WHAT’S IN A NAME ? (First published on Tuesday, 7 July 2009)

Quotation of the week:

What’s in a name ? that which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

Guitars  by Jeff Haynes

Guitars by Jeff Haynes

Well, certainly, I’m not sure that the young lady who says this would have seemed so romantic if her name had been Ethel Sidebottom instead of Juliet Capulet.

But first, welcome to my blog. I added this to my site at the suggestion of my former student Nick Bowling, bass guitarist and writer. He said that if they like your music, people like to hear about the composer. I liked the idea, as I find writing words much easier than doing music, and sometimes think I went into the wrong art ! So I shall be writing something every week. Normally the topic will be something to do with music, but sometimes I may well stray into other thoughts.

One other thing. As it says at the top of the screen, though I will certainly read any comments send in, please don’t expect a reply. At my stage of life I have really got to put all the time I can into making music, not writing about it.

So, names. In particular, mine.

I was named Albert Edward Lee, at the request of my mother, who chose to give me the same names as my father. He in turn was so named in honour of the Prince Consort, Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, and the reigning monarch, Edward – the seventh of that name.

This loyal and loving choice has since given me many irritating moments. The last time was only yesterday. A nice lady rang to remind me of a medical appointment; she asked for Mr Albert Lee. As she was nice and trying to be helpful, I answered politely to the name. But my normal response is normally very different, as I will now illustrate by the following mini-drama:

PHONE: Ring. Ring
ME: Hello. Camden 1234 5678.(I actually give my real number)
VOICE: Can I speak to Albert Lee please ?
ME: (Thinks: Anyone who calls me Albert does not know me and wants to sell me
something) I’m afraid he’s not here.
VOICE: Oh. When will he be back ?
ME: He won’t – he’s dead (if I want to be really naughty I say “died”)
VOICE: (embarrassed) Oh, sorry to trouble you. (rings off)

Another cold calling salesman bites the dust !

At an earlier stage I used to answer yes, and on one occasion the person speaking immediately began to ask me where they could send me a (quite large) royalty cheque. For a moment the idea of a great holiday in Greece passed through my mind, but honesty prevailed, as I realised that they really wanted that excellent guitarist, Albert Lee.

In fact, if someone calls me Albert, there is one other possible explanation. They knew me at school. That definitely rules out my wanting to speak to them – I never really fitted in and have never been back since I came out of the gates for the last time in 19- (literary readers will recognise a device to be found in 19th Century novels).

Really, the problem seems to be that authorities have a real problem in understanding that some people are known by their second name. My mother never had a problem – my Dad was always Albert and I was Edward. (also I was smaller !) And I mean “Edward” – she would always correct anyone who called me anything else –including my friends, to my great embarrassment – saying “His name is Edward”).

Yet is it that strange? Maybe it is. Certainly, I have always assumed that my wife’s family were a bit weird, since my wife (first name Jean) is always “Frances”, and her sister (Ida) is universally “Louise”. Just to be awkward, her other sister Lizzie has the first name “Elizabeth”, but insisted on being called this when she went to Art School – in the family she was “Ann”, her second name !

However, “Edward” doesn’t end the story. My wife Jean (called Frances) thought that “Edward” was more dignified for a writer of books (see Books page!), but only after I had been sent into the world of print as “Ed” ! I do call myself “Edward” if I want to seem dignified, or a bit distant, but in certain cases I have announced myself as “Edward” to a person, because I felt that this gave a special element to the relationship. This is because most people, including all my family, children (not “all” – there are only three !), close friends, neighbours and work associates have always called me “Ed”. I even have an Italian form “Nonno Ed” (Grandad Ed) !

There is yet more (last bit !). There have always been some people who call me “Eddie” (one is our family friend Maria). And there are some who know me as “Ted” (old college mates). Over the years, I have tried to devise a theory to explain this, but without success.

If asked, I always say that I don’t mind and will answer to most forms of Edward.

So “what’s in a name?”. In my case, not a lot. But to some people, it is very important. Perhaps the most significant is for Jews, for whom it is a sacrilege to say God’s name, though it is known. Instead, other ways of speaking about or to the Supreme Being are used.

So perhaps I should insist on “Talented Composer” or “Your Brilliance” – I should be so lucky !



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