The power of having a really cool name
How much do names like Dick Manley and Bear Payne shape who you are as a person?
A friend of mine used to work in the Job Centre in Hackney, and regularly dealt with a guy called Claudius Champion. That wasn’t his birth name – he’d changed it to make himself more employable. I wondered if it worked, and tried to track him down, but couldn’t find him to ask, which almost definitely means he’s now employed as a super-spy. Because god damn, yo. Claudius Champion. That’s cool as shit.
Names are important. They differentiate people and give us something to write on our underpants, sure, but they can do, and can be, so much more. Bestowing a name on someone is a huge responsibility. They can shape you. We expect different things from a Tarquin than we do from a Kevin. A kid named Medusa is not going to have exactly the same experiences as she would if she was called Lisa. In the Johnny Cash song ‘A Boy Named Sue’, the narrator is famously toughened up by virtue of being given a girl’s name. A girl born in 2012 who was given the name Hashtag is probably going to find her existence shaped by it at least slightly.
Look at fiction. The Fantastic Four comics contain characters called Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom. One is a goodie and one is a baddie. If you were in trouble and had to call on someone really dependable for help, and you asked the guy named Victor Von Doom, you’d deserve everything you got (some kind of fiery death).
The thing is, though, when you name someone they’re still a baby. As much as it seems weird to look at a baby and go, “Yeah, that’s definitely an Alan”, it seems just as strange to look at one and go, “He looks like an Agamemnon, let’s call him Agamemnon.” Boring names are boring, and it’s no fun being one of five people in your class with the same name, but if you’re bestowed an unusual, epic title, is that something difficult to live up to? I’ll be a father one day – will my children Hercules and Astronaut resent the scale of their names?
Liam Payne and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's new son is pretty much guaranteed to be absurdly good-looking, having won the genetic lottery appearance-wise, but will he grow up cool enough to pull off the name Bear Payne? Bear Payne, man. That's pretty badass. It's a fearsome animal, and then a thing that that fearsome animal can inflict. Nobody's had that combination before, unless there's a dude out there we don't know about named Kitten Snuggles.
When Mr and Mrs Fightmaster called their baby Max, did they know he’d join the army? No idea – it seems fairly plausible that the Fightmaster clan have always moved in military circles (that or Games Workshop). Either way, Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster, who you may remember briefly being internet famous about eight years ago, seems to have lived up to his name rather than being deterred by the pressure of it.
Few people can compete with a name as badass as that, but someone who maybe can is a dude I know off the internet named Dick Manley. Also at one point a military man, he briefly held the full title Lance Bombardier Dick Manley of the Horse, which is a name so virile that reading it renders you pregnant.
“My name made a pretty good icebreaker at university,” says Manley. “If one uses the clearly made-up name of some unimaginative male porn talent, and then it turns out to be true, one is already five minutes into a conversation.” Is there not pressure with such an alpha-y, none-more-masculine name, though? “It affects people’s expectations of me,” says Manley. “Somehow I’m expected to be witty and erudite and brave and maybe even something of a Lothario. My impression is that some people consider the name a challenge, or perhaps a boast. They then look for me to fail, as if I had declared my superiority by daring to be Dick Manley and I needed bringing down a peg or two.” Rather than seeing this as a burden, though, Manley sees it as a “built-in arsehole detector”.
What about names that just sound cool? For this I turned to Harrison Wild, a man with the face of a young Dave Grohl, the name of a sexy space highwayman and a really nice shop in Knutsford catering to men too tall for regular clothes. “I think having my name has had a positive effect,” he says. “I think it’s made people remember me a little more, even if I’ve had to convince them it’s my real name first. If people hear your name before they meet you, they want to see what kind of person would be called that. If I had a different name, I might have ended up as a different person.”
LA-based filmmaker and actor Kansas Bowling owes her name to hippie parents. She managed to write and direct a feature film at the age of 17 – could there be some link between kick-ass nomenclature and the confidence to do such a thing? “My name seems completely normal to me,” says Bowling. “But every so often I’ll have an existential moment where it really strikes me as odd. There have probably been some opportunities presented to me because of my name, since it’s more memorable than some others. However, there have been opportunities I’ve missed out on as well, as sometimes people think a bowling alley is contacting them.”
With all this in mind, and Bowlarama vetoed as a first name, it’s hard to argue against going for it, throwing as much awesomeness at a kid as you can. And I’m sure, when their time comes, Keanu Mastodon Rampton and Balloon Tyrannosaurus Rampton will agree.