Saturday, October 9, 2010

What's in a name....?

The name game.  It sounds simple. It brings up images of laughing children, playgrounds, the innocent age of youth in general. The mental image it should, in reality, bring up is of ferocious wolves. Or maybe bloodsucking vampires. I don’t know, but it’s definitely one of the two.
The rules: you must pick either girls names or boys names, and then pick a letter. Each team must go back and forth saying a name that starts with that letter until one team cannot come up with anymore names.  It sounds so straightforward doesn’t it? Well we decided to play this game in the car coming back from Colorado Springs.  It started off well enough, while we still had new-game politeness.
“Okay everyone, girls names that start wiiiiiiiiith . . . . . M!”
Nervous giggles
“Okay, we’ll go first.”
It was front-seat vs. back-seat. Game on.
“Oh good one! Okay um...Molly”
“Oh I was just going to say that! Hahaha, oh no!  Okay, how about...Martha”
“Mary” Catch them off guard with the quick counterattack.
The rapid-fire method is a quick way to exhaust all the common names, which is when the hackles really start to raise.  Example:
“MARBA???? You just took the feminine form of Marble! That’s a children’s toy--not a name!”
“It is too!”
“Do you know anyone named MARBA?”
“YES! I had this best friend in the second grade and her little brother knew this girl named Marba.”
“Fine. Mary-Jo”
“Mary-Jo- Lisa”
This of course began a vicious Mary-Jo hyphenation circle, which was broken only by the remembrance of the forgotten Mackenzie.
“Fine. Minnie”
“Are you serious? Mousey?”
A questionable submission always leads to a dogmatic defense of that particular name. There are no exceptions. A heated exchange occurred when I expressed doubt about a player who insisted she knew a girl in middle school called “Midget”.  Sometimes it even brings the game to a standstill-- like the memorable “W” round during which the game was brought to a deadlock due to the fact that I wouldn’t concede to “Worcestershire” being anything other than a condiment.
As the game progresses, social niceties degenerate until questionable submissions are mocked mercilessly.  For example, during boys names that start with “H” one brave soul threw out the name “Hickory”-- this incited a riot from the front seat.
“HICKORY!? Is his last name ‘Dickory Dock????”
“Yeah! That’s a bacon flavor!”
At this point in the game, the name must be officially and apologetically rescinded, in order to prevent physical or verbal violence.
The name game generally breaks down when people start to make up names by placing a letter in front of a pre-established name (i.e Backie).  The “S” round brought a particularly blatant case of this:
“Scooby Doo”
“Really?!  Fine. Smokey the Bear”
This of course led to the inevitable Snala, Srafiki, Smufasa, and even Skermit the frog. This tendency can sometimes bring about a rather awkward submission, like the infamous “F” round last December when one guy piped up with “Fondaleeza Rice”. This prompted his teammate to observe, “Uh... that sounds like a sin!”  Considering that the entry before that was Fetus, I guess we should have let it slide.  Besides, nothing compares to the wildly uncouth entry of one participant, whose frustration with the “J” round led them to yell “JEWBACCA” from the backseat!
Now there are two classic ways to cheat at this  game.  The first is to add “isha” or “ique” at the end of any name and say it’s  a character from a show you saw on BET.  For one thing, no one will admit that they watch BET, so even if they doubt the submission, they won’t question it.  Also, white people are paranoid about appearing racist, so even if they really don’t think it’s a name they won’t say anything in case it might appear “unaware”. (Just browse for further explanation of this principle-- specifically #’s 8, 7 and 14).
Anyways, it plays out in the following way:
If you were to submit the name, Quincy, I would submit either Quintique or Quintisha.  If you tried to go with something mainstream like Britney, I would counter with Britisha. Veronica would become Veronique. Mona would become Monisha. You get the drift. Now exceptions do exist, occasionally you might need to add a “quisha” or a “lina” or a “fonda” to throw people off (i.e Laurquisha, Raylina, Tayfonda) etc... Certain letters of the alphabet also lend more freely to this type of cheating. For example, you can add an ‘La’ or a ‘K’ to the beginning of many names, which acheives the same desired effect (Think, K’shawn,, K’Leah, La’rhonda, La’fred-- you get the point.)  The possibilities are endless, and no one will say anything--even if they suspect that you are making it up.  Occasionally someone will try to suggest that perhaps that name isn’t real, but there is a very easy way to keep them quiet. On the rare occasion that this happens, simply imply that they might indeed be a filthy racist.  Their assertion will be swiftly retracted followed by profuse and embarrassed apologies.
A second way to cheat, is to submit Japanese-sounding names and insist that you saw it in a Anime once.  A nasty strand of Satoshi-Shingun- Sasori-Satoshi- Sevoro, prompted me to blatantly lie, resulting in the following:
“Where did you hear the name Shashinto?”
“ a comic”
“Oh a comic? Really? What was the comic called?”
“Really? Wow, that sounds a lot like you made it up. What does Shashinto do in the comic?”
The fact that I could only come up with “He goes to sword camp” was unfortunate.  But the Asian-name ploy is very clever and hard to defeat.  For one thing, the world of Anime is traversed by a select few. Which means that most people will have no way of knowing which names are real.   And people who watch Anime don’t just dabble in it, they will know every single character from hundreds and hundreds of movies. If you have an Anime enthusiast in your midst, just give up immediately.  Unless your willing to spend hours watching flying cats sing lullabies to saber-weilding 12 year olds, you had better just concede defeat.
The game finally ended when we apathetically began to accept all entries. Tired of battling, we halfheartedly submitted entries like so:
And so on...I think this game can teach us something about life.  After awhile, nothing seems strange.  Maybe that is what Coldplay’s Chris Martin was getting at when he wisely said, “People make a big fuss over names. Names of babies, names of albums, names of bands. There’s nothing weird about calling your baby Chewbacca if that’s what you want to call your baby. It’s no stranger than Sarah.”
Hmmm... Chewbacca.  File that away for next game...

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