Thursday, October 06, 2016

All in a Name

Apparently I've been terrorising the Caribbean, devastating Haiti and I'm now threatening the east coast of the USA.  It's curious how we can often feel some kind of perverse pride in the antics of our namesakes, in this case a hurricane.  Curious, because, for most of us, our names are pretty much arbitrary, in that we have no choice over them - they are bestowed upon us by others (usually our parents).  I know that some people change their names, sometimes legally, sometimes just by the usage of a name they prefer to their given first name, but for most of us that seems like far too much hassle - so we just stick with what we've got.  We might shorten our name to make it more acceptable or, like me, spend one's time trying to avoid people shortening it - despite personally always using the full version of my name, others persist in trying to shorten it to 'Matt'.  I really don't know why they find the full form of my first name difficult.  Still, my mother and my best friend always call me 'Matthew'.  As do my various great nieces.  So, all the people who matter to me get it right.

Perhaps the wrath of my namesake hurricane will show the others the error of their ways.  I've no doubt that when he was just a tropical storm, someone called hurricane Matthew just 'Matt'.  No wonder he's so angry.  But to return to the point, I've been following Hurricane Matthew's progress with interest - I'm intrigued to see something as powerful as a hurricane sharing a first name with me - when I was a kid I was always frustrated by the lack of heroic or powerful namesakes in the media.  Good guys were always called something like 'Jack', 'Bill' or 'Steve'.  If a 'Matthew' appeared in a film or TV episode, they were always the hero's evil brother, or some kind of older, unsympathetic, authority figure.  About the only exception was Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke, but they'd stopped showing that on British TV by the time I was old enough for such things to register.  Not only that, but he shortened his name to 'Matt'.  You'd think, with the name's Biblical connotations, that there would be more 'good guy' Matthews.  Then again, St Matthew wasn't one of the glamourous disciples, was he?  His Testament is generally dismissed as the most fictionalised and least reliable accounts of the life of Jesus.  Plus, as I recall, he was a tax collector before he was a disciple.  Never a popular choice of occupation.  But, I've bided my time and now, at last, we've got something powerful named 'Matthew'.  Sure, a hurricane isn't sympathetic or heroic, but it's better than a tax collector, an evil brother or an authority figure and it certainly isn't a supporting role.  Best of all, nobody dares to shorten its name.



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