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June 07, 2002
What's in a Name?

Bell Hooks. Bell Hooks. That's capital B, capital H. What's that, Bell? You want to be called "bell hooks," sans capitals? Too bad. I'm a capitalist, this is English, and you are Bell by God Hooks. So get over yourself. Edward E. Cummings you ain't. Old E.E. did enough damage of his own, sparking a trend that has culminated decades later in pathetically insecure people who indicate first person in their emails with "i" instead of "I."

Somehow Bell has cowed everyone into going along with what has been rightly labeled a pretentious affectation. Even the archconservative Frontpage Magazine affords her the lower case in its coverage of her ridiculous commencement speech to Southwestern University graduates, albeit denoted with "sic." It's time somebody nipped this in the bud.

Everyone, meet Bell Hooks. Bell, say hello to everyone. What's that? Feeling oppressed by my patriarchal capitalist assignation? Pretty girlish of you, don't you think? Stop being so emotional.

And while I'm picking on names, I'd like the following people to come to the front of the class: Cher, Sting, Madonna, Sade, Seal, Prince (don't even try that "Artist formerly known as" bit with me, you midget weasel), and Bono. Now, all of you bend over for the good swift kick in the sequined stretch pants you each deserve. Perhaps nobody told you, but there is a two-name minimum in this country. Three is fine, four if someone in your family wore a grey uniform and shot Yankees back in the 1860's. You can go by your first name when you've slain Goliath, or parted the Red Sea, or gotten yourself resurrected. And no, Cher, your career doesn't count. Even our non-biblical one-name heroes go by a last name: Washington, Lincoln, McArthur, Flutie.

And what's with these wannabe one-name stars? You've seen them; they crop up occasionally in teen-market movies and pop music bands, with names like "Chayenne" and "Simone." Now, I know I'm not the target demographic, but it seems that anybody who introduces himself with just a first name is begging to be given a last name, most likely containing the suffix "-hole." You want to know who goes by a first name only? My neighbor's dog.

And he's got more talent.

UPDATE: Scutum Sobieski explains that Sade is actually the name of the group, not just the singer. Apparently it was important to him that you know this, as he was willing to admit that he actually has this information close at hand.

Posted by Woodlief on June 07, 2002 at 03:30 PM


Speaking of irritating affectations: can we smack people who run around typing "i" for "I"?

By the way, really like your elegant new digs.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 7, 2002 5:10 PM

I like leaving off the period that should rightly follow the one-letter abbreviation I use for my last name. It looks kinda European without the period, I think. Europeans are cool. Cool

Posted by: Jeff G at June 7, 2002 5:40 PM

Bono, at least early on, had a last name: Vox.

And what about bandmate The Edge? Do his friends call him "The"?

Posted by: CGHill at June 7, 2002 8:47 PM

Actually, "Sade" is the name of the group. Sade Adu is the lead singer of the group, but "Sade" also consists of Paul S Denman, Andrew Hale, and Stuart Matthewman.

I forget where I saw it (one of their album's liner notes, possibly), uses the phrase "Sade are:" and then lists all four of them, so this is more than just pedantry on my part.

Posted by: scutum at June 7, 2002 10:36 PM

Bono's real name is Paul Hewson. His name comes from a childhood nickname -- apparently there was a hearing-aid shop in the neighborhood called Bono Vox. (Gosh I wonder if his pals were telling him something.) The Edge's real name is David Evans; apparently his bandmates just call him "Edge."

Sting's real name is Gordon Sumner. (Or was that Adam Ant's real name? I always get them mixed up.) I have a story I read in an old Creem magazine. Bono staggered over to Sting (they were doing some charity thing or big mega concert somewhere). He was drunk and so was Sting. Sting looked at Bono and slurred, "Oh, it's Bozo." Bono replied, "It's String, isn't it?"

Livin' in the Eighties, people.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 8, 2002 2:20 AM

Uh-oh, bustin' me, Tony. I often sign off with a lower-case s in print, because I like the symmetry of my name - susanna - all straight, no ups and downs. Not an ego thing, an asthetic issue, but probably no less a conceit, yes?

However, my signature is all about flourished capitals, including my middle initial, so does that redeem me from the sin of lower-case?

Posted by: susanna at June 8, 2002 10:46 AM

Can there be a dispensation for Japanese guys who hit over .350?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan at June 8, 2002 12:12 PM

Sting is indeed Gordon Sumner, which imputes a vaguely-bad pun to the album Ten Summoner's Tales. I often imagine Trudie Styler - Mrs Sting - giving the guy a dope slap for something or other and saying "Geez, Gordo, get a grip."

Stuart Goddard is The Artist Currently Known As Adam Ant.

Posted by: CGHill at June 8, 2002 12:20 PM

It seems the world is full of the AOL chatroom typers: "How R U? A/S/L? KWIM?" In truth, if anybody dares to contact me using those cursed forms of expression, I do not reply.
But I, like Susanna, use lower case on my name, but only on the web. In my handwriting, my "A" is huge.

Posted by: annessa at June 8, 2002 4:48 PM

Amen, brother!

Posted by: The Dodd at June 8, 2002 4:49 PM

I dunno. I've always figured that people have the right to be called what they want to be called. This is America, land of the self-made-man (or woman).

And what about Moon Unit Zappa? Is "Moon Unit" her first name? Or her first name "Moon", middle name "Unit"?

What's really confusing, though, are the Englishmen (and women) who have two last names. Now that's confusing.

Posted by: Frankenstein at June 8, 2002 9:04 PM

The only handy reference for Ms Zappa is my copy of the "Valley Girl" single (Barking Pumpkin WS9-02972), which is credited to "Frank & Moon Zappa" on the picture sleeve. This would seem to suggest that Unit is her middle name, and that's about as far as I want to go with this, especially since only Frank is credited on the label. (Moon gets a co-composer credit.)

At least it isn't Dweezil.

Posted by: CGHill at June 8, 2002 10:39 PM

Annessa, I've never heard of handwriting making somebody's A look huge. Usually it's a bad camera angle. ;)

Posted by: Tony at June 8, 2002 10:41 PM

Why is it every time I see/hear Bono now, all my brain will process is the sound-clip of Butthead saying, "Yes sir. That's my Boner."

Posted by: robyn at June 9, 2002 5:18 PM

In printers lingo, one of those weird symbols is called a "dingbat". Which is how I've always thought His Purpleness' name/symbol should be pronouced.

And what's this about Bono is Africa? I thought Cherilyn's ex had skiied himself into a tree.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 9, 2002 7:07 PM

You know Tony, after I posted that comment, I re-read it and KNEW that I'd worded it incorrectly. I was hoping that no one would catch it. Thanks for noticing. And my A's on camera look just fine, thankyouverymuch. ;)

Posted by: annessa at June 9, 2002 9:15 PM

What's even more confusing than Englishmen with two last names, are Englishmen with two last names that aren't pronounced anything like they're spelled.

Case in point: Cholomondeley Featherstone-Haugh, pronounced Chumley Fanshaw.

But better that than no last name at all.

Posted by: Dave Trowbridge at June 9, 2002 11:29 PM

Don't forget Raymond Luxury-Yacht (pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove.")

Posted by: Joe Geoghegan at June 10, 2002 11:14 AM

To balance annessa and susanna, I use caps in my name except in my signature.
I decided, half my life ago, that the caps just looked out of place.

Posted by: Anton Sherwood at August 7, 2002 1:53 AM

In regards to Moon... I believe her first/given name is "Moon" , an Americanized version of Luna... Unit symbolizes that she is the first familial unit..aka oldest sibling.... and Zappa... well. But that is only second hand from the master's mouth. peace.

Posted by: P at October 11, 2003 10:04 PM

I see that this argument has been ignored for quite a while but I feel the need to respond. bell hooks does not ignore the rules of grammar just to be cute or because she's too lazy to push the shift key while typing. Instead, hooks is challenging the entire system currently in place, a system based on egoistic patriarchy. Therefore, she uses a name to honor her mother and grandmother and she leaves off the capital letters to show that her work is about the work and the goal rather than the individual behind it. So, I'm sorry to single-named "Woodlief" to rain on your parade but I think -- though you're more than welcome to share your opinion -- you're just wrong.

Posted by: Betsey at July 20, 2004 5:32 PM