I passed a clothing store today, Vivaldi, a boutique located on the West side of Third Avenue on the corner of 79th Street.

I have noticed this store before. I used to live on the East Side. The name of the store ANNOYS me.

Why? one might ask.

Because, giving a fancy clothing store such a name is done for no other reason than to create an impression — a faux impression — of unmerited sophistication. It’s almost the same, say, as if my parents gave me the name Wolfgang. What does a famous composer have to do with women’s styles? Nothing. It’s a bad attempt at sophistication showing an ignorance that is irksome.

I don’t mind the use of famous names a priori: say, the Ted Williams Fishing Tackle Store. That wouldn’t bother me. (It might, however, bother Williams’s heirs because of rights to the use of Williams’s name.)

There is a famous bookstore in Paris called Shakespeare and Company. It’s a bookstore and meeting place for anglophone writers and readers. Books. Shakespeare. Shakespeare and Company, meaning the Bard and other great English writers, his literary descendants. One can comprehend that.



Later in the day, I got to thinking a bit about personal (given) names. I tend to be rather conservative in this respect. I tend to prefer names already commonly in use. I am not crazy when a name like Tiffany or Amber catches on and suddenly everyone is naming their daughter Tiffany or Amber. (I realize I have no really good reason to object.) And, I don’t like it when kids are given unusual names like Trig and Chastity.

I don’t like it when parents give feminine names to boys (e.g., Shirley; one of my cousins was married to a man whose first name was Shirley) and boys’ names to girls. I feel it could lead to kids having some identity confusion (read sexual identity) and to being teased.

I happen to like my first name, Roger. (So there!) It doesn’t call attention to itself; it’s a standard name that’s been around for a long time. Yet, it seems a bit distinctive in that it’s not that common.



By the way, I found that paying attention to names helped me with genealogical research. For example, my grandfather’s name was Thomas Gordon Smith. He was formally known as T. Gordon Smith as an adult, and was informally known as Gordon. I thought Gordon was his first name.

It turned out that he had an ancestor from Scotland, his paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Gordon. Information about her was hard to find. My grandfather’s middle name was an important clue; he got it from his grandmother.


— Roger W. Smith

   August 30, 2017

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