What’s In A Name?

Now Playing: The sounds of my handyman fixing the upstairs toilet. Don’t want to distract him with music. Today’s just made his second trip to Lowe’s, last week’s already had been there. I had been a few days before that – all for the same crapper. When will it all end?

My name. I don’t hate it, and I’ll tell you why. But I have to admit it’s a little frustrating at times?

Me: “Hi, I’m Arthur Murray.”

Other person: “Oh, do you dance?”

Me: “I’m willing but not particularly able.”

Rinse. Repeat.

It does get a bit old. Other Person usually thinks he/she is the first person ever to make the connection. I smile and press ahead. But then Other Person usually hangs on. “I’ll bet you get that all the time, right.” I nod, and try to get the conversation back on track, all the while wondering why, if Other Person thinks that, he/she feels the need to go down that road in the first place.

On the other hand, it is a good icebreaker, and if – and I usually do – I handle it with grace, it usually gives me a quick in with whomever I’m talking to. And I can think of two superheroes named Arthur – Aquaman’s name was Arthur Curry, and The Tick’s not-so-brave-but-not-so-dumb sidekick was named Arthur.

But of course I wasn’t named after the dancer or the superheroes. The moniker came from my father’s family. A little explanation is in order.

Figuring out my father’s family was always a bit dicey for me growing up. For one thing, there were a ton of brothers and sisters to remember, and some, even then, were dead. I think I’ve mentioned before, the generations in my family were extremely messed up. I was younger, in some cases 20 years or more younger, than my first cousins, and that was true on both sides. My dad’s family had another challenge, though. They never called each other by their correct names. Mary James, who died before I was born, was always called Jim. It was years before I figured out that Jim was a woman. Gladys was always Gala. George was Brother. John was Tab. My dad was Man. And so it went.

An aside: My dad kinda kept up the tradition. My sister, Becky, was almost always Doll. My brother, Frank Jr., was Smiley (I can’t remember if my Dad nicknamed him that, but I do know that nearly everyone except my mom, my sister and I called him that). I had a nickname, too, but that’s a topic for another day.

To get back on point, despite the kidding I’ve gotten through the years, I don’t hate my name – I really like it, a lot – and here’s why:

I got the name Arthur from my dad’s side of the family. I wasn’t the first, though. My cousin, Arthur Ray Carr, is five or six years older than I am. He was always called Arthur Ray, never just Arthur. Why two Arthur’s in the same generation?

Because we were named after my Dad’s brother, also named Arthur. That Arthur Murray died in World War II, in the Pacific. I think it happened during the invasion of Tarawa. I say think because my Dad, who also served in World War II, wouldn’t talk about the war except with other people who had been in it. I know almost nothing my namesake’s death. I know little of my Dad’s. I know he drove a tank. I know he served under Patton – and loved him. I know he fought in the Battle of Bulge. And that’s about it.

But I’m extremely proud – pacifist though I am – to be named after a real American hero.

And by the way, I’m no saint on the name thing either. A few years ago, I interviewed the then-new CEO of Oakwood Homes. His name was Miles Standish. We finished the interview and chatted about our respective burdens, neither of which we minded much. The interview turned into a cover story a few weeks later.

The headline: Pilgrim’s Progress. I had to admit, it was pretty good.

So says Arthur O. Murray, your not-so-brave-but-not-so-dumb writer. I can live with that.

“The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.” _ Marshall McLuhan<!–, Understanding Media–>


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