Jewish World Review June 26, 2002 / 16 Tamuz, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | A lot of people have names I'd rather have than my own. I don't dislike Andy Rooney; it's just that I can think of better names. Mickey Rooney's real name is Joe Yule Jr. He probably wouldn't mind if I used that. How would that sound, though, "A Few Minutes with Joe Yule Jr." I guess not.
I'd like a name that sounds more important. My name is Andrew, of course, and I prefer that to Andy, but only three people call me Andrew. You don't get to decide whether you're important or not. I don't fight Andy.
I don't know how some people get to be called by a nickname, while others keep their whole first name. You wouldn't call Walter Cronkite "Walt," but, on the other hand, you wouldn't call the cartoon tycoon "Walter Disney." You wouldn't call Peter Jennings "Pete," but no one ever calls Tom Brokaw "Thomas," or Dan Rather "Daniel."
One of the good nicknames is Cokie Roberts. Cokie needed one, too, because her real name is Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts.
During World War II, I knew both Ernest Hemingway and Ernie Pyle. No one ever called Pyle "Ernest" and no one ever called Hemingway "Ernie."
A lot of people trying to be friendly, like politicians or preachers, insist on being called by their nickname, as if it made them more likeable and accessible: William Jefferson Clinton is just plain Bill. Look at Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, Dick Cheney. Some people tried to pin the name "Dubya" on President George W. Bush.
A really important-sounding name is one that starts with just an initial, like "H. Ross" Perot. I doubt if the other kids called him "H. Ross" when he was young. If you have as much money as he has, you can be called anything you want. There was J. Edgar Hoover, F. Lee Bailey, J. Paul Getty and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Some people prefer to be called by just one name -- Cher, Sting, Madonna and Imus, for example. There are more people who've insisted on being called by three names: Frank Lloyd Wright, Sarah Jessica Parker, Andrew Lloyd Webber, William Randolph Hearst, Margaret Bourke-White, Clare Booth Luce, John Cameron Swayze, Martin Luther King, George Bernard Shaw, Mary Baker Eddy, John Philip Sousa, Snoop Doggy Dogg, John Wilkes Booth. I'm just getting started.
There have been well-known people who always included their middle initial in their name: Louis B. Mayer, John D. Rockefeller, Edward R. Murrow, Edward G. Robinson.
About the same number always preferred using just their initials: W.C. Fields, P.J. O'Rourk, H.G. Wells, H.L. Mencken, T.S. Eliot, J.D. Salinger.
People who are called by silly nicknames must like it or they'd put a stop to it. I'm thinking now of "Tipper Gore," "Whoopi Goldberg."
It would be strange to have a last name that was a noun: "Doris Day," "Billy Crystal," "Johnny Cash," "Ringo Starr," or even "Bob Hope." I guess you'd get used to it, but names of things and names of people shouldn't be interchangeable .
I have some favorite names. Vanessa Redgrave…that's a classy name. Harry Belafonte has a swing to it. David Letterman couldn't be anything else. Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Alan Alda, Faye Dunaway, Susan Sarandon, Katharine Hepburn, Yo Yo Ma - all great names.
On the other hand, I'd rather be Andy Rooney than Arnold Schwarzenegger, Roman Polanski or Engelbert Humperdinck.
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