Wednesday, 21 May 2008


I seem to collect girls with unusual names. Mog's isn't that unusual - I've known others with her name, but my other daughters have names which are unique to them. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. If I hear someone calling Little Fish's name, chances are, they're calling for Little Fish. This is a good thing. On the other hand, every time someone hears it for the first time, I have to spell it out, or explain that it's spelt like another, more common name, just missing a particular consonant. This gets old fast.

It's a strange thing, not having been involved in the choosing of my daughters' names. I know the story behind the names, and I know the meanings of the names, and the girls fit their names well. When I adopted LF I was able to give her a new middle name. I could, I suppose, have changed her name altogether, but her name suits her. And one day I'll get over the urge to tell the world that I didn't choose it, it isn't my fault!

There is power in a name. Did Mog's name make her the girl she is today, did she grow into who she is because she was given her name, would she have been different if she'd been a Jane or an Anne? Knowing her now, and knowing the story behind her name, I cannot imagine her being called anything else.

Little Fish's name means Faithful, Righteously Believe, Covenant. In the 13 months between hearing about her and bringing her home, I took this as a promise to me, a sign that she would be my daughter one day. Did her parents know the meaning of her name? I don't know - there is a story attached to how she came to have such an unusual name, but it is her story to share if she chooses to, so I'll not go into it here. Sorry.

And Goldie. Goldie's name means sunlight. Those who knew Goldie could describe her as tempestuous, sunny one minute and storms the next. Physically, a ray of sunshine is a pretty good description, especially when the light fell on her hair. And her sunny sunny smile when things were going well.

There is power in a name. Goldie's name is hidden these days, not mentioned, my invisible daughter. References to her are made in a hushed voice. Mentions of her absence, her death, are made in parentheses in official reports on the other girls, read out with averted gaze. My own accidental use of her name instead of one of the other girls' names is met not with laughter or even smirks as it would be if I merely transposed the names of Mog and Little Fish, but with shock and pity.

This isn't universal. I have friends and family who aren't afraid to let her name be spoken. Children especially are not tied to this strange convention which says the dead must disappear. True, I don't always want to have the same conversation over and over again, but her dying was really only one fairly minor part of her life. She was so much more than a tragic accident. And yet, if I mention that she would have enjoyed doing something we are doing, or talk about her favourite story, I am greeted with awkward looks. Whispered explanations are offered to people who don't know the situation.

I like Little Fish's take on this. I have photographs of all my girls displayed around the house. Goldie smiles down at me from hilltops, from swings, covered in chocolate cake, asleep and cuddling a baby. As with her name, some people find this hard, avoid looking at the photographs as if they are somehow unclean, contaminated. Others stop to examine them more closely. Mog likes to talk about her absent big sister - does she understand death? Or does she believe she's just moved away from home and has no time for us? I honestly don't know. But for Little Fish, it's all very simple "Dat Goldie. She die. Bu bye Goldie". She has no fear of using Goldie's name. I should like to shout Goldie's name from the rooftops, carve it into walls, wear it over my heart. If Goldie's name were less unusual I would be able to do so; she'd be safely anonymous, one among many. But the rarity of her name, an advantage when she was alive, now adds to the silence surrounding her.

And my own name? I like my name. It's neither particularly rare nor particularly common. In a secondary school with a thousand pupils, there was one other girl who shared my name (but spelt it wrongly differently). I can only assume though that my parents did not know the meanings of my names when they chose them for me - my first and last names together mean Bitter Martyr. I try not to live up to it!


Robyn said...

and thens theres me who keeps saying Goldies name mistakendly like some dizzy blonde! I think many find it hard to know whether to talk about her or not for the fear of upsetting you. I know I do. From now on, I wont! I promise.

and I love all your girl's names...they wouldn't be them without them! :)

Tia said...

Think you have that wrong! I'm saying mentioning her doesn't upset me; going around the houses to avoid mentioning her or only mentioning her in weird whispers does.


Rx said...

right. I don't do either of that!
But your post helps me to know what to do. xxxxx


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