Hay’s Daze: What’s in a name?

U of Eh? U of See. RDU. Red Deer University. Simple and obvious, a winner, really. Our Mayor Tara Veer called it “authentic.” A former student (my rotten kid) called it the best possible name. And the other rotten kid pointed out that it’s good that it doesn’t have an unfortunate acronym like her alma mater SFU.

Wasn’t it Juliet who said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? She certainly had a point, but as the innocent star-crossed lovers found out, a name can be mighty important, especially if your last name is Capulet and his is Montague. Or Hatfield and McCoy. Or Trump and Clinton.

What’s in a name? A lot, actually. Get a load of Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the Worst Band Names Ever. These are not just obscure garage bands from Loserville, Wisconsin, these are actual successful bands with records and fans and everything.

Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head. Toad the Wet Sprocket. Hoobastank. And hey, would you go to a concert featuring the Scottish band called Dogs Die in Hot Cars?

And speaking of self-important, ego-inflated rock stars, what’s the deal with all those random, invented single names? Sting (Gordon Sumner), Bono (Paul Hewson), his U2 band mate The Edge (David Evans), Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea (Michael Balzary), the singer called Pink (Alecia Moore) or the hairy-headed guitar-slinger Slash (Saul Hudson).

And what about those Canadian singers, like the guy who calls himself The Weeknd (with no “e” in “end”) or the girl going by the name Lights. I mean, what wrong with their real names: Abel Makkonen Tesfaye and Valerie Anne Poxleitner? Ok, bad example.

But it kind of makes you wonder – what would your superstar, rock star single name mashup be if you could choose one?

Fryingpan? BlueCross? Snowshovel? Dentures?

For the younger readers, how about NintendoNerd or StudentLoan or SkipTheDishes?

I would maybe personally go with something classy and appropriate, like Soreknee or Backspasm.

But the good thing about the one-name affectation is you avoid unfortunate acronyms like the one for Simon Fraser University. You’ve got to be very careful with acronyms; they can sneak up and bite you where you don’t want to be bitten.

Actual real examples from the interweb include: The Kelly Kirby Kindergarten (K.K.K.) piano method, St. Thomas University of Public International Diplomacy, or S.T.U.P.I.D. for short, and Biologically Appropriate Real Foods, or B.A.R.F.

In fact, political parties have a real knack for the head-scratching, “what-were-they-thinking?” type of acronyms. Remember the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party which acronymed out to CCRAP? And of course there was the United Conservative Party, or UCP, whose acronym one wag remarked should have the slogan: “The Future is Yellow!”

And then there are the famous acronyms that most of us didn’t even know stood for anything. Like WD-40 which is actually Water Displacement-40th formula. SPAM (the original mystery meat substance, not the computer type) stands for Shoulder of Pork and Ham. TASER stands for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle. And good old Swedish IKEA is named for the founder’s initials – Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd. (Great decision on not using your whole name, there Ingvar!)

Speaking of names, personal monikers are a whole new kettle of worms. I personally know a Dusty Rhodes and am dying to meet a Ben Dover or an Ida No. And wouldn’t it be great to say: “Hi, my name’s Cliff, drop over sometime”?

So, yes, a name is important, and I think they got RDU right. And if they ever want to become a Star Wars University, R2D2U would be a slam dunk.

Harley Hay is a writer and filmmaker in Red Deer.

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