The boy with no name

WHAT'S in a name? Quite a lot, I think. If I'd been Peter, Paul, David or Michael - like most of the lads in my primary school class - I would surely have grown up a different person entirely.

WHAT'S in a name? Quite a lot, I think.

If I'd been Peter, Paul, David or Michael - like most of the lads in my primary school class - I would surely have grown up a different person entirely. Being unique, at least in my circle, surely marked me out in some way.

(The fact that Aidan has become more popular among today's primary classes than any of the above names is strange, but too late to change who I am - much. I am starting to get used to young mums calling out my name in shops, without taking it personally.)

On the other hand, who might I have been if I'd been dubbed Algernon, Animaxander or Aloysius? Not to mention Xavier, Yorrick or Zacharius.

How might it have affected my development had my parents chosen the name Marion - as John Wayne's folks did? (I often wonder whether that odd choice was responsible for big John/Marion's macho screen manner - or the apparently rather less macho way he mooched off-camera.)

What would it be like to be called Ivor Fallace or Ophelia Bottom? (They were real people - I knew them both.)

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If your name was Paine would you grow up to be a doctor? If you were christened Marina , would you marry Mr Morris? (I knew both of those people too.)

How much weirder even than that would it be to grow up with no name at all?

Now here, you might think, I'm straying into the realms of fantasy. Yet this week I met just such a person - a child with no name.

He wasn't stringing me along, or trying to hide an embarrassing moniker. He wasn't quite speaking for himself yet - but at ten and a half months it won't be long before he is doing.

And what will he call himself then? More to the point, how will he think of himself?

It was the youngster's parents who caused an awkward, dumbstruck silence in a crowded room after they were asked: “What's his name?”

A simple, common enough question, you might think. One they must have faced dozens of times by now, if not more. A question they should perhaps have put rather more forcefully to themselves by now.

For the answer was this: “He hasn't got a name. It's probably one of the interesting things about him.”

One of the interesting things about him! Just how interesting does one apparently normal little boy want to be?

But what do these freakish parents actually call their brightly smiling little one?

“We usually call him Baby.”

That'll be nice when he's ready for school. Or college. Or work.

Or perhaps in the meantime his name will be changed to Toddler - then Boy or Child.

I wonder what it says on his birth certificate. Perhaps he doesn't have one.

If that's the case, how is he ever going to get a passport if he wants to travel? Or a driving licence when he's ready? Or a bank account, or a student loan, or state benefits - or any of the thousand things those of us with names use to help us through modern life.

Will he get married in the name of Man or Person? Or will he forever be The Man With No Name? (If so, perhaps everyone will naturally call him Clint. Or just whistle a little tune to summon him.)

Presumably at some point those most bizarre of parents will summon up the imagination to give their unfortunate offspring a name. But how much damage will they have done in the meantime?

Children's brains and personality do an awful lot of developing long before they begin to speak for themselves. I fear what even ten months of anonymity might have done young Whatsisname already.

Will his first words be: “Who am I, then? Have you made yer minds up yet?”

It may be a little late, but there's something I'd like to say now to my own mum and dad. Thanks for giving me a name. (Quite a good one, too, I like to think.)

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