What is in a name?

I put a great deal of thought into my children’s names, mostly due to my parents’ odd decision when they named me.

My parents named me Kenneth Blake Cash, with the intention of calling me Blake. Being known by your middle name is not entirely unheard of, typically when a child is named after a parent, to avoid confusion they are called by their middle name rather than “Junior”. In some cases it happens later in life, I had a friend whose middle name was that of his father, after his father passed away he dropped his first name to an initial and became known by his father’s name.

The “Lead Initial” can sound very formal, it’s a powerful introduction. Unfortunately I came of age in the Watergate era, and many of the famous conspirators had lead initials, L. Patrick Gray, G. Gordon Liddy, and E. Howard Hunt were all over the news, so my initial went underground for a while. Then “Dynasty” came along and “Blake Carrington?” was everyone’s first response when meeting me. My last name? I’ve gotten to the point that I can see that question forming behind a person’s eyes, I just look at them and say “Yes, he’s my cousin” before they ask.

The story of how my parents chose to name me the way they did is shrouded in mystery, I’ve heard a couple of variations. One of my favorites is “We were going to name you James, but we didn’t want you to be called Jimmy, so we named you Kenneth and called you Blake”. Yes, that makes perfect sense to me. It also says something about how my parents reached decisions in the early part of their married life.

Sometimes I think their reasoning was even more mysterious, as they never got around to mentioning to me that my “real” name is Kenneth. My first day in kindergarten was like a scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off“. “Kenneth Cash? Kenneth? Kenny? Ken?, Ken Cash?”, I’m looking around, my six year old curiosity peaked at the prospect that someone else in the class has the same last name as I, what a disappointment that he wasn’t there. I don’t recall how we ever figured out who I was, it may have been when the teacher said “Is there anyone whose name I didn’t call?”. I do recall that they looked at me very oddly for the rest of the year. I’m still pretty sure I had the whole left and right thing down, but the cutting a circle out of paper did pose some difficulty.

When I entered the military I was not allowed to have a lead initial. That was really my first exposure to a rigid bureaucracy. I had to learn how to sign my name all over, and I had the most wonderful signature up until (and after) then. I couldn’t even sign Kenneth Blake Cash, it had to be Kenneth B. Cash.

The computer age has brought some interesting variations, I get mail for Blake K. Cash and Kblake Cash, some online services do the same. A number of forms do not allow for middle names, so I am known as K Cash by a number of businesses. I had one account that insisted that I use my first name of record, which was K in their database, to sign in to their website, but would not allow a single letter entry for a name online. After speaking with the office, I ended up with two accounts, one for online and my original one.

The state of Pennsylvania had no problem with my name, and my drivers license read K. Blake Cash for the thirty odd years I had a valid license in Pennsylvania. New Jersey is not so understanding (about anything), so here my license reads Kenneth B Cash. My full name is on my passport so there can be no misunderstanding when the names on my various forms of identification don’t match. It’s only been a real problem once, when I was being investigated for a security clearance. I spent a few hours with an FBI Special Agent who was certain I was hiding a secret identity, but as I hadn’t done anything suspicious under any of my names she couldn’t figure out what I was hiding.

On FaceBook I just used my initials, KB, so at first no one could find me. FaceBook’s software wouldn’t allow two upper case letters, so I’m Kb, or as my grandson says “Kib”. Using initials is fairly common in Texas, both my grandfathers used their initials in writing and were referred to by them verbally as well, T.M. Cash and A.M. Henderson.

My wife, on the other hand, has a last name issue. In Belgium, women maintain their maiden names, so she will not share my name there, nor will it appear on any of her documents. She can’t even hyphenate without filing a petition with the court. I have no idea how they will locate my next of kin if I fall into a canal.

Names are important, they are our primary label. Name your child “Bozo” and you have already charted their career path. Names can be iconic today and forgotten in the future, or vice versa. Your perfectly bland name could be the same as a serial killer or other notorious individual who becomes famous just as you reach adulthood. “Adolph” is still out of vogue, but imagine the parents of a newborn Lee Harvey Oswald watching the news in November 1963.

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5 comments on “What is in a name?

  1. Rob says:

    The ancient rishis have said at the time of creation, sound was invoked and the sound created the form. Sanskrit still has these qualities that the sound produces effects. The science of mantras is that knowlege concerning the effects of sound on all levels of creation

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  2. […] may have noticed my last name. I wrote about the first two earlier, my last name has been a constant source of interest and humor. There is a certain […]

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  3. […] including myself, have asked “What’s in a name?”. Certain names suggest future careers, and deny […]

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  4. […] been accused of having a dissociative personality thanks to parents who graced me with an unacceptable name, so I tried using a couple of different variations. It appears I do not exist. I may need […]

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  5. […] debate, and while “Blake Cash” may be an alias (technically it is, my parents named me Kenneth), I use my own name because I believe in standing behind what I say. If you don’t feel safe […]

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