Saturday, October 07, 2006

I name thee....

I wonder why George Bush Sr couldn’t find some other first name for his son and chose to give him the same name of George Bush. Surely, there was no dearth of names, John, William, Keith, Michael, Richard, for Bush Sr to choose from. If someone in the house shouts “Georgie”, won’t it cause unnecessary confusion? What’s the tradition behind having the same first names for father and son? Brand identity? Cashing in on the fame?

Of course, there are some unusual traditions in parts of South India as well. I know of a family which insists on naming the first son as “Muthuswamy” after their village deity .So, the grandfather, his first son and the first grandson are all Muthuswamies. And, following the practice in parts of Tamilnadu, the son pre-fixes the name of the father to his own name. Thus each of them becomes Muthuswamy Muthuswamy. If a hypothetical situation arises where the grandfather wants to make a settlement deed dividing his property between his son and grandson, the lawyers will need to draft out the contract involving “Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , son of Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part and 1) Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , son of Muthuswamy Muthuswamy and 2) Muthuswamy Muthuswamy , son of Muthuswamy Muthuswamy, hereinafter referred to as parties of the second part”. Such intricacies and complexities don’t baffle these hardened lawyers, but am I glad I can use the ‘cut and paste’ option in Word!

In one of his stories, P.G.Wodehouse narrates the joke about a visitor at the law firm of “Peabody, Peabody, Peabody and Peabody”.

Visitor: Can I meet Mr. Peabody?
Lawyer: Sorry, sir. He is away today.
Visitor: What about Mr. Peabody?
Lawyer: Ha, he is at the Old Bailey right now
Visitor: Surely, I can see Mr. Peabody then?
Lawyer: Alas, no sir; he is busy with another visitor.
Visitor: At least, is Mr. Peabody in?
Lawyer: That’s me, sir. How do you do?

I can visualize the same scene at the house of the Muthuswamies.

A famous blog post by Sidin, two years back, on the travails of South Indian men, lamented the fact that the moment South Indians are given names like Parthasarathy Venkatachalapathy, they start off at a disadvantage. I was however cheered by the recent news that the name Seetharaman Narayanan has mesmerized a whole lot of people in the world and the person bearing that name has gone on to inspire a Flick fan club. There’s hope yet.


4 comments:

Usha said...

I keep wondering about the legal hassles of such funny situations. Names can cause such trouble. My grandfather who was a lawyer used to talk about the problems they had with some witnesses from villages who would refuse to mention their husband's name and had to be threatened to say it!
Even today i get calls from the US asking for my father law (who is no more) while who they want is my husband. Confusion caused entirely by the prefixing habit!

Raj said...

Usha, no wonder we have names like Ram Ramanathan, Jai Jairam, Subra Subramanian...

Sowmya said...

I think thats why george w bush was called 'dubya'. but the muthuswami story is funny!! There was also the tradition to name the first grandson after the grandfather, and if the grandfather is still alive no one could call the little one by name. So they would name the kid "Ananthasayanam" and call him 'jillu'

Raj said...

Sowmya, :) What is worse, bearing the name of Ananthasayanam or being referred to as Jillu?