Johnny Cash (aided by Shel Silverstein’s lyrics) proposed two things at a San Quentin concert in 1969:
1. A child with an awful name might grow up to be a relatively normal adult.
2. The parent who inflicted the name does not deserve to be executed.
J. Marion Tierney (a middle name he uses only for the purpose of this article in NYT) finds both presumptions of the Boy Named Sue theory are probably, overall, true.
But about both premises, I have my doubts. My name is and always has been Fred First.
Had my father’s mother not divorced his biological father and married the man my brother and I referred to unfondly as “the grandfather” I would have been Frederick B. Strickland, and the CEO of a major corporation somewhere. But Fred First? Could a person with such a name be taken seriously any more than a Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse or, say, Fred Flintstone?
The alliteration was bad enough, with the Fs and all, but dear me–Fred: the low-brow vulgar derivative of the more portentous Frederick; a name that for some reason in our culture is frivolous and dismissive. You probably don’t remember J Fred Muggs–a chimp; or Freddie Freeloader, a Red Skelton hobo persona. I do. I was called both.
I tried briefly using my middle name in high school. But it didn’t take long for Blair First to be mutated into Blair Fourth, so a Fred by any other name…
But here’s where I question Cash’s implied proposition #2: the culpability of my parents. It’s bad enough to have heard every possible permutation of pun about how I’m never last, and ala Abbott and Costello, who’s on First.
But what were they thinking? The lesser known fact (and thank goodness for that) is that I’m a junior, the second in the series: Fred B. First the Second. Discovered, that’s always good for a few more warmed-over chuckles.
But I read Tierney’s piece on the Boy Named Sue Theory and see it could have been much worse. I could have been named Safety. Or Feet. Or Mee First.
Parents have done some truly awful things to their children on their birth certificates, and yet kids like Ima Muskrat and Candy Stohr have gone on to become fine, upstanding, and reasonably normal citizens, the stronger for having had to dismiss the playground barbs and snickers.
We have some doozies for kids born here in Floyd, what with our alter-native population–trending toward the earthy/zodiacal side of things. Willing to share the strangest ones you’ve run across? I remember Charlie Pancake from high school–the only person lower than me on the name totem-pole.
Image: InYurFace…from a “rites of spring” outing who knows where, but just about this time of year at the time of the Vernal Equinox, a regular howling at the moon my friend Ed and I never missed. And yeah, that’s me behind the cow pelvis mask, oh, 1972-ish. You see what having such an odd name does to a fella? I rest my case.
Could be a lot worse Fred. I use to know a man named Plenty Peters III.
Guess his family liked the name, they kept passing it on. I insisted on seeing his drivers license for verification.
YES, YOUR NAME COULD BE WORSE. I NEVER REALLY GAVE ANY THOUGHT TO YOUR NAME………
I HAVE HEARD OF GUY’S WHOSE FIRST NAME IS FAGG, AND I HAVE ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT WOULD HAVE TO BE REASON FOR A NAME CHANGE, MOST QUICKLY!! NOT THAT I AM MAKING FUN OF SUCH A NAME, BUT REALLY, HOW COULD A PARENT NAME THEIR SON FAGG?? IN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, I KNOW THE NAME DICK ALWAYS BROUGHT SNICKERS OUT IN THE CLASS, AND I WON’T EVEN GO THERE……………..
Now, Fred, I’ve always thought your name was perfectly fine! (And I love how you can abbreviate it fred1st, or Nate as n81st.) On the other hand, I’ve never been all that fond of my name. Maybe something about familiarity breeding contempt is going on here.
And in the it-could-be-worse category, when I was an undergrad my part-time job involved typing grade reports and transcripts for extension students. One of them had the name: Alexander Alexander Alexander. And then there was Mary S. Polite who lived on Pleasant Street. That’s 40 years ago but these things tend to stick in one’s mind when much more important stuff is forgotten.
Nope, I gotta vote that Fred First is a perfectly good name! Besides which, it’s kinda getting late to change it 🙂
I’ve always liked your name too and never thought of it as being low-brow! One DOES wonder what Texas Governor Jim Hogg had in mind when he named his famous philanthropist daughter “Ima Hogg.”
Harry Pitts, my next-door neighbor growing up.
Incidentally, there is some pretty good research in social psychology indicating that people do tend to respond negatively to others with strange names.
However, there is also cognitive dissonance research showing that, if you meet someone and they have an initially negative reaction to you, but later they get to know and like you, the initial dislike will cause them to like you a whole lot more in the long run than it they’d merely liked you from the start. So maybe a strange name is an advantage overall.
However Fred, I agree with those above. I never looked at your name was strange or low brow. It just seemed kinda catchy, easy to remember.
I never call you Fred First in my mind or to my husband when mentioning your blog entries. You are Fred-From-Floyd to me.
I once worked with someone named Tiny Mann who lived on Fairy Trail (a street name). Tiny was a very large woman. She often had trouble checking into motel rooms. I also know a Theresa who married a Hogg. Fred First is a fine name and is not easily forgettable.
I really don’t hate my name, but given a choice if I could change either, I’d lose the FRED–almost anything that doesn’t alliterate with FIRST or have another F sound. Fragments From Floyd was coined as a kind of dark joke based on that disdain, with the assumption: ‘this blog thing won’t last a week’.
I have an extensive funny name list which I have been amassing since 1964. Your name wouldn’t even make the page, Fred, and alliteration isn’t a bad thing at all. I think it makes you memorable.
It could be worse, Fred First from Floyd…my brother-in-law’s name is Larry Snoots. I’ve never been able to introduce him or my sister to anyone while maintaining a straight face.
When I lived in Harrisburg, PA I worked for the County doing GIS. While I was there, the city hired a guy named Chris Schmuck. If ever there was a name worth changing I thought, that would be it. Also, my mom used to work with a podiatrist named Dr. Finger.
Thanks for not making me “Frederic Blair First the Third,” Pop. It wouldn’t be such a bad name, but I think I’d have a hard time chuckling politely every time someone asked, as if for the first time, “well, which one ARE ya?”
D. Mize — this being the name of a lady I’ve been working with lately at the hospital (and yes, this is how she chooses to address herself). It’s awful foreboding when she comes through the ICU.