A former Brit makes the case for a non-U baby name
So who knew?
I mean, who knew that my name is so utterly non-U?
Now, to an American, non-U is anathema. But to a Brit, like me (and that’s what I was till I took the pledge and became (Anglo) American), non-U pegs you forever as distinctly NOT upper class – get it? NON-U!
I think that’s why I love America. For the most part, we do live up to our democratic beliefs and origins. Here you really can grow up to be anything you want (well almost, anyway). Everybody is non-U, honestly, even those who think they are very U.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Royals. I do. I capitalize the R automatically. And the Royals are the best thing for tourism there can be. Since I still have beloved family across the pond, I do want the British economy to be strong and remain secure.
Even with time and distance separating me from my land of birth, there is nothing more fun than to see all the Royals, including that bad red-headed boy Harry, in the flesh, so to speak, as I did a few weeks ago. There, on the Mall in London, I stood with American friends to watch them roll in gilded carriages past crowds of onlookers on their way to the Trooping the Color ceremonies held annually to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday. Accompanied by extraordinary marching bands and soldiers in red coats and bearskin hats, it was a sight to see.
If you’re curious to know whatever it is I am talking about -- all this U and non-U stuff -- then pay attention to this excerpt from a recent baby-anticipation story by NPR's Philip Reeves:
RACHEL JOHNSON: In this country, your name is a detail signifier of your class, almost your education and background, as well, and antecedents.
REEVES: Rachel Johnson is a writer and a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.
JOHNSON: If you're royal, you use royal, accepted regal names like George and Charles and James and Victoria and Elizabeth and Catherine. These are names for kings and queens.
REEVES: Years ago, the English used to talk about something being U and non-U. U stands for upper class. Non-U is everyone else. You still sometimes hear these terms. They apply to names, too, says Johnson.
JOHNSON: And I would say that Barry is a non-U name.
REEVES: Michal Gorski has lived in England for many years, sailing around in a houseboat - which, at present, is moored in a waterway close to the hospital where the royal baby will be born. Gorski says the English are not the only ones with foibles about royal names. He's Polish, yet he, too says the future queen of England could never be a Sharon.
GORSKI: Sharon, I think is too popular. I think it's too common. I think it's too common.
REEVES: You've inherited the English snobbishness.
GORSKI: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, I'm not too...
REEVES: You've been here too long. You've been here too long.
GORSKI: I've been here too long, and I kind of - well, I understand the way. I understand the way.
So there you have it. Even the British oddsmakers won't take much of a bet on the new heir to the throne being named after this Royal-watcher. I'm just too, well, non-U.
And, if you care what I think: If it’s a boy, I’m voting for the name Barry. It has a certain ring to it; I mean, don’t you just love the sound of HRH King Barry?
Listen to the full NPR story here.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]