Write Again … ‘But Francis is a lovely name’

Published 5:57 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lo, these many, many years later, I still recall my mother telling the story of my enrollment at Saint Agnes Academy. It was either kindergarten or first grade, but there’s no one now I might ask to find out.
In my mother’s telling of it, it went like this:
“What is your child’s name, Mrs. Houston?” asked Mother DeShontel.
“His name is Francis Bartow Houston Jr,” my mother replied.
“And you call him Francis.”
“No, Mother. We call him Bartow.”
“Ah. But Francis is a lovely name, Mrs. Houston.”
Point taken.
And now, with the first ever Pope Francis, those of us who carry this name can take pride in it, and be pleased we are reminded of its original masculine etymology.
For those of us who know the story of Saint Francis of Assisi, we are proud to bear the name. Verily.
Some children are given names, and nicknames, that may “work” when they are young, but don’t seem quite appropriate for adulthood.
Then some are given names that almost defy phonics in the spelling. Seemingly made-up names. Hard to pronounce, and harder to spell. The ones who bear these names have no say so in the matter, of course.
And, there are always those names that are popular at the time. For a time. Then, it’s on to the next trend. Just human nature, I suppose, as in other aspects of life: fashion trends, hairstyle (head and face), language, political predilections, and on and on.
The Bard of Avon, old Willie himself, perhaps captured it best with his immortal line “What’s in a name?”
No child’s name should be denigrated or ridiculed, regardless of how some might view it. We can all agree on this, whatever one’s personal preferences.
And, in time, some of us come to appreciate more fully a name that didn’t always seem to serve us well.
As Mother DeShontel said, “But Francis is a lovely name, Mrs. Houston.”
It always has been.