159. Names

Once upon a time, before microwave meals, “reality” TV, and iPhones, we used to identify each other with our noses. Much like dogs, we knew who the other guy was by having a good sniff. Of course when the population began to increase, it became harder and harder to differentiate one odour from another. One day, a man known as “Smells-like-athletes-foot” stood up and said that he would henceforth be known as Steve. And so the name was born.

Soon enough monikers became all the rage. Before too long there were magic books full of characters, all with different names. It was probably the single greatest invention in the entire history of the human race. No longer did our forebears have to refer to each other with grunts or with mad adjectives, no, now they had a one-stop calling card.

The most common name in the world today is Mohammed. But this is exaggerated since there are several permutations; Muhammed, Muhammad, Mohamed, Muhamad, and so on. This is mainly down to Anglicisation, since the name is the same in Arabic. But it can cause confusion, however.

The typical Arabic male name is one of only about 15-20 possibilities in the UAE; Mohammed, Khaled, Saif, Saeed, Khalifa, Zayed, Ali, Ahmed, Saud, Mubarak, Hamdan, Hamad…you know. Further, there are only a few different family names, too. This can make things very tricky.

In my normal day job, I have to deal with lots of customers. It is common for groups of young men to turn up, and in such a case I need to work out who is who. “Mohammed Al Baloushi” I say. As it turns out, in a group of seven of then, four will have the same name. We then have to pick though the ID cards to try and unravel the mystery; it can be a nightmare.

But here’s the thing; it doesn’t bother me at all. I think that only having a small selection of traditional names is brilliant. It maintains identity, tradition; something that a lot of Westerners have forgotten. As an added bonus, it also cuts out a large chunk of bullying material. No, really. Think back to school, 75% of all bullying is having your name rhymed with something derogatory; Fartin’ Martin, for example. If you tried that with the Arabic names you’d end up insulting at least two or three other family members, or even yourself. This would render the exercise pointless.

Where we come from though, names evolve with time. They are treated as fashion accessories. For example, nothing dictates a new wave of name popularity quite like a royal birth. In the 1940’s, Charles was very popular amongst Brits, so too was Anne in the 1950’s. When William was born in 1982, so to was one out of every five boys for the following year.

She smelled like the cafeteria, so I named her "Burger, hold the gherkins, fries, ketchup, but no mayo. Maybe a little mayo". Isn't she adorable?

She smelled like the cafeteria, so I named her “Burger, hold the gherkins, fries, ketchup, but no mayo. Maybe a little mayo”. Isn’t she adorable?

The problem is that we are all so mad when it comes to names. The Beckham family didn’t help; Brooklyn? Romeo? Cruz? Harper? Then what about Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow; Apple?! Michael Jackson called his son Prince Michael II, aka Blanket. Are they all barking mad? Does having lots of money give you the right to name your spawn after what you see in a Bed, Bath, & Beyond catalogue?

We absorb the celebrity world like a sponge and all of a sudden we find ourselves living in a world where for name inspiration we simply look through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, or the ethnic food section in the supermarket.

Before you know it you’re spooling through the voters register in the town hall and you’re drowning in a world of Ear Bud’s, Venus’s, Pepto-Bismol’s, and Rogan Josh’s. This pandemic has hit breaking point in recent years. It is all so hateful.

I yearn for a world where we can have freedom and where we are left alone, but I want a world where names make sense, and where I don’t have to vomit every time I do a friend search on Facebook. The UAE has it under control. A list of a dozen or so traditional Arabic names gives the country credibility. Ok, it makes calling a register a living nightmare, as I’m sure it would at passport control, or in a police station. But at least they will never be bullied because of their name.

North West?! For God’s sake, Kim. It would have been kinder to have named her after something you smelled in the hospital.

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