Friday, April 18, 2008

A simple pleasure

One inobvious pleasure of being a professor is that I am introduced in every year and in every course to a list of student names. I have always loved the variety of names, their history, their idiosyncrasies. And some names are just pleasant.

Some of what I'm talking about is probably pretty obvious. I get to watch the name fads of 20 years ago march across my class lists, climb into prominence, peak, then fade out or perhaps make a comeback. Right now in Ontario the name Kaitlin ( various spellings) is coming on strong, while Jason seems to be less popular in my student cohort than it was a few years ago. I get to note such facts as the astonishing frequency of Francophone surnames among Ontarians people who probably don't think of themselves as Francophones -- at least their French is nonexistent. (And no, few of them are from Northern Ontario, where you might expect this.) Occasionally someone with a fictional or historical name of some fame shows up in my classes.

But the most fun of all is finding beautiful and unusual names in a class list. What I mean is, names that aren't obviously common in any language I know, that to me are just beautiful syllables, about which one can endlessly speculate. Are they in fact names that are common someplace unfamiliar to me, or are they made up by people with a lot of taste?

This year was a good one for the simply beautiful. Unfortunately, I can't share them with you, certainly not in this forum. That would be a terrible abuse of people's privacy. But there is nothing to stop you from looking around your wordy environment for this simple pleasure.

Image: names as inversions by Scott Kim, puzzlemaster.

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Anonymous Beth said...

it's odd that you mentioned this because I was just talking to a friend about names. Mostly because a friend of ours found out that his fiance is expecting. I felt compelled to add to this. You mentioned the name fads - in my grade 8 class of about 55, there were 4 Matthews and one summer at work, where there are about 20 people in our position, we had 3 Kellys and 4 Sarahs. Talk about confusing on the schedule!

As for interesting names, my favourite unique one so far has been my friend Athena. She has a personality to match the name, but I thought it was funky and cool, but so beautiful at the same time. Thought this might interest you. Hope the fantastic weather is treating you well - I've played more frisbee in the past couple days than I have in years! Cheers!

11:37 PM  

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