FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – WHAT’S IN A NAME?


Over the half term holiday, Steve and I took a short break to London.  We used a hotel at which we have previously stayed, and in the hope that I could sweet talk the manager into finding a room for us to book when we (fortunately) travel up to see the Olympics.

“Mr. Pessimistic” said I had no chance, but worry not, the name Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds is enough to strike fear into the soul of even the most hardened of hotel managers!

So having had a really good Valentine’s meal, not to mention polishing off an appropriate bottle of pink bubbly stuff, I set about my task.

Down to the front desk …. “Allo Madam” … Oh how my heart melted, a Frenchman on Valentine’s day!  I felt fleetingly guilty for leaving Steve to settle the restaurant bill with a rather burly female restaurant manager of Eastern European origin; But, I must confess the emphasis on “fleetingly” as I can’t remember the last time I was in company of a real Frenchman.  With all the charisma that I could muster, I put my chair into riser mode, and inwardly chuckled at the look of amazement on his face, as I appear Goddess-like from the other side of the reception desk.

First things first, I introduced myself.  “Ah Madam” you are of Irish Origin.  “Qui” I replied, and we proceeded to make small talk about how awful it was for so many Irish Rugby fans to have travelled to Paris for the game that never was.

I ascertained that the Manager’s name was Jean-Claude (commonly known, as I discovered during our stay, as “JC”).  I garbled out my request.  I really didn’t think a woman of a certain maturity of age could still be so struck by the French accent, but there you are.  JC reassured me that if I called at the desk in the morning, he would be pleased to help in whatever way he could “Until the morning – Merci” was my reply, and with all the grace of a deflating hot air balloon I returned to ground level, and back to Steve.  Between getting to our room and drifting off to sleep, I had composed a chanson d’amour especially for JC, the lyrics of which will remain firmly in my subconscious!

True to his word, JC did indeed do all he could to help, and managed to persuade the computer system to let him book a room for our Olympic stay.  So, for the time being “Au revoir JC” … Or certainly until our next visit.

The point of the little deviation in this blog is to show just how we react to names.  Would we have taken the Duchess of Cambridge quite so readily to our hearts if she had been called Lilly.  Somehow, “Wills and Lills” doesn’t have quite the same appeal on the tea-towel! What if the Duchess of Cornwall was not Camilla, but rather Cilla … “Charles and Cilla” sounds more like a couple who should occupy one the famous houses on Coronation Street.  But fortunately for our future monarchs the issue of a troublesome name has eluded them.

Most names are capable of change – usually shortened, Ed, Bob, Fred, Andy … the list is endless, and the minute you read those names, you will instantly be able to put a (Thalidomide) face to those names.  Shortening names is OK if you get it right.  For years, I have variously been called Ros, Roz and Rosalind … until I put my foot down – well, in the metaphoric sense.  Now, I am contentedly called Rose or Rosie, or by my correct title of Rosaleen (pronounced Rose-a-leen).  A couple of years ago, Steve had a song written for our wedding anniversary.  From what I can gather, he had more than a little difficulty explaining to the lyricist and the singer how to pronounce my name in the song. Fortunately, in the final product, they got it right, and (as I lean over the bucket!) I can still hear the dulcet tones of the Cornish folk singer telling me how wonderful I am … Ah!

How we are addressed defines who we are.  In a recent report on Dignity in Care for Older People, certain recommendations were made to avoid the use of patronising names for older people. One description which is hoped will be outlawed, is the use of the term “Old Dear”.   I can interject here and tell you that one of my current PA’s used to help an older lady.  She always referred to her as the “old dear” and for the two years that my PA worked for me and this older lady, I never got to find out what her real name was.  I am still trying to educate this particular PA on the use of politically correct language.  Only time will tell if I succeed.  *_*

However, some terms of endearment are can be quite hilarious.  Take for example, the checkout girls at our local supermarket.  I nearly laughed my socks off the other day when, having just bought some petrol, we drove up to the kiosk and the lady behind the glass quaintly referred to Steve as “babe”.  I gather he has a maenad of female followers dotted around the supermarket from the bread section to the flower stall, not to mention the filling station.  All I can say is “Should have gone to SpecSavers”.

Like us, I am sure you have pet names for the members of your household.  I am Oshie (as my sister Denise couldn’t pronounce Rosie, when she was younger); Steve is Tug (a derivative from thug, when he had a short haircut); James is Dopey (need I say more!).  My Dad progressed from plain-old Dad, to Pappy (when he became a Grandfather) and sometimes to Raggy (I think it has something to do with his working clothes!).  My beloved maternal grandmother (to whom I refer in my book) was known as “Queenie” as she never left the house without a string of pearls, rather like the Queen Mother. 

I shan’t even bother you with the pet names that James uses for his Mum and Dad.  Just think cattle – female and male, and you’ll get the drift.  But where those particular terms of endearment came from, I have absolutely no idea.

Names, used in whatever way, can help to form a view of a person or product.  Whenever I venture to have a manicure, I count my lucky stars when I come out the other end with all digits intact.  After all, a book entitled “Three and a Half Fingers and Thirteen Toes” just doesn’t have the same ring as Four Fingers and Thirteen Toes!  Heaven only knows what would happen if I ventured to have a pedicure.  “Four Fingers and 9.75 Toes” would, most definitely fail to ignite the imagination.  Moreover, where would Amazon place it their category list … Maybe under “Contortion Made Simple” or “One Good Reason Not to have a Pedicure”.  Thank goodness I’ll never have to worry about that little problem … I’m not sure if I could cope with a rewrite!

When I googled the meaning of the name Rosaleen, I was surprised to find a conflict between its origins.  I had always thought it had its origins firmly rooted in Irish culture.  Rosaleen is considered as an allegory for the Irish nation communicating a message through a symbolic figure.  It became more widely used following the translation of the Gaelic name Róisín in the James Clarence Mangan poem “Dark Rosaleen”. 

However, a further search shows the name Rosaleen also has a German origin.  How strange therefore, given the whole crux of my story started in Germany, and is inextricably linked to Ireland, that my Mum decided to give me such a unique name.  It was not chosen for any educated or intellectual reasons, but, as my Mum explained to the Doctor who delivered me, she chose it as a “pretty name” – and indeed it is.

Roisin Dubh (pronounced; row sheen dove) means Little Dark Rose or Dark Rosaleen in Gaelic. It’s a traditional Irish poem turned song, that dates back to the 16th century and is one of Ireland’s most famous political songs. In a time where the Irish were not allowed to sing proud songs about their country, many songs arose that seemed to be about women or other subject matters, but were really a pseudonym for Ireland herself.  Thus the name ‘Dark Rosaleen’ is Ireland.

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, only a couple of weeks away, and in honour of my Irish roots and family, here are the words of ‘Dark Rosaleen’.

Dark Rosaleen

By

James Clarence Mangan

O MY Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There’s wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Over hills, and thro’ dales,
Have I roam’d for your sake;
All yesterday I sail’d with sails
On river and on lake.
The Erne, at its highest flood,
I dash’d across unseen,
For there was lightning in my blood,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
O, there was lightning in my blood,
Red lightning lighten’d thro’ my blood.
My Dark Rosaleen!

All day long, in unrest,
To and fro, do I move.
The very soul within my breast
Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints
To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!

Woe and pain, pain and woe,
Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
Like to the mournful moon.
But yet will I rear your throne
Again in golden sheen;
‘Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!
‘Tis you shall have the golden throne,
‘Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen!
Over dews, over sands,
Will I fly, for your weal:
Your holy delicate white hands
Shall girdle me with steel.
At home, in your emerald bowers,
From morning’s dawn till e’en,
You’ll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
My Dark Rosaleen!

This blog has been an interesting voyage, which started as a humorous look at names and how they shape characters.  Ironically, and almost by default, I have discovered that all the attributes which come with my names seem to fit my personality and life story perfectly.

So, whilst I am happy to be called Rosie, Rose, or anything else that might seem appropriate! I am Rosaleen through and through, and can’t thank my Mum enough for giving me my name.  It might not figure in the top 100 list of babies names, but if it is symbolic of triumph over adversity and matches my personality, then I’m happy with that.

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One Response to “FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – WHAT’S IN A NAME?”

  1. justafewlittlewords Says:

    I enjoyed reading this. Rosleen is lovely name. I’ve often wondered how much our name shapes us. I was teased about my maiden name at school but maybe it made me more resilient.

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