2-13-2007 What’s in a name anyway?

I imagine if you are one of a gazillion people named Bill Jones or Bill Smith, your middle initial--your middle name--would come in pretty handy for identification purposes. Yes, officer, my Christian name is Bill Toby Smith, not Bill Hoby Smith, now take these danged handcuffs off a me!

With my last name being what it is, my middle name has never really come in handy simply because we’ve got more candidates for a council seat than there are Cours residing in the continental United States. You can do internet searches or peruse genealogy sites, but you’re not going to find too many of us French folk whose name was shortened so many generations ago. There’s some near Seattle. A few in and around Chicago. And quite a few in the Denver area.

My middle name, Matthew, was my mom’s idea, not mine. She and her parents were church-goers second to none, and my mom fancied herself one day having two sons named Mark Matthew and then Luke John. It was some sort of tribute to some ancient authors of some ancient book, or some such thing. You got me. I was marched off to CCD classes on a regular basis to study all of this hocus pocus, but all that I retained from these indoctrinations was that Jesus Christ Superstar really, really rocked. Oh, and that cursing and raping and murdering was really, really, really frowned upon, excepting those followers of some other ancient book also purported to be the official book of religious record.

By our Christian standards, we can’t pillage the village and rape up on the women for sport, but the members of that other religious sect can and do? Man, this ain’t right. Bunch of stuck-up killjoys runnin’ this outfit.

Anywho, there did come that day when I was forced to don a hand-me-down suit, stand up there in the front of St. Jude’s in Derby and make with this Confirmation bit. To be confirmed, I had to have some total stranger stand alongside me by which I would adopt his name--Matthew. After a spell and a lot of chanting and whatnot, I was confirmed Mark Matthew. And I was happy only after I was allowed to lose that once-used suit. Mark Matthew…wonderful. Okay, are we done? Can I go outside and play now?

So who was this guy that made like a holy roller just so I could Zerox a part of his name? Well, they told me that he worked with my step-dad at Farrell’s just off of the Derby exit from Route 8. And judging by the tiny, shiny slivers of steel stuck under the skin of his hands, I deemed that story to be the truth. But, even though I had encountered plenty of Leo’s buddies from work before, never had I seen one of them remain sober long enough to be able to remember his name. So the long and short of it was, my emergency religious stand-in was a sloppy Ballantine’s Ale abuser named Matthew who produced submarine parts by which we could terrorize the Soviet Union. And yet, they wondered why this religion thing just never resonated with me.

When the day came that I had to choose a name for my first kid, I wanted something unique, and I really didn’t see any need for a middle name since my last name was somewhat unique. And being that my last name rhymed with Corps, as in Marine Corps, I settled on Peace. Peace Corps, yeah, that’ll do very nicely. Unfortunately, that choice did not go over very well with my practicing saint of a grandmother, so I literally bought her off by giving my kid a good Christian middle name--Rebecca.

As her first great-grandchild, my grandmother absolutely adored my firstborn until the day she died. The last I saw her alive was on Christmas Eve 1979 when I dropped by her flat with a couple of Franklin’s cream pies in hand. But, never once did she refer to my kid by her given first name. In my grandmother’s opinion, her name was Rebecca. There need not be any confusion or debate about something as silly as a middle name, but religions tend to make people intolerant of even mundane things on occasion. And if the refusal to use Peace’s actual first name wasn’t needless enough, she also mistakenly thought that name was chosen in honor of her first name--Rebecca. I never had the heart to tell her that Rebecca was chosen in honor of my sister who passed away when I was a kid.

Then we were marched off to meet the local priest we were told would marry us in a church, because, as the ancient book of choice said, we were merely living in sin without the priest’s blessing. Sounded pretty dumb to me, but I played along to get along. Just to make everyone happy, I would have gotten married in the church, sat in an uncomfortable pew every Sunday pretending to sing, shipped the kids off to school at St. Boniface and then worked three jobs to pay for my Catholic upbringing.

But the name thing became a big issue all over again. First of all, this priest who seemed old enough to have once played lawn darts with Jesus himself, objected to the name Peace. Nope. No way would he christen a Christian child Peace. There I was barely old enough to shave thinking “The Church objects to peace?” Must be me, being a heathen and all. Nope, no peace. We were given some ancient manuscript and told to pick a good Christian name from the official list of acceptable names. And I beat the aged priest on a Christian technicality. Pox…Pox, Latin for peace. Take that, champ!

Unrelenting, he refused to go with Peace as her first name. So, for the purposes of having some water dripped over her head, her names were reversed to Rebecca Peace. The birth certificate says one thing, and the baptismal certificate says exactly the reverse. Then throw in the fact that the state sent her first version of a social security card listing her “legal” name as “ Peach Rebecca.“ I still have it, proof that something as meaningless as someone’s name can and does cause big, big trouble.

I sat there in front of this priest being ripped to shreds just like I did a couple of years earlier at Coughlin. You’re no good, you’re pregnant teenagers, you’re going nowhere fast…blah, blah, effing blah. And then he announced outright that he would in no way marry any pregnant teenagers in his most holiest of churches. And before I bolted from that office, my exact quote was “Fu>k this!” All of this needless subterfuge over needing that mandated middle name. And yet, they wondered why this religion thing just never resonated with me.

So, thanks partly to my bit of nonconformity, and thanks mostly to the ancient books and the purveyors of such, I’m not even sure what my firstborn kid’s name is on my foggiest of days. I never did get married in a church. I never once went to mass and made like an opera singer. My kids have never seen the inside of St. Boniface’ school. And, thank the lord, I never did have to work more than one job at a time.

But despite the long-disputed names and a clear lack of guidance from on high, I ain’t once pillaged a village. I ain’t once marauded or raped up on anyone’s women. And I ain’t never got the hankering to murder anyone, ‘cept for maybe when the Eagles get to playing the Giants. I’m a sinner, but I’m not one of those really, really bad sinners. I suppose I’m kind of like, Sinner Lite.

My son has no middle name and neither does the youngest of my brood. And despite not even having a middle name to contend with, this still causes confusion on occasion. No middle name? Why not?”

Just process the frickin’ form, will you?

And if that’s not annoying enough, having unique first names such as Marque and Ebon, has become more of a curse than anything I ever envisioned. And it has become an issue in the State of Tennessee now that Peace needs a new driver's license.

My point?

Um…I don’t think I have one other than to say that middle names can be a real pain in the ass if you don’t do as society commands you to. So stick with Mark or Matthew or Luke or John. There’s no need for no Moon Units, or Donald Ducks nor no Peace Corps. Do as you are told and things will go much easier on you. Trust me, I know.


Audio: Sean Hannity interviews Imam Al-Knucklehead

Them’s my scattered thoughts.