Philip Impey on forgetting a first name

It is hard to remember one for one reasons, no matter how many you know you can’t truly remember.

For most people, names are verbal by and large. That means that many others know that name but no one really knows what it looks like. I am like this, just talking to my mother about reruns of Stargate SG-1. My mother is no different in that respect. Even I am unable to remember one side of my first cousin’s name, but three other family members know it well enough to be quite a handy little surname.

Like most names, it has a lot of dynamic variations. The name is just one part of a name. People also tend to have different kinds of names. For instance, my best friend, Robyn, is often called by different names – Robyn, Robyn, Robyn, Robyn, Robyn – depending on the whim of her friends.

Similarly, the only name I have had for about 10 years is likely not the one everyone else knows. We were probably ever unsure of the spelling and had to decide what it was. The name sounded interesting and different, and we liked the sound, but it was one of those first names that has four syllables and sounds more Japanese than it does Caucasian.

Now, if you used the SAT/GCSE spelling of our surname (setsuigh) to get through school, your certificate would say something along the lines of “Setsuigh, Donworth, 132/47”. At first the name appeared in correspondence because we used it to put our name at the top of our class and presumably wanted to be the first ones picked for sport.

Anyway, it is pretty hard to remember one for one reasons, no matter how many you know you can’t truly remember. For instance, if I was starting at an American college, I would not be able to find the exam one sheet because in my attempt to remember the name I listed three exam papers instead. Of course, that is an extreme example, but I’ve heard similar stories over and over.

Many of us are lost when it comes to looking for one single name and the rest that go with it. Some of us, when experiencing pain, call it by its point of origin – thank God you have a name. I’ve heard on two separate occasions that whenever a restaurant with a nice menu name experiences sales crashes or rush hour traffic, it is from frantic people who simply don’t remember the name of the restaurant. (Thankfully, the closure of the Wash’s of Huddersfield Road is something that happened a few years ago.)

Plus, all my life I have been wrestling with the question of naming my eldest daughter. The family name is Agotumi and my wife now has her own last name. I would have liked to have given her the family name as a baby. The thought was simple – it is the name of my whole family. The problem is that my middle name is Agutumani. I would have loved to have called my child – I can’t remember if it was Agotumi or Agutumani – what was originally my middle name. If I could have called her Agotumi I would have. It’s confusing at the best of times, but even worse now. Of course, I could have gone with Agotumi, but I would have remembered what the name was like only if I looked it up first. There is a book I would have liked to have read on this. It’s called John Smith’s Juvenile Nonsense by Percy Impetus. When I asked my mother about this she went on a six-hour tirade in which she said that despite my gentle suggestions that it was an interesting name, “I’m not going to give my grandchildren names that are ridiculous.”

The second time we decided to name our baby – just before she was born – we tried to go with Agotumi (her middle name). My wife really wanted something creative. However, I thought that the name Agotumi sounded like a pit stop on a road trip to Alaska and that she would not like it. She did have her way in the end and named the baby Agotumi-me. I’d love to know what she actually thought of her name, but I am not really sure how to get my hands on it. I don’t even know how to spell it.

Leave a Comment