Friday, February 02, 2007


I glimpsed Infinity the other day. And the following contains a little bit of strong language.

Seriously. I was going into Florey to see about the ICU job and he ran past me. I heard his mother call his name - I don't know if it was her with her early onset emphysema, or him with another of his asthma attacks - and as I turned my head I saw his close-cropped head with the protuberant ears scoot out of the doorway.

I remember the first time I saw 'Fin's name. It was on a MR5 sheet, the sheet the doctor's pick up out of the box out the back, and another doctor had it.

"That's not a bad name" I said to Dr Ranuga. "Infinity Storm".

Ranuga, apparently, means something like "Voyager with a Golden Brain". Very 'Forbidden Planet'. Makes John seem a bit blase.

"It is not" agreed Dr Ranuga. He pointed to his name tag, which said, unsurprisingly, Dr Ranuga. "Imagine that. Dr Infinity."

A real superhero name. Envy flared in my breast. Plus he could sign his name with that lying-down eight symbol.

Anyway. Infinity is the brother of Tranquility Storm, whom I have yet to see. I mentioned this to Sarah.

"No relation to Purple Storm, is she?" Sarah said. Sarah's sister went to school with a girl called Crystal Power, and there were also the siblings Candy, Sandy (irritable looking girls) and Dandy (a boy of rather ferocious mien).

"God" I said. I'd forgotten about Purple Storm, a young woman I had met in one of the prisons. The main thing I remember was that tiny, unavoidable pause when speaking to her the first time: "Well, ...Purple...", and wondering if her friends called her Purp'.

Anyway, tonight we went out - first to the pub for red wine and geekery and then somewhere for "sake and stuff". The conversation at the pub began promisingly - we discussed gorilla superheroes, including the fabled "six-gun gorilla", a gorilla raised by a kindly prospector in the Wild West who took it upon himself to revenge the murder by a criminal gang of his foster father, while occasionally robbing stagecoaches and the like. But it quickly morphed into a "weirdest client's names" compilation.

Now, I can't remember who suggested who. We-who-drink-at-the-pub-some-Friday-nights work in disparate fields (the police force, the housing trust, emergency medicine, drugs and alcohol, occasionally psych) but often see the same clients. There is a sort of Grand Tour involved. Much like nineteenth century men and women of wealth would make a leisurely tour of the Continent, reading poetry and visiting spas, our clients make the same Grand Tour - but in this case it's a tour of the prisons, the emergency departments, the addictive substances clinics, the psych wards.

Other than that it's exactly the same, except that it's the twenty first century, not the nineteenth century, our clients are bare-bones skint, not men and women of wealth, and instead of crinoline and iambic pentameter you get Jack Daniels singlets and threats of gruesome physical violence.

Anyway. I can't remember who suggested who, but I opened rather feebly with the twins I grew up with - Flora and Fauna Jones. Luckily they weren't triplets, we might have seen Animal, Vegetable and Mineral.

Daniel reminded us of Number Nine Overcoat and Legalise Marijuana Jackson - I believe that there may be more than one Legalise Marijuanas out there. It's telling that people with conservative beliefs don't tend to name their kids after their beliefs - although obviously there are a number of Chastitys, and although rare, the geriatric ward still holds the occasional Prudence or Temperance.

And there are, of course, the bling names. These strike me as peculiarly sad. Because you get someone coming in with a name like Torana* or Converse** or Hilton*** (one of the latter in juvenile prison), and you fear that those names are as close as they are going to get to owning a new Torana (sixty thousand) or a new pair of Converses or staying at the Hilton. And Torana's dad is on speed and Converse's mum is in and out of Shipton psych. And it's not that you don't hope, it's that you don't fool yourself.

Anyway. We used to have a Doris's Law in Shipton, used when the junior doctors were presenting cases to you. When they started out with the name of the patient (but forgot to tell you the age) and the name was either Doris, Agnes or Pearl you could safely assume the patient would not see ninety again.

Actually, at Shipton you could often assume the patient would not see tomorrow again. I have since seen a two month old Agnes - it may be that some kind of pendulum is swinging again.

Sarah reminded me of Gerald Noname, a man whose rage against his father had assumed almost Freudian proportions, and who had as a result changed his name. He had found it very liberating but confessed he was "always getting funny looks". Sarah suggested he could pronounce it nu- NAM-eh, to rhyme with tsunami, and he seemed quite pleased with that.

I did read of someone whose name was pronounced Shuh-TAYD, sortof to rhyme with Shinead, but which was spelt Shithead. And in the same book, several different spellings of the name Unique (Uneek, Yuniik, etc.) - but none of which were unique.

We winced over Suk Kok and Bang Me and so on. It must be particularly galling to have a name of which you are proud and to travel to a country where is is a source of amusement - a fact I will take into consideration if I ever go to the US.

And a woman did book into Florey a while back called Twig - no surname, nothing. Obviously someone of greater patience than myself. The third time I'd explained that to some tired and uninterested official behind a desk would be twice two often.

I don't know. It's easy to laugh at this kind of stuff. But I wonder if it's not indicative of something. Without wishing to add to anyone's worries this morning (except for those who haven't read or read of the IPCC report), I wonder if it's got something to do with uniformity and fear. Most of the Infinitys and the Converses and the Holden Toranas I see are poor. I wonder if it's not something where the parents think "Well, I don't have much to give them, they aren't going to have as much of a chance as I want, and they need something".

So - they get names of muscle cars and high-status shoes, much like previous generations got called names that meant king or virtuous. Doubtless the thirteenth century, while largely made up of people with "normal" names, had a few pitable little wretches called Grond Strongarm or Throg Great-thews, and the Puritans had their share of Puritys and Chastitys who banged like barn doors.

Plus, Legalise Marijuana Jackson is on the dole. If he was living off his considerable investments, he would not be called Lower the Rate of Capital Gains Tax Jackson. He'd be called Alex or something.

Anyway - enough of this. The cardiovascular system awaits. Or maybe the anatomy of the forearm. I need a coin to flick that says "lose" on either side.

Thanks for listening,

Stop Press: Sarah has also reminded me of four daughters, Cashmere, Velvet, Satin and Silk, whom she met on her rural practice. Satin had juvenile diabetes and Cashmere has ear problems. I'd say unusual-but-not-unbeautiful for these.

*Torana (n): Kind of muscle car driven by the poor. Also a gateway, commonly of wood, but sometimes of stone, consisting of two upright pillars carrying one to three transverse lintels. It is often minutely carved with symbolic sculpture, and serves as a monumental approach to a Buddhist temple.

**Converse (n): Kind of shoe, much prized by the poor. Also a proposition in which, after a conclusion from something supposed has been drawn, the order is inverted, making the conclusion the supposition or premises, what was first supposed becoming now the conclusion or inference. Thus, if two sides of a sides of a triangle are equal, the angles opposite the sides are equal; and the converse is true, i.e., if these angles are equal, the two sides are equal.

*** Hilton (n): brand of hotels, much aspired to by the poor. Also an elusive and rarely photographed quadruped.


Blogger Camilla said...

I once met someone called Pei Ling Tan.

Remember the time in the pig lab, when we were singing the Westminster Chimes, and at the end you went "Bonnnnggggg" and our Korean colleague looked up and said, "Yes?"

:D :D :D

For your viewing amusement:

And if you want to know more about unfortunate names, then try


7:28 PM  
Blogger Midwife with a Knife said...

Happy belated b-day by the way.

I've had my fair share of horrible name experiences. I usually say to the mother-to-be, "Oh, so does your baby have a name yet?" and once in a while, I actually find myself having to leave he room.

If I recall correctly, Norway has a name approval board, and they can reject your babies name if they think it is not in the child's best interest to carry that name, like Legalize Marajuana.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Mate, I meant to tell you...we had hippies living around the corner where I grew up (incredible in itself) and they named their kids after the Greek alphabet. Hence we had Alpha, Beta, Gamma and - most brilliantly of them all - X-Ray! Good ole X-Ray insisted on being called Janet.

I wonder why.

Bloody hippies.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

I think it is a woefully underreported consequence of 14 year-olds having babies. I'm so glad noone ever let me name a kid when I was that young.

I work for Medicaid in the US (health insurance for the poor) and we see our shares of Destiny Fyres and such. One memorable family had 4 boys under 10 (oldest first): Austin, Justin, Custin, an Ustin (no Dustin, suprisingly enough)

9:06 AM  

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