What a difference a name makes

Ken writes:

Doing last night’s dishes this morning, I remembered a couple of nights ago when Dot was washing up, in her feeble state, having been unwell (or perhaps it was the night before she was unwell and she was starting to feel poorly -it’s not important), and she was determined to finish the dishes and not leave the pot lids, frying pan and sauce pans undone. She is, you see, an ‘abinger’ or “One who washes up everything except the frying pan, the cheese grater and the saucepan which the chocolate sauce has been made in” (from Douglas Adams’ The Meaning of Liff). She always has been, though on this occasion she was trying to overcome her nature, because I embarrassed her one day by naming it. Somehow giving it a name made it real.

Another example. In bright sunlight I cannot prevent myself from sneezing. I thought this was pretty common, but my flatmate in Philadelphia, Laura, refused to believe me and said I must be misinterpreting a coincidence or imagining it. But then I told her that my flatmate in Auckland had said English speakers in Brunei call them ‘sun sneezes’ and at that she let it drop. Again the lesson seems to be that a name makes it real.

So what a happy thing it is, then, that Laura today graduates and henceforth is Dr Odom. Congratulations! Dr Odom.

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5 thoughts on “What a difference a name makes

  1. Potential Uncle Ben

    Its true, bright light can trigger a sneeze, the nerves that trigger sneezing run in parallel with your optic nerve, so a bright light can casue interference in the other pathways and trigger a sneeze.

  2. Meri

    I am also really excited at the prospect of changing my name! Ben however seems to think his work is done now he has handed over a nice shiney stone (untill next year, when the name gets changed)…

  3. Dot

    I join in congratulating Dr Odom, but I think this post is rather unfair. It’s Ken who, having found this nice word, has decided that I always was one. And it’s mean to see my struggle with the dishes on Wednesday night (I felt truly rotten) as a symptom of earlier shame rather than the heroism it was. Anyway, it’s quite sensible when you get to a particularly horrible pan at the end of the wash to leave it to soak for later.

  4. kenanddot

    RE: Dot. Point taken. I needed examples to make my point. It was churlish to pick one that cast you in a bad-ish light.

    Also on a similar topic: Having been called ‘Maph’ almost all his life (after his own pronunciation), rather cheekily according to his older brother, my brother decided, aged 11 or so, that his name was ‘Mat’ and that was how he was to be called. I protested. His name was what he was called and we called him ‘Maph’ and it wasn’t up to him what he was called. Tyrannical parents intervened and ruled him ‘Mat’ and I cravenly backed down.

  5. laura

    I think you’re on to something, Ken. The end of college days didn’t feel real until I read about it in your post. Thank you! for publicly noting the occasion. Also, it may be that certain dish-washing predilections take on special significance when given a name, but having lived with flatmate (a guy from Minsk, not Ken) who threw two perfectly good fry pans into the bin to avoid washing them, and to hide the bacon fat evidence of his breaking Kosher, makes an “abinger” who soaks the pans for later seem more than adequate at the task of cleaning.

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