -- 'and who am I not to have an 'e'?' He has further explained," the article went on, "that the first syllable of his name is pronounced with a soft 'G,' but bowing to persistent error has decreed that it may be pronounced with a hard 'G' on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays."

As for me I found that changing my name came with problems. My colleagues at work knew me as George. My friends called me Alan. Eventually some of my colleagues and some of my friends became part of the same mix, or a friend from Indiana would show up and wonder why someone was calling me Alan. I explained that my name was George Alan Fitzgerald and, fair enough, I preferred to use my middle name. So much for Vincent, my real middle name, dug up by my mother or dad from god knows where.

Then, all of a sudden, when I was about 28, I decided that I liked the name George after all. I felt that I had somehow grown into it, had earned its classicism. I moved to Ann Arbor and liked telling everyone I met that my name was George.

I still get a couple or three Christmas cards each year addressed to George Alan Fitzgerald.

And these days I just love my mail carrier at work, Francesca; she's originally from Italy. On special occasions I might get a hug from her, a kiss on the cheek. One day she brought a piece of mail addressed to George Vincent Fitzgerald. She was thrilled that I had what she called an Italian middle name, and said I must learn to pronounce it Veen-chen-zo (or something close to that).

Now, because Francesca likes my middle name, and because I like Francesca so much, I'm all set. I like my first (and it has, like Dante, Shakespeare, Racine, Blake, Goethe, and Gerhardie, a final 'e'). And I like my middle. And I've always loved my last.

It's good to have it finally settled.

1 comment:

  1. I've never liked my first or middle name. I've considered having my legal first name lengthened to Elizabeth/Elisabeth, and dropping my middle name altogether. But I think it costs quite a bit to do an official name change. After having broken with my parents, I'd like to get rid of the name they chose for me, to get rid of one more reminder of them.