Friday, January 30, 2009

What's In A Name?


If you take a look on my birth certificate, passport, drivers license or any other of my documentation you will see my name - Alden Smith. But I have another name that I am called and it is 'Pal' Smith - and here is the story behind my names.

When I was very little my father called me Al - Pal, the sort of endearment or nick name that parents inflict on their children, and my father inflicted it on some of his children but not on all of them. Over time, well before I was two years of age I believe the 'Al' part was dropped and I was called 'Pal' - I grew up with that name. I knew nothing else and to this day there are people who call me nothing else. This can cause some confusion if for instance there are two people who are on opposite sides of the name 'date line' as it were. Let me explain.

As I grew older and especially when I went to high school, the name Pal at the beginning of every year became an embarrassment to me. Teachers would make a fuss of it, want me to explain it (usually in front of the class) and of course adolescence is a time when one wants to fit in with peers not a time when you want to stick out like a sore thumb.

So when I went to teachers training college after a couple of years of travelling and various jobs I made the conscious decision to change my name, or rather to resort back to the Christian name on my birth certificate. It improved things slightly I think although I am always being asked to spell it and it invariably gets mispronounced as All - den, or spelt as Eldon or some other interesting variation. But I guess I should be thankful for small mercies because in the last few years a brand of dog food has come on the market with the name PAL Dog Food - which I think is a real bloody big hoot I can tell you! - If I had persevered with Pal, I can just hear some of my helpful friends now, "Well Pal if you had persevered with that line of argument I think you would be dog tucker by now, ho, ho, ho."

So - people who know me are on one side or the other of the name change Date Line circa 1971.

Now here is something interesting - of late I am quite liking being called Pal again, especially by old friends that I once knew long ago, really really liking it a lot and considering a huge number of people I know already call me Pal I have been thinking...........

Which of course does not bring me to making an announcement about a name change. Why? well just think about it. You are at work and someone you know called Steven takes you aside and says, "Look in a past life I was called Womble and I would like it very much if you would start calling me Womble starting from right now" --- Well what would you do??? Well I will tell you what you would do. You would get Security to escort Steven from the building, then you would emigrate to Reykjavik in Iceland and get an unlisted telephone number, that is what you would do! ---- so I won't be doing any of that.

So what WILL I do? - I will do absolutely nothing - and people can choose to call me by whichever name they want to - that's what a good Pal would do.
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8 comments:

Katherine said...

Ok Pal, I can cope with a name change. After all, I was able to lose 'Auden', wasn't I? :-)
But I'm glad you explained that 'Alden' rhymes with 'Palden'. Um, that sounds silly, but you know what I mean.

Katherine said...

PS, this isn't the big thing that you are wanting to say 'yes' to, is it?

Alden said...

The Al is sounded as in Alan / Allen or Ellen in fact. So it sounds 'EL - Den' although spelt Alden. The name Alden means 'Old Friend' in Old English apparently -My name sake is the great American yacht designer John. G. Alden - so with a yacht designers name and a yachting fanatic father I didn't stand a chance sailing wise, but I'm not complaining.

Delwyn said...

I am glad that you and Katherine clarified the pronunciation of your name - I have always said All- den (in my mind) I can't remember 40 years ago if I got it right..no doubt you would have corrected me then...so my apologies Al -den

Alden said...

Thats perfectly Ok Delwyn no apologises accepted because its really ok - in fact ALL - DEN is the American pronounciation. - People have always pronounced it both ways and I pretty quickly got sick of correcting them and just let it be. There is no angst about any of this - just thought it would make an interesting post!

Mr. Kinder said...

To be named after John G. Alden would be wonderful. His designs have well stood the test of time. There's a certain dignity and elegance in the name, as in the yachts designed by Alden.

Pal has a familiar, informal feel to it, as if you've gone a bit dinghy.

Why not go with both: Alden when you're feeling formal, adult and serious and philosophical; Pal when you're feeling relaxed and among friends.

Take a minute now and thank your dad that he didn't name you Slocum after that famous Canadian solo helmsman of the Spray. His name simply wouldn't do.

Alden said...

Thank you Dan for your comments and I love this sentence of yours:

"Pal has a familiar, informal feel to it, as if you've gone a bit dinghy." ----- LOL !!!

Very good sentence, I wish I had thought of that one - well done.

You are correct. I am thankful that I wasn't named Slocum with all its connotations - but his Christian name Joshua would have been ok.

I guess I can be thankful that my father wasn't some sort of drunken sadist who gave me a name like Wombat; or had parents (both smokers) who named their twins Benson and Hedges.

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