THERE is everything in a name,” pointed out George Ade. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but would not cost half as much during the winter months.” Mark Twain contradicts. Said he: “Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name Bzjxxllwcp is pronounced Jackson.”
On permitting Samuel Goldfish to change his name to Samuel Goldwyn, Judge Learned Hand penned: “A self-made man may prefer a self-made name.” William Hazlitt forwarded: “A nickname is the hardest stone that the devil can throw at a man.”
In all languages, certain names are traditionally used to designate men and others are used for women; a number of English names, such as Evelyn or Leslie, can be used for either sex. Names in themselves have no psychological significance, unless one associates a memorable experience with someone of a particular name.
Given names, known among English-speaking people variously as first names, forenames, or Christian or baptismal names, existed before surnames. Christian influence on first names has been especially strong. In some countries, Brazil, for example, a child must be given an appropriate Christian name before he or she can be issued a birth certificate.
Modern names often are derived from sources such as the names of the months (April, May, June), precious stones (Ruby), popular contemporary personalities (Jose, Bonifacio), flowers (Sampaguita), places (Luzviminda for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao), or figures in classical legend (Diana, Jason). New names are frequently coined from the names of the father and mother (Danele from Daniel and Elena).
Some people change their names or surnames. For instance, you probably wouldn’t recognize Charlton Carter, would you? But as Charlton Heston, you will remember him as one of Hollywood’s best-known actors, noted for his portrayals of epic heroes in large-scale historical dramas as Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur (for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor). Actually, he took the name “Heston” as his screen surname after his mother’s maiden name.
Well, Charlton is just one of them. There are several other famous persons now known by their mothers’ maiden name. Most of them, however, are actors like Buster Keaton (his original surname is Cutler), Paul Newman (Fetzer), Orson Welles (Ives), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Jedrny), Sylvester Stallone (Labofish), Anthony Quinn (Oaxaca), and Rip Torn (Spacek).
It happens that the real surname of Oscar winner Diane Keaton is Hall. As such, she adopted her mother’s maiden name to avoid being mistaken for another actress named Diane Hall.
Shirley MacLaine and her handsome brother, Warren Beatty started life as the Beaty siblings. He added an extra “t” when he started acting and she improvised on her mother’s maiden name, Maclean.
The following singers also use their mothers’ surname: Frank Sinatra (Garaventi), Michael Jackson (Scruse), Mick Jagger (Scutts), Perry Como (Travaglini), and Bruce Springsteen (Zirilli). Johnny Carson is actually Johnny Hook in real life while Mike Tyson is legally Mike Smith.
Most Filipinos are known by our first names (for instance, my friends call me Henry and not Lito). However, there are some instances that people are more popular using their middle names. Our former president Cory Aquino is known as Corazon instead of her first name, Maria.
Here are more people who are better known by their middle names: (Daniel) Louis Armstrong, jazz musician; (Ernst) Ingmar Bergman, director; (Janet) Taylor Caldwell, novelist; (Charles) Robert Cummings, actor; (Ruth) Bette Davis, actress; (Dorothy) Faye Dunaway, actress; (Samuel) Dashiell Hammett, novelist; (Mary) Lauren Hutton, fashion model; (James) Paul McCartney, singer/songwriter; (James) Dan Quayle, U.S. vice-president; (Samuel) Billy Wilder, film writer; (Howard) Andy Williams, singer; and (James) Harold Wilson, British politician.
Other famous people dropped their last names altogether. To name a few: Eddie Albert (Heimberger), Ray Charles (Robinson), Vince Edwards (Zoino), Bela Lugosi (Blasko), Katherine Mansfield (Beauchamp), Carmen Miranda (de Cunha), George Montgomery (Letz), and Roger Vadim (Plemiannkov).
Unknowingly, some people are better known by their initials than by their given names. Consider: W.C. (William Claude) Fields, US actor; B.F. (Benjamin Franklin) Goodrich, US tire manufacturer; D.H. (David Herbert) Lawrence, English writer; H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken, US editor and journalist; O.J. (Orenthal James) Simpson, US football player; and H.G. (Herbert George) Wells, English novelist.
What’s in a name? Plenty, especially if you are a star. In fact, most of them have to adopt a screen name in order for them to be remembered. For instance, no one will ever notice Julia Wells but as Julie Andrews, well, she’s the star of The Sound of Music and other musical films.
More original names of celebrated people: Albert Brooks (believe it or not, he was born Albert Einstein), Ellen Burstyn (Edna Rae Gillooly), Nicholas Cage (Nicholas Coppola), John Denver (Henry John Deutchendorf), Bo Derek (Cathleen Collins), Michael Keaton (he was born Michael Douglas but since there is another actor named such, he changed his screen surname), Susan Sarandon (Susan Tomaling), Charlie Sheen (Carlos Estevez), Sting (Gordon Sumner), and Stevie Wonder (Steveland Morris Hardaway).
Still others never changed their names at all. After all, their names sound like stage names. Here are a few of those who never changed their real names: Ursula Andress, Humprey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Olivia de Havilland, Clint Eastwood, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Dustin Hoffman, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Rudy Vallee, Mercedes McCambridge, and Elvis Presley.