I met an expectant mother the other day and I asked if they had picked out a name yet. When she said, no, they haven’t, I tried to be helpful by suggesting that a good name would be “Darrell”.
She received this assistance in the worst way: she didn’t call me a jerk (that can be taken two ways, so it isn’t necessarily bad) and she didn’t laugh (sincere or insincere, I take them all).
Instead, she laughed dutifully, then it drifted weakly into an awkward silence. Hmmm, obviously, she twigged onto the fact that “Darrell” is not an ideal name. Somehow, I already knew this and had only blocked it from my memory. Memories of school, that is, when everybody’s names could be made fun of.
We had Bob (Are you bobbing for apples, Bob?), Rick (Can I ride on your rickshaw, Rick?) and Sarah (? Everybody doesn’t like Sarah Lee ?).
OK, not the most clever examples of verbal pugilism and a reference to a television jingle that would appear dated in the next decade, but it was the sing-songy viciousness of the taunts that got to you.
Except for me. They couldn’t come up with a good taunt for my name. Someone did try “Hey, Darrell. You’re shaped like a barrel” and I retorted with, “Why thank you, fellow classmate, I do believe in strong core muscles to help prevent injuries.”
Hmm, actually, I think it was closer to something like, “Oh yeah? Well, you’re ugly!”, but the point is that it never stuck.
Instead, you could just see kids going through the alphabet: Carol, Darrell (no, that’s his name), Farrell, Garrell, Harrell, Jarrell, Larrell, Marrell …
Nothing. So, instead, out of frustration, they would just punch me in the head.
(Shout out to all of my buddies at College Street School in Trenton, Ontario! Good times, eh guys? Yeah, good times.)
Alas came adulthood, where nobody makes fun of anybody’s name. Unless, of course your name is Darrell and there is a sitcom on television with a guy named Larry and his brother, Darryl, and his other brother, Darryl.
Hey, Darrell! Is your other brother Darrell at home?
We didn’t have YouTube or VCRs in those days, so it took a while before I found out what the heck everybody was talking about.
But, once I learned how to fend off these weak attempts at humour, I carried on a life with the usual torment: spelling my name out for people.
There is one right way to spell “Darrell” and 21 wrong ways. When I meet another Darrell, we often ask each other, “How do you spell your name?” If they are spelled differently, we question the intelligence of the others parents and it often goes downhill from there.
At least my parents didn’t name me “Sue”, and I wasn’t born in Nantucket, otherwise life could have been a whole lot more rough going through school.