The Naming Game – dangerous territory for parents #flashfiction #carrotranch

Charli’s prompt this week is about the importance of names.

December 15, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) explore the importance of a name within a story. It can be naming an experience, introducing an extraordinary name, or clarifying a name (who can forget Who’s on First). Go where the prompt leads.

My grandfather hated his given name – Percival, shortened to Percy. My father loathed his – Desmond, preferring his school given nickname of Lep, coming from our surname. I hoped to be the new Lep when I went to secondary school but the nearest I got was Leps and I hated the pluralising. The Lawyer is happy to be a plural, Sleps to his buddies. He is one of several Sams, each of whom went (sadly we cannot say ‘go’ as one is now no longer with us) by their nicknames, derivatives of their names or, in an old fashioned homage to public schooling, their surnames.

As I’ve commented on this blog before, I felt let down by my parents who failed to give me a second a Christian name, unlike the Archaeologist, whose middle name is my mother’s maiden name, Francis. How can parents be so thoughtless not to see that coming?

My mother told me I could adopt my own, so aged about 7, Thomas was inserted – proving my love of a certain bold underdog, the Tank Engine Thomas. The only proof I have of this momentary madness is in the First Day Covers of the time: is this a British eccentricity to make a thing of the first day of issue of a new set of stamps? We did and dad collected each one assiduously form the mid 1950s until his death. After the adoption of my new name it wasn’t only the Archaeologist who had a middle intial on that special day (we alternated who the new cover set would be addressed to – you needed the special postmark).

Gordon F Le Pard


Geoffrey T Le Pard


Why Thomas and not Tintin or Paddington or one of the other childhood heroes I had? Because of another of The Reverend W Awdry’s characters, Gordon the Big Engine. Gordon is cold, aloof, well aware of his superiority over Thomas, at least that’s the way I remember it. A bit like an older brother whose irritation with the constant presence of his younger sibling was only too apparent. My brother’s given name is Gordon. Awdry, for all his great skills failed to name any of his Sodor trains Geoff, or even (cringe as you write this) Jeff. So I took Thomas. I need time in therapy clearly.

Oh and the Jeff/Geoff dilemma? Another source of irritation, up there with having to spell my surname to everyone and correcting so many who want to make it La Pard or insert an irrelevant hyphen into it – Le-Pard. And don’t start me on phone callers who, on hearing my cherry ‘Halloo!’, with its upbeat interrogative ending, say, ‘Is that Mrs Le Pard?’ Grrrrr.

Yes names are mostly a trial and a burden.

So what do Mary and her family make of names?

The Devil’s in the Detail

‘Why did you call me Penelope?’ Penny said, apropos of nothing.

Mary smiled. ‘We just liked the name.’

Paul laughed. ‘You mum had a fixation with Lady Penelope.’ When Penny looked blank, Paul, said, ‘Thunderbirds. Your grandma had a doll and gave it to mum.’

‘You named me after a doll? Susan got hers from her grandma and Ginny from some tennis player. At least they were real.’

Paul and Mary exchanged a look causing Penny to leave in a huff.

Later Penny watched old episodes on YouTube. Even though you saw the strings, Lady Penelope was rather cool.

Other instalments in the family saga are found here

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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27 Responses to The Naming Game – dangerous territory for parents #flashfiction #carrotranch

  1. Erika Kind says:

    It truly is a cool name. No matter where it is from 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ritu says:

    Oh but she was cool!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Names. A headache for some, or a curse; for others they simply grow into their name. o_O

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh you’ve opened a can of worms with this one Charli and Geoff! I’ve never felt my name is mine. And to make matters worse my mother had a penchant for giving her kids two names and calling them by the middle one. This led (leads) to continued corrections, from school days on, as sub-teachers, reading names off lists called me by the first written to great titters and guffaws and pointings and cat-calls from my class mates – to working days and formal papers with jokes and giggles about calling me by my ‘secret’ name – to last week when a cheery letter arrived addressed to ‘Dear ….’ not me!! I’ve always threatened to change it to Esmerelda and be done with it all!!

    Best ending ever: And don’t start me on phone callers who, on hearing my cherry ‘Halloo!’, with its upbeat interrogative ending, say, ‘Is that Mrs Le Pard?’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anabel Marsh says:

    I feel your pain. Anabel. Annabel. Annabelle. A teacher at school who thought I was called Annette. Actually, that was ok – if I didn’t want to talk to her I just walked straight on. Also, those stamps are too familiar. I’m convinced some of them were only in use last year (the madonna, the Constable, Elizabeth I). It can’t be 50 years, surely?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Our Sam is Samson; his size and strength may be considered either fortunate or prescient, whichever way you look at it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Huw or Hugh? I get asked that a lot. Just because I’m Welsh, doesn’t mean it’s the Welsh version my parents gave me. Add to the fact that it’s my second name and it can get even more confusing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Charli Mills says:

    One day you could tell the grand-children the T. on the cards is indeed for Tintin. Thomas is a sweet choice, especially given your age, birth order and limited television influence. Percy is also the name of the Hub’s paternal grandfather and was somehow shortlisted as a choice for first born son’s names. Thankfully, she was not born as a contender for the name. Instead the Hub suggested Allison Whitney and it sounded so pretty at the time of first holding her, I agreed, not asking where he came up with the combination. Years later, I’d realize she was named for two radial engines used in WWII airplanes. Penny got off easy! Which is kind considering the plot twists you’ve put your characters through.


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  10. Annecdotist says:

    Of course, the first time we met on the writing course we did a meaning-of-names game, and I remember you talking about the history of your surname. And feeling sad that Jane had been, for the first couple of years of her life, Rosalind.
    How weird for your parents to give one of you middle name and not the other – in my family four of us had a middle name apart from the middle child (we gave him Ian so his initials would be PIG – it seemed funny once!)
    I like how you’ve explored this in the flash – I wonder how many other girls were named after the Thunderbirds character.


  11. Norah says:

    What’s in a name, eh? I wonder how many of us don’t like our names. That would make for some interesting research – along with the reasons. I used to not like mine, and upset my mother by telling her so. She named me after a good family friend who was also the midwife who brought me into the world. As I aged (but not this age) I came to like it as it is different. I know few others personally but there are a few famous ones. I too need to spell both my names (most leave off the ‘h’, and I have to provide a word for the ‘v’ – as in Victor. It’s never easy, is it. The ninth child in my lot got Stanislaus Abraham; the 10th got Neil Owen. Guess which one likes his name better!
    Great flash. At least Penny came to like her name.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sherri says:

    I don’t have a middle name either, the only one in my entire family who doesn’t. No reason has ever been given! Fantastic first day covers, I have a few (but no middle initial, brilliant idea btw!) in my maiden name, a reminder to look them out one of these days. I wonder if they are worth anything? Ha…Lady Penelope was very cool…I certainly thought so. Merry Christmas Geoff 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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