What do names tell us?

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Every year we publish the names of the 400 or so graduates of Oak Park and River Forest High School. Most probably read only one name — to make sure their loved one is represented (and spelled correctly).

But I think names are interesting — and revealing.

Some names on the OPRF list sound literary (e.g. Russell Alger and Thomas Wolfe) while others sound theological (Ndea Allah, Phillip Christian, Jesus Moscosa-Fierro, and Mohammed Haw).

Seven graduating seniors from the class of 2017 are juniors. Lajabdul Bamba Jr., Patrick Chatman Jr., James Faulkner Jr., Brian Holloway Jr., Thomaseno Horn Jr., Sergio Saldado Jr., and Andre Thurmon Jr. Only one "third," Richard Rogers III (presumably not the grandson of the famed Broadway composer) and two fourths, Edward Harrison Gorens IV and Irwin C. Loud IV. It's impossible to have a Roman numeral IV after your name without sounding distinguished. 

Lots of doubles and triples, such as Christian and Christopher Banks-Mitchell who must be related and possibly twins, though you never know. I am, however, fairly sure that if they're related, neither is allowed to call himself "Chris," at least not at home. And if any friends call asking for Chris, all hell must break loose. Meanwhile, a little further down the list, does Christopher Chrisp go by Chris Chrisp?

There are two Andersons, Baldwins, Blankemeiers, Bookers, Butlers, Canars, Carrahers, Coles, Collinses, Coxes, Forehands (Eric and Noah. Are they doubles partners in tennis? Please say yes), Grosses, Hrobowskis (one of whom is named Sinatra Garland Hrobowski, which is my kind of somewhere-over-the-rainbow name), Hunts, Isoms, Iverys, Jeffrieses (all plurals of names that end in "s" are awkward), Kennedy-Woods, Lees, Moore-Fieldses, Muhammads, Mullinses, Munozes, Murrays, Nelsons, Pattersons, Perrys, Quicks, Rodriguezes, Ryans, Sanderses, Sandovals, Scotts, Shaws, Stewerts (Brittney and Briuanna — unusual spelling of the last name and similar first names, so they must be related), Stratmans, Thompsons, Thurmans, and Wilkersons.

And for good measure, there are three Crawfords, Ganesens, Greens, Halls, Hendersons, Jacksons, Kings, Richardsons, and Sullivans.

These two- and threesomes may be wholly unrelated or it may be an indication of the number of twins and triplets in the class of 2017. Are multiple births becoming more frequent?

Other common names include Brown (4), Davis (5), Griffin (5), Johnson (9), Jones (5) (which means, yes, the Joneses are not keeping up with the Johnsons), Miller (7), Moore (4), Peterson (4), Walker (5), Williams (4), and, of course, Smith (10), as plain a surname as you'll find, though the first names certainly are not: Valque, Chloe, Damarco, Desyra, Erik, Nadia, Noah and Tatiana.

A lot of names are just irresistible. Courtney Crook, we trust, is a name that will not prove predictive. She'll probably end up a prosecutor and her husband's last name will be Buster. Chardonnay Star Harris, on the other hand, possibly the best softball pitcher in the state, has already fulfilled the prophecy of her middle name, and Chardonnay is one of the great sports names to come along in quite a while.

Nissa Heaven Desire is a name that must have a story behind it, as must Sincere Hope Santiago. Ian Duignan, meanwhile, makes me itch to write the sentence, "Is Ian Duignan indignant?"

Did Camille Gallo and Carolyn Galo endure any confusion during the last four years? Or Benjamin Paris and Mason Parrish? Catherine Garcia-Goetting indicates an interesting cross-cultural family pairing, as do Celeste Gonzalez-Belobradic, Kyle Rodriguez-Treaseh and Savastiana McCarthy Valle.

Some names are simply a delight to write: Bat Ganbold, Brooklyn Shartzer Hoshell, Brandon Killingsworth (what is the origin of that surname?), Ross Nations, Guinevere Orenstein, Zoe Phillpotts, China Diamond Victor Turner, Hagen Vollrath, Rino Watson, and Lila Wine.

 Some are lovely in their alliteration: Gina Gerace, Gavin Giles, Grace Gleason, Haley Hamilton, and Lashauni Lashley. Legacy Gray is a great name for a character in a novel. Austin Maxwell, coincidentally, is followed alphabetically by Maxwell Maynard. Though no double hyphenated surnames have appeared (yet), Michelle Tonya-Tiara Jeffries may be the first double last name that includes a hyphenated name. Or it's the first hyphenated middle name I've seen.

And speaking of possible future combinations, if Katherine Sang married Joseph Singer, would they become Sang-Singer or Singer-Sang? Sydney Nice and Kyle Nurse, Nice-Nurse or Nurse-Nice? Kinji Ridley and Blair Ripley? Ridley-Ripley (or vice versa) has a nice ring. Katherine Sang, by the way, was the only noun-verb combination, which also qualifies it as a complete sentence. That also applies to the only verb-noun combination, Chase Vaughn.

The class of 2017 boasted plenty of smart kids, but only Allison Smart has the name to live up to. And, finally, it must be noted that in a class with so many interesting names, many of which were unheard of when I graduated from high school in 1970, the list ends with a real Zinger. 

Two of them, actually, Noah and Sophia.

Sophia means wisdom. Noah, of course, had the survival instincts to weather the mother of all rain events. May all the graduates this year cultivate these qualities as they move forward to face their futures — and make a name for themselves.

Contact:
Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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