* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

What's in a name?

23 December 2002
Jamie by any other name would smell as sweet...

Actually, Juliet was way off the mark with that one. Without wishing to get into the whole chicken versus egg debate, would she really be so turned on by a fourteen-year-old called Gareth as she was by her co-titular lover? It's pretty bloody unlikely, especially with exotic punters like Mercutio and Paris around to compete for her affections. Without a good handle, you don't stand a chance.

I've given a lot of thought to the importance of good names for animals, but I'm starting to see how much of a difference your own label can make. Considering I managed to get through the first eighteen years of my life with one of the perennial common-name list-toppers and didn't even notice its effect on me, the last six or so have been quite an eye-opener. I'll let you in on a little back-story.

Picture the (not unusual) scene. First term of new university, making new friends, two of you have the same first name. As I just said, pretty common occurrence - in fact, it's happened at pretty much every new institution I've joined. The normal way round is the creation of an identifying tag, normally by a pertinent epithet or nickname - hence I would become Fat James, or Green James, or Elf. But these are already focused on your extant features; they don't give you the chance to change anything. But what a transformation becomes possible with the approach we used! Simply change one of the offender's names to Jamie and voilą! a new identity! Suddenly, I was transformed; all the connotations of fun, trendy Jamie (how many footballers keep their first name as James?) were thrust upon me, and I embraced them gladly. Instant success with the ladies, not to mention general popularity from my outgoing yet sincere nature; I reached a new summit. Then I joined an office where I was the only James and went back to the old me.

The point is, names mean everything. They're not just a means of identifying people - they identify a type. Why else would you label someone a Tracy, or a Norman? You are what it says on the tin. Would John Wayne have got anywhere at all as Marion Morrison? Can't see it happening, really.

Speaking of the film world, that's where the evidence is strongest. Coming up with a name for your leading role can't be easy; that's why every second action hero is called Jack. Just enough of an everyman name for the audience to relate to, with the added advantage that it does sound like it belongs to a red-blooded male who can handle himself in a fight (not an aspirant middle-class flop like James). But it's so bloody unimaginative. I wouldn't dream of stooping so low myself; that's why I've got some possibilities lined up for when it's my turn. Step forward Sirocco Strang, private investigator, and his nightclub-owning brother, Memphis. You wouldn't want to mess with those boys - and you haven't even seen them yet. That's what I'm talking about...

Take Fight Club. Think Tyler Durden. No half-hearted cliché names here - and doesn't it show in the character. Let's face it, if you were going to have an imaginary friend, you'd want someone like Tyler whose achievements and looks you could be proud and envious of (and not only because of his resemblance to a certain stuffed tiger). But for me, this raises a question: was Tyler conceived as this cool yet unhinged character and then named Tyler Durden, or did his essential characteristics - his contempt for society, his destructive temperament, his unique vision - develop inevitably to fit the moniker he was given? Or put another way, if I create an alter-ego named Fat Reggie, will it be allowed to take shape independently, or does the name itself have too many connotations and implications to take its own course? Compare this with Ed Norton's character, who goes unnamed through a variety of guises before settling on his own role as the anti-Tyler; as Rupert, Cornelius, or whatever you want to call him, he's the vaguest of individuals. Note that in the script to the film he's referred to as 'Jack'...

So I go through the same thing. Jamie is my Tyler Durden, the vehicle for my release from the suited straitjacket of the responsibilities of daily life, the antithesis of my own character, whom I admire and envy above all others. I still see him, fleetingly, from time to time, like a subliminal flash by the photocopier, biding his time before he comes back into my life long-term.

And don't forget about that book/film/TV show about Memphis and Sirocco Strang. You heard it here first...


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
13 October 2003. Jamie writes: The Persistence of Memory
22 September 2003. Jamie writes: The Email Eunuch
1 September 2003. Jamie writes: Credo
11 August 2003. Jamie writes: Brad and Jennifer and Me
21 July 2003. Jamie writes: Interruption
30 June 2003. Jamie writes: Do you remember the first time?
12 June 2003. Jamie writes: Forthcoming Attractions
19 May 2003. Jamie writes: Stupid Mistake
28 April 2003. Jamie writes: Hoping and Praying
7 April 2003. Jamie writes: Strangers on a Plane
17 March 2003. Jamie writes: Q&A
24 February 2003. Jamie writes: Altered States
3 February 2003. Jamie writes: How to say goodbye
13 January 2003. Jamie writes: In A League Of Their Own
23 December 2002. Jamie writes: What's in a name?
2 December 2002. Jamie writes: Lies, Damned Lies and Spastics
11 November 2002. Jamie writes: Memoirs of a Gaysian: A Preface
21 October 2002. Jamie writes: Love is blindness
30 September 2002. Jamie writes: Time for bed
9 September 2002. Jamie writes: Angry Exchanges Can Be Puzzling [10]
19 August 2002. Jamie writes: High Speed
29 July 2002. Jamie writes: Firkin Hell
8 July 2002. Jamie writes: Do you, er... haiku?
13 June 2002. Jamie writes: Unnatural Porn Thrillers
20 May 2002. Jamie writes: The Triumphant Return of the Septic Fiveskins
25 April 2002. Jamie writes: Meeting People is Easy
4 April 2002. Jamie writes: I Want I Want I Want
7 March 2002. Jamie writes: The Player of Games
11 February 2002. Jamie writes: Fat Man Walking
17 January 2002. Jamie writes: Passive/Aggressive
3 January 2002. Jamie writes: Love (classified)
29 November 2001. Jamie writes: A Lil' Nite Muzak
5 November 2001. Jamie writes: Natural born liar
11 October 2001. Jamie writes: All I need
17 September 2001. Jamie writes: Postcards From The Edge (of the pool)
23 August 2001. Jamie writes: Class act
30 July 2001. Jamie writes: Ritchie Neville is dead
5 July 2001. Jamie writes: A Letter from God
11 June 2001. Jamie writes: "If it's in French, it must be deep"
17 May 2001. Jamie writes: Reportage
23 April 2001. Jamie writes: Show me the Logos
29 March 2001. Jamie writes: Sobering Thoughts
8 March 2001. Jamie writes: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
8 February 2001. Jamie writes: Spent
15 January 2001. Jamie writes: Full to the brim
21 December 2000. Jamie writes: fuck xmas
27 November 2000. Jamie writes: Eye Candy
2 November 2000. Jamie writes: World-wide-web?
9 October 2000. Jamie writes: Kids' stuff
14 September 2000. Jamie writes: Scatological Warfare
21 August 2000. Jamie writes: I can't stand up (for falling clowns)
10 July 2000. Jamie writes: The Etymology of Greatness

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