The writer Adam Gopnik was sharing his view that he will never achieve immortality in his field on the radio this morning.
Because he suffers from a curse, the curse (as he puts it) of having a ridiculous name. His theory is that people associate you and your work with the sound of your name. Citing Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Trollope among his examples of those whose mere name guaranteed them success as writers. Plenty of others have adopted a nom de plume when their own name would not suffice (George Sands, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll), or used their initials (J.K. Rowling, J.R.R Tolkien, P.G. Wodehouse). E.L. James does both, though I don’t really think Erika Leonard bears comparison with these others!
There is a field of study called phonetic symbolism which adds weight to his argument, that certain sounds “feel” right for a certain meaning, and that this might be considered by corporations looking to brand their products. Certainly in recent years there has been a slew of vehicles with meaningless names produced by some vehicle manufacturers, where the sound of the word seemed to be all that matters. (Mondeo? Ka?)
Sometimes this backfires of course. General motors thought Meriva sounded appropriate, but not in Israel. It means argument or quarrel, but this is mild compared the faux pas that Mitsubishi made with their Pajero in Latin markets.
I was still musing on this when I walked the shoreline this morning. The recent rains having brought more driftwood downstream the beach was littered with timber once again, providing the mysterious totem builders with more opportunities?
“What would be an appropriate name for someone who builds structures out of driftwood?” I thought. Nothing commonplace I suspect.
Today’s portrait is of Colin, Brian and Trevor, two brothers and a friend setting out for a walk this morning. Their names to me are archetypally blokey, so when I posed them together I wasn’t too surprised at their reluctance to get really close, leaving me with the dreaded gaps between heads that I don’t like.
Nothing for it but to resort to digital alteration to get the result I wanted. Now what would be a good name for a photoshopper? My own name is one of the most common in the UK so perhaps a pseudonym is needed. Best I could come up with though was Tony Razor (tone eraser?). Any suggestions?
- The curse of a ridiculous name (bbc.co.uk)