When I used to drink alcohol, some of my "better" ideas would arise somewhere between sobriety and the consumption of my second martini; this, while sitting at a restaurant bar waiting for the late arrival of my luncheon partner - very often, my wife. Now I don't claim to understand alcohol's effect on the physiology of the human brain, but somewhere before the hug-everybody-stage and the subsequent onslaught of arrogance, cynicism and stupid-ness, surprising ideas would sometimes come screaming out, unlocked, mysteriously, by Beefeater's key. I'd take pen and bar napkin - sometimes piles of bar napkins - and begin scribbling down notions, concepts and ideas as they emerged like bats from my mid-day belfry. Maybe that old expression, "Don't let those ideas you got at the bar, lay dying on the bar, when you leave the bar," has a little merit... a little... maybe.
Earlier this week, while sitting at the counter of a donut shop, a silly idea squeezed through a crack in the side of my tight, right brain - sometime between the glazed old-fashioned and the buttermilk bar, as I recall. I took carpenter's pencil to counter napkin and began writing down names chaotically. Other counter customers stared cautiously at my excited, even passionate, scribbling; eyes rolled; I chuckled and smiled. I thought fleetingly about behaviors proper to counters and bars; I chuckled some more. As I had done in the restaurant bars, I folded my scribbled napkins and stuffed them into empty pockets upon leaving. This morning, I spread the crumpled napkins out across my computer desk:
For Names' Sake
There's a philosophical argument centered around whether or not "one is what one does." Over the years, I've noticed that to an extent, we're a mixed bag of cultures wherein many of our names, especially those which have traveled down the English-speaking lane of the patrilineal highway from Northern Europe, are statements of what somebody way back in a particular lineage did in the world: "Baker," is a fine example; "Cook" is another.
I've known a few Bakers and Cooks in my life; and several Millers and Carpenters. A wonderful, older man with whom I shared a lasting friendship while a youth in the U. S. Navy, was a Shoemaker - although he did work proper to electrical engineers. I've known Fishers, Hunters and Cutters;
Tuckers, Turners and Sawyers; I muse about the Hamburger with whom I once worked in sales and marketing.
Who knows how this all evolved? I can only imagine that somewhere, sometime, some of our ancestors began relating to one another through what they did, and the naming, a commonsense act of simplification, evolved accordingly. Piper, Ringer, Seller; Plumber, Tailor, Shepherd. Maybe Wheeler started the whole thing.
I can't help wondering whether within our ever-evolving senses of patriarchal individualism, another evolution of naming might occur; an update for the passing to the 3rd millennium, so to speak. Maybe our children's, children's, children's children - should the species make it that far - will be named in reflection of the tasks performed in the late, twentieth century:
"Server," comes to mind.
Gone will be the Weavers and the Warners... replaced by the new, often politically correct, work-distinctions of our era: Norbert Analyst; Nancy Adminassist; Celeste Coordinator. Our trend toward down-sizing will have been cast in historical namestone: Timothy Temp; Polly Partime; Jeremy Flex; Audrey Resource-Manager. Maybe, some four or five generations hence, the most common American name will have changed from "Smith" to "Consultant."
"Mom! Dad!" a kid might announce someday , "I'd like you to meet my new friend, Renee Receptionist"... and mom and dad will eye one another, making silent characterizations appropriate for the times.
Miscegenation will have marched onward, weaving sub-cultural first and last names into fresh, new tapestries: Deutwanda Teamleader; Renato Clinician;
Safiya Workgroup. Hyphenated last-name distinctions of identity will survive - sometimes giving clues as to how an ancestral couple faired in a 20th century, work-a-day hierarchy: Rhonda Manager-Clerk.
And there will be remembrances of the non-workers, the dark side: Laydoff, Unem, Handout, Welfare, (perhaps Wellfair, a feeble attempt at prideful disguise), and the widespread, "Street."
First names of males from the sixties and seventies will probably have hung around. And assuming no change in the patrilineal organization of our greater culture's naming methods, a safe assumption - the familiar, historical naming based upon the first name of the father will have also evolved. The likes of Peterson, Jackson, Robertson, Ericson, Richardson, will have given way to the likes of Peaceson, Hopeson, Songson, Lightsun, Windson, Breezeson and, of course, Sunson.
And it's a short jump to envision changes in the names of people historically named after colors. The Blacks, Browns, Whites and Greens will have all but disappeared - replaced by the Mauves, Taupes, Guavas and Pumpkins.
It's unlikely that any significant change to a matrilineal naming structure will occur in the foreseeable future - save for single mothers who retain their heretofore patrilineal names. And even if this were to happen, it's doubtful, to this donut-brain, that females would embrace what they were doing vocationally in the late twentieth century as permanent identifiers - and that's probably a good thing. It would be interesting, though, to hear a 22nd century mother's explanation to her daughter's question regarding why her last name was Glassceiling.
Maybe it never was the gin... just the sugar.