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A Story About Names Never Fails to Get Our Attention

Our recent podcast “How Much Does Your Name Really Matter?” generated a lot of response. Here are a few interesting ones. First, from F.D. Stein of Tennessee:

Loved this podcast; sorry you guys did not find the developer my company worked with in the 1980’s. He was from Oklahoma; his name was Never Fail. His brother was named Will Fail. Never (and his son Never Fail Jr.) were quite successful, and dashing examples of real estate developers at the time. 

I feared this one was too good to be true, but Mr. Google backs up Mr. Stein here, here, and here. Stein later wrote in with a further bit of comment:

They were the developer of Waterford Place Apartments in Chattanooga. Bill Severins was their project manager, former Kansas City Royals baseball player. Never Fail looked like Peter Grant of Mission Impossible; striking, tall, white hair perfectly groomed. The 1986 tax law killed them as real estate developers.

We also heard from Tim Harling, who shared his parental naming criteria:

When I was discussing baby names with my wife it seemed to me that the first priority was to throw out any suggestions that had no chance of making it to the “final list,” as it were.  The first immediate thought for me was if the name triggered an immediate emotional response to a real person in my life, past or present, and if it was negative that name obviously thrown out (almost as if I was making sure they stayed out of my present life? Retribution?).  The second instinctive thought was to think how another child might use the name to ridicule my child. Only after passing those two criteria would a name, no matter what it was (think historical family names) get any serious consideration. If names play no destiny maybe how others treat you because of your name does? 

Agatha Torku sent an interesting note about the distinctively black names we discussed in the podcast, some of them old and some recent:

I would like to point out that … AmbroseMoses and Percy were common in the U.K. and that three of the four “black” names mentioned in the podcast have European origins (according to the word of Wikipedia): Tyrone, Marquis, and Demetrius.

So I would argue that maybe the revolution was not about being different, but about trying to be better than ordinary, much like the English obsession with ancient Greece and ancient Rome.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to point this out to you, but just in case, I’d thought I’d drop a line.  Full-disclosure: my name is Agatha (feminine form of Agathe, which is Greek for “Good.” I blame British colonial neoclassicism, for my parents grew up in Ghana).  I may be a bit biased.

And then there was this roundabout tale from a reader named William:

I enjoyed today’s podcast on names, as I have more particular reason to imagine what life would have been like with a different name. When I was born (July 1986), I was named Colmán. I was baptised Thomas (Dec. 1986), and by the time of my first birthday, I had become William. I am still Colmán on my PPS record (social security), but for all other official purposes I’m William, as my parents got me a new birth cert after they married in 1989. I’m now a firm atheist, so my name according the Roman Catholic Church is just a curiosity, rather than something that I’ll need to bring up when I marry. I have very faint memories of friends of my parents calling me Thomas and telling them I was now William.

Then it all happened again. My brother (b. Sept. 1997) was named Rowan on his birth. Then he was baptised Oisín (Dec. 1997). By the time of his birthday, he became Thomas, so they’d started recycling names.

So they moved between traditional Irish names of Colmán and Oisín, before settling on conventional English names of William and Thomas.

My sister (b. 1990) was always Ursula though.

Please feel free to share further naming tales in the contents below.