Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Naming of children

Because "Motes" is so short we only considered names of more than two syllables for our son. The Bible seemed a good place to look -Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah. I liked the sound of Obadiah. Not for a young man, but what a tombstone: "Here lies Obadiah Motes." He'd have to go West for that one. In the end we decided on Bartholomew.

But when the nurse popped in to ask me what name had been chosen, I said, "I like the name Matthew." Fine, said the nurse, that's a nice name for your son. "Oh, no, it's not his name," said I. "I just like the sound of 'Matthew'. Don't you?" It had been a long night.
We got clear after a bit that actually Bartholomew's name was going to be Bartholomew and the nurse asked me to spell it because she couldn't spell it. But neither could I. That morning there seemed to be too many 'o''s.

So Bart started off as Bartholemew and of course, became almost immediately Bart- (though he does have orchid names in both forms: Some plant or two, called "Bart" for friends and Ascocenda Bartholomew Motes for prospective bosses or mothers-in-law.)

It was easy with Alice. "Alice" was a favorite from the start, both the Wonderland bit and the fact that it was less shopworn, (enough with the Sarahs and Rachels!) and for a touch of familial piety. Alice was the name of my mother's beloved sister who died too young. But when I presented my mother with the news, she just said, "Oh, yes." And that was it.

Admittedly, we are English and my mother is the very Anglo-Saxon side, but still. I'd forgotten that when it came to naming children her attitude had always been pretty spacey.

I'd asked her why was my brother called James Harvey. Nobody anywhere in the family was or had ever been a James, let alone a Harvey- a name I'd never even heard, apart from the rabbit. And she said she couldn't remember why "James" but Harvey was the name of the village blacksmith and when the godfather hadn't turned up for the christening, they asked the blacksmith to fill in.

Then there was the question of my name. My mother, having lost her brother when he was twelve and then her beloved Alice, said she didn't believe in God. So, why, said I in my Christopher-Columbus-Age-of-Discovery-years, why was I called Mary Christine?
No-one in the family was a Mary or a Christine. "Why am I named Mother of God and Follower of Christ?"
And my mother said "Um," in the good old English way. She didn't know why.

But I'm just the same: my brother's cat was called Mittens but for the life of me I can't remember why I called my cat Sam.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Naming Orchids

I don't quite know how it started. Dr Motes and I are both English graduates, we like playing around with words. We're very competitive. He may have a Phd (English/Philosophy) but I can keep up. I have an English degree (as in from England) Upper Second Honors - back in the day when degrees were degrees. Hhrrumph, hhrrumph.

And we had fun right from the start, cocky English majors on the orchid breeding scene: you're calling your new hybrid Joe Bloggs Joy? Ha! We'll raise you Motes Jubilation! You're trotting out that old chestnut, Joe Bloggs Beauty? How about Motes Resplendent! Gotcha! And there was Hot Chestnut and Ruby Tuesday and Toledo Blue (though as Dr Motes remarks ruefully, all the others turned out pink.)

We had our spice series: Motes Nutmeg, Ginger Hot, Cinnamon: our African series...Motes Sahara, Motes Kalihari, and did we have Zanzibar? I know I was rooting for Zanzibar...

And just the word Miami was hot: Motes Miami Primrose, Miami Snowdrop, Miami Mandarin. And no Joe Bloggs Gold - let's have Motes Sunlit, Motes Gold Piece, Motes Burning Sands...
We always had a good dose of family. You can tell some of the earliest crosses: first was father's name, then mother, sister, then my mother, then Bart and Alice, the two children who keep reappearing.

And then we got into the naming of friends and dearly departed and that can be a problem. There is the naming of the orchid and the sending in of the registration to the Royal Horticultural Society at Kew, in the UK. And that name is going down in history! WOW! Wonderful! Thank-you, Thank-you! but then the flower dies on the chosen plant, the plant is put back in the midst of all the others... And then disappears or just can't be found at a minute's notice, when the recipient or a relative comes to see and we hear ourselves saying: "Oh, it's here somewhere.." like it's an Extra Large T shirt in a distant pile.

But anyway, what has turned out to be the big joke in all of this, in spite of our spice series, and Miami series, and archival family and old friends series, is that by now I am the person who has more orchids named after her than anyone else. Like I've hogged it -Me! Me! Like Imelda Marcos with shoes.

And my line is always the old wisecrack: "Well, if your husband brings you home flowers, you don't say "Thank you!" you say: "What have you been up to?" So at this rate, whatever it is that Dr. Motes has been up to, is definitely off the charts. Motes himself, he's enigmatic - he just seems intent on keeping the record. Maybe he's angling for -hey-the Guinness Book... Why not?
Motes Orchids could be right up there with the most hot dogs eaten, the tallest man...the biggest cabbage... Watch This Space.