Friday, March 5, 2010

What's in a name? - Episode II

I have already spoken somewhat on the Eric thing.  These days I use Eric Aadhaar O'Gorman, and for the last twelve years or so have been known by either and both of those two first names. To give you the full list, it's

Swami Dhyan Aadhaar Eric Paul Joseph O'Gorman.

And of course, all of these words have some meaning. I was the firstborn son of a married couple, Mr and Mrs O'Gorman.  My mother took her husband's surname upon marriage as was almost always the custom in Christianophile 1960's Australia - among Christians and non-Christians alike.  This explains my surname well enough I guess, and we already know the story of my first name.  I'm not sure that anyone knows exactly how the Paul got in there.  It seemed that everyone I went to school with had a second name, so it must have been the done thing.  My mother had one too, but my father did not.  My sister subsequently got one too, when she was brought into being.

My father was a Catholic, and my mother had been brought up with a mishmash of protestant faiths to serve as religious guidance, and had few if any qualms about 'converting' to Catholicism in order to marry my father.  I think It was fairly usual for Catholics in Australia at the time to choose saint's names for their children's second names, if there were no other specific family naming traditions to hand down.  I do remember asking, but I don't remember any answer.  Probably they just thought it sounded OK and it ended an otherwise endless discussion.  "Paul, that'll do."

Or, and this has actually just occurred to me, it may have been something to do with my father's father.  Can't believe this hasn't occurred to me before now.

I discovered my grandfather's full name at his funeral.  He was quite a character, really.  But that, as they say, is another story.  The regular parish priest, who knew my grandfather well enough, was I think in hospital or otherwise indisposed around that time, and another temporary priest had been called in for the time being.  He'd not been there long, and was blessed with a delightfully rich Irish brogue.  The accent, not the shoe.  Priests always had terrible shoes.

Anyway, things were underway and for once I was not an altar boy for this service, it being my family and all.  The priest does his usual opening lines and prayers etc and then, opening his hands in that most priestly inclusive gesture, intones

"We are gathered here today to commemorate the passing of " (checks notes) 'Vincent de Paul O'Gorman?.....IS THIS SOME SORT OF JOKE????"

He nearly roars, not angrily as such, more just genuinely shocked and bewildered.  This is met with muffled titters from the congregation, as it is so weirdly appropriate to have this confusion and sudden outburst at old Vincent's funeral.  For years he'd been insisting on attending mass whenever he was well enough on a Sunday, sitting in the front row so he could hear, and promptly falling asleep.  Only to wake up startled at some random moment and shout "EH? WHAT DID HE SAY? EH?" or "WHY IS HE HOLDING HIS HANDS THAT FUNNY WAY?" or something equally mortifying for we, his grandkiddies, trying to behave, not laugh, and salvage some sort of coolness with our present peers.  As if.

For those who didn't get the reference, St Vincent de Paul is a Catholic saint (from the late 15th Century) who was a priest famous among many things for ministering to the poor and lots of very positive social works.  The name is well known in Australia at least through the Society of the same name which runs a charity for the poor and chains of thrift shops (with now a few more upmarket retro clothes recycling stores called "Vinnie's Boutiques").  I have certainly never heard of anyone having the middle name "de Paul" and chances are it was just some odd thing his parents did.  No idea, and it's certainly too late to ask now.

So, just maybe, that's where my Paul came from.  If this was the case, how frightfully conservative and play-it-safe were my parents not giving me the "de".  I don't mind the Paul part, but fantasising about it now, life may have been just that morsel more unusual had I landed the "de."

to be continued.....

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