Articles Misc

Name Calling

What mental image comes to mind when you
read the name Antonio Díaz? What about Eduardo Alonso? Forget the fact that
they are coincidentally the same names as the FREE! editors, but concentrate on
the subconscious photo-fit that the names conjure. Are they handsome or are
they ugly? Are they muscular or are they wobbly around the edges? Are they
somebody you would like to meet for a coffee or would you rather snub their
ugly wobbly faces?

Names are the real first impression that we
make of people, since they walk a few paces ahead of us on class registers,
passports and job applications leaving us at the mercy of somebody's mental
interpretation long before we make a physical appearance. I know because
countless people in Finland and online have made the gender mistake with Asa,
but I guess my parents made the error first – it's a girl, Mr and Mrs Butcher!

Asa is both a male and female name
depending upon the country, yet in Sweden Åsa is only a female name, which is
why the gender confusion occurs a little more often here in Scandinavia.
Despite countless people asking about my weird name, to which I always say,
"Unique!", it has served me well, with people remembering me over all
the Johns, Roberts, Michaels and Williams. A teacher once caught me running in
the corridor during my first year and he then caught me doing something else a
few years later, so he unfairly said, "I've spoken to you before,

There are certain names that are
intrinsically burned into our minds as only one person, for example in Robbie
Williams' biography he writes that some of the members of his rehab group
complained about constant namedropping, so they asked him to only use first
names: "Well, Elton and I…" There is really only one Elton in the world,
there will only ever be one Elvis, there is only one Clint and there is
definitely only one Harrison. 

"Hello, my name is Adolf!" isn't
really going to get you invited to many Bar Mitzvahs, even though over 50 boys
in Finland were christened with the name over the past seven years. The names Adolf,
Osama, Saddam, Idi, Fidel and Pol all have a slightly tarnished reputation
thanks to just one user and that's all it takes. Why do we think that somebody
christened Adolf or Osama will actually turn into Hitler or bin Laden? Don't we
realise that it took a great deal more than their first name to turn them into
monsters? Or did it?

Can the ladies imagine moaning Johnny, Albert or
Donald during the throws of passion?

We do rely heavily upon the associations
made with names and it is something that has been embedded in our psyche from
our nickname days at primary school. How can you be considered cool with a name
like Nigel, Norman or Gerald? Can the ladies imagine moaning Johnny, Albert or
Donald during the throws of passion? Dwayne, Melvin and Ralph are, well, do you
really need me to explain? I know this is purely personal and you are probably
foaming at the mouth in anger, but I'd guess your name was featured in that

The Finns among you are breathing a sigh of
relief at being ignored, but, then again, you are all named Juhani, Johanna,
Tapani, Maria, Tapio, Mika, Marko, Petri or Minna, so it doesn't really matter
– hello to Jussi too! It was refreshing to read in the Finnish media recently
that the European Court of Human Rights had overturned the Finnish authority's refusal
to allow the forename Axl Mick, which is a real rock and roll name. The days of
boring first names should come to an end and with it a new dawn of how the hell
do you spell that?

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