Journal entry: August 23, 2009 (age 40) – First Name Faux Pas
When I meet someone for the first time, I try to keep an under-utilized rule of etiquette in mind: “Do not make a comment or joke about a person’s name.”
The reason for this goes beyond manners. No matter what joke, reference, or rhyming word I could come up with, the person will have heard it before, so they wouldn’t find my observation interesting, let alone entertaining. Such a comment is not only an affront to polite society, but to the gods of comedy as well.
Every human being on the planet suffers through innumerable, unoriginal comments about their name. So why do so many of us think other people will appreciate our comments about their names?
My wife’s first name is Amanda, which means “worthy of love.” Yes, she is aware that her name rhymes with panda. Yes, she has been called the hilarious nickname “Amanda Hugandkiss.”
Not only has she heard of the Mandy doll that was popular in the 1970s, she, in fact, owned one. She has more than a passing (and painful) familiarity with Barry Manilow’s 1974 song “Mandy” and Boston’s 1986 song “Amanda.” She knows exactly who you mean when you compare her to Amanda Peet, Amanda Bynes, Amanda Plummer, Mandy Moore, or Mandy Patinkin. No, she doesn’t know that AMANDA is an acronym for Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array, but she probably wouldn’t care if you told her.
My name is Manfromnantucket. Alright, I’m lying. My name is Tim, which means “one who honors God.” Tim rhymes with lots of things, like Haradrim, which J. R. R. Tolkien defined as the proud and warlike tribes of men that live south of Gondor in the fictional realm of Middle-Earth.
I am always deeply moved by “Timothy,” the 1971 one-hit-wonder by the Buoys about a guy who was cannibalized by his friends after a mining accident. “Timothy” didn’t fare much better on Dada’s 1992 album cut about a disturbed child who pathologically lies to cover up the fact that he’s been abandoned by his parents.
I personally think St. Paul’s two Epistles to Timothy are in the top 5, all-time-best Epistles of St. Paul. (Second Timothy is even funnier than First Timothy!) My name is not pronounced “Timmmaaayyy!!!” I am neither “Tiny” nor a “Tool Man.” Lassie has informed millions of people that I got stuck in a well, but I’m still down there. Messrs. Allen, Burton, Meadows, Dalton, and Hutton all have higher rankings than me in the Internet Movie Database. I don’t know your cousin Tim, but I’m sure he’s swell.
I’m sure it’s exponentially worse to have a weird name. I feel bad for all the kids who will grow up with names like Bo-bama, KRS-2, or The Artist Currently Known as Prince’s Daughter Princess. For their sakes, I am forwarding a copy of this journal entry to the United Nations with a strongly worded suggestion that a global regulation regime be established to limit inane name comments to a maximum of five repetitions.
Candidates to head a commission might include former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali or the man Amanda believes she is the first to refer to as “Rootin’ Tootin’ Vladimir Putin.”