Floating Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Shelf: Names

It’s been too, too long since I’ve taken the time to visit my own blog (what an uncared for, poor, neglected thing). But I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately. More on that below. But for the fun and now: while googling, I came across this audio clip of “Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)” by Frank O’Hara. Have a listen!

“Oh Lana Turner we love you get up”


It’s so wonderful that he starts by saying, “The next poem’s called ‘Poem’ too,” and he laughs.

Oh I love audio and video clips! I know I’m not the Lana in the poem, but there’s something about hearing my name (or a name the same as my name) in a poem that is appealing. Not to mention it’s Frank O’Hara. (Most known for, I think, “The Day Lady Died“.)

Anyway, audio-fun over. On to names. I’ve been thinking a lot about meanings of names, pronunciations of names, corruptions of names, allusions, translations into other languages, famous people with my name (or your name or her name or his name). My own name has been a source of pronunciation trouble and confusion trouble for most of my life, despite its seeming simplicity: Lana. Four letters. Pronounced the way it looks — at least, that’s what I’d like to be able to say. It often proves not to be the case. When I was young, the main mistake people made wassaying Alana instead of Lana. That’ s an entire additional syllable! Now the main problem is pronunciation: in my office I get a whole range: Law-na, Lay-na and La-na. When I was younger it used to bother me, but now I don’t mind. It makes the day interesting, having three names.

(From what I understand, Lana Turner preferred Law-na. But then, she chose the name Lana when she entered the movie business. If I got to choose my name, I might choose Law-na too. But I get it about half the time anyway,which is a nice compromise between the familiar and the movie star version. Besides, this way, I get to have fun hearing everyone struggle to say it. A coworker once told me that he and another coworker once spent half an hour while driving home together figuring out how to pronounce it. They finally decided that it’s like “land.” After being mulled over for half an hour in a truck on the drive home, my name is like land. I like it.)

My grandmother says her mother made up her name: Dapheen. Indeed, when I google it, Google asks me if I mean Daphne. Naming a child: is it an act of creativity, or merely ascribing a label that captures something already in existence? What permanence, what future for the name of a child! Unless, of course, the child changes it.

Naming a character: how much does the name influence the kind of person the character becomes? Or the kind of story? Event, mood, tone?

What would Linda Stillwagon say?

I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
–Frank O’Hara, “The Day Lady Died”

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