In a Name

In some  reading completely unrelated to last month’s Monday Project theme, I came across this article on onomastics. It’s funny to think that the way in which we organise people names now is not how it’s always been, and it’s not even how it is in all the cultures that exist on this planet right now. Maiden names, at least in the way we think about them, are mostly a Western society concern.

I remember writing an essay for uni a few years ago (well, okay, probably five years ago) for a subject called something like ‘Mass Media in Asia’ and getting very confused about how to correctly site a Chinese academic. Which of the names on the page was his family name, and which was his given name? I know that in a lot of Asian countries the order in which those names appear is different, and I was concerned about committing some kind of citation faux pas, especially because my tutor was Chinese. I probably should have been more concerned about getting the essay written, really, but that’s another story.

I ended up emailing the tutor to ask. He was helpful and kind in his response — but he probably thought it was hilarious.

I’m not sure I have a point here, but I have a feeling that this theme will continue to run around in my head, and I might find myself reading more about anthroponomy than is probably healthy.

I’m being a little lazy, so I’ve also posted this on themondayproject.com.

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Monday Project: ‘Marrying left your maiden name disused’

“I would’ve had something more exciting for you if I’d known you’d be home,” she says. Click, click, as first one side of the plate’s rim hits the table and then the other, louder than she’d planned. He looks up at her. For the first time she sees their age difference in the small lines around his middle-aged eyes. He looks odd surrounded by his tiny children. He tries to catch her hand, but she moves to sit on the other side of the table.

Bella slides Sally’s peanut butter sandwich across the table on its plate. Their hands touch on the side of the plate and Anthony’s fingers find the crease at the centre of her palm. He frowns at her, a question, and she forces a smile in response.

“Is Charlotte still coming over Mummy?” Thomas says.

Her hands freeze, halfway to her mouth with her sandwich. “No darling.”

“But it’s Wednesday.”

Anthony looks up from feeding Sally. Bella puts her hand on Thomas’ head. Quick learner, already ready for school, his preschool teacher had said. “Yes, it is. But Charlotte can’t come today. She has to work.”

“Will you go to the library another day?” Bella’s eyes feel dry, she didn’t know how he knew — he must have overheard her and Charlotte. Thomas feels the extra weight in his mother’s hand and looks at his plate, sensing he has said the wrong thing. Bella feels sick for him, even as she wishes she could feed his words back into his mouth.

“The library?” Anthony says.

That enormous wooden table with the olive-green leather top, the librarian’s matching favourite cardigan; the spines of books paving a seemingly endless path for her walking fingertips.

He blinks at her slowly. She smiles.

“Must be nearly time for you to get back to work.” The scrape of her chair on the kitchen floor is loud. She lifts Sally from him lap. “Don’t go back hungry.” Anthony’s sandwich is still untouched.

They sit in silent, Thomas looking at his plate. Anthony watches Bella feed Sally the rest of her sandwich, his chewing slow, automatic.

Late again! Sigh. But this is my submission for this month’s Monday Project theme. This is obviously incomplete — it’s a very small part of a short story I’m working on at the moment. The story is far from finished (unfortunately, I have to hand it in for uni next Tuesday) so I’m only sharing a tiny piece. Any feedback would be more than welcome!