A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I am surrounded by people on the quest for a name.

Forget Jason’s Fleece, or the Holy Grail, for this quest trumps them all.  At the end of the day whether for a child, a pet or an inanimate object, a name can ruin a life if it the wrong one.

Sometimes it becomes understandable as to why Deed Poll is necessary

I had the fortune last week to be introduced to a gentleman who’s parents named Jon.  Nothing wrong with the name Jon, perfectly respectable name… but sadly for this gentleman, his surname was Johnson.  Now either his parents were just very unoriginal, or they were being intentionally cruel.  As sympathetic as I am now to Mr Johnson’s plight, at the time I found his very existence amusing.  I felt the edges of my mouth start to crinkle, the witty comments blossoming on my tongue… But upon shaking Mr Johnson’s hand I looked into his eyes, and could see the well-exercised army of conditioned responses lined up ready to defend him against my tirade of currently unaired comments.  He could sense my amusement as much as I wanted to contain it.  Poor guy.

You hear about these people with funny names, but rarely do you get to meet them.  A perverse form of celebrity.  I am proud that upon meeting Mr Johnson, I respected him – made no comment on his name, and in fact forgot about him almost instantly as I was introduced to a number of his colleagues.

It was not until last night, when my husband was playing on his Xbox that I was reminded of Mr Jonathan Johnson, and the path his life must have taken due of a choice that he had no control over…

You see, my husband got Final Fantasy XIII for his birthday (don’t worry, no spoilers – we’re only 3 hours in).  I have been well-trained in the way of the Japanese RPG… but there is something about this particular game that  really gets my goat – the ridiculously stupid names!

For those of you who are familiar with J-RPG or the FF series you’ll be aware that peculiar names are not uncommon and probably not ones you’d find ranking highly in the baby-names books, but they reveal something subtly about the character:

  • Aeris (FF7) from the latin word for air – a character very much linked to nature.
  • Seifer (FF8) pronounced in the same way as the word ‘cipher’, highlighting his insignificant state of being.
  • Kuja (FF9) is a Hindu name meaning ‘Daughter of Earth’ – a bit odd seeing as Kuja in FF9 is a guy – but also highlights his connection to the planet Terra (meaning ‘earth’).

Ok, so it may be that after spending 3 years doing a degree in English Literature I enjoy using my brain and teasing out these little intellectual tit-bits that have been scattered through the games, but I subsequently find some of the names in FFXIII down right daft.  I mean, come on… Lightning?!  Obviously it’s supposed to reflect her lightning reflexes or some such, but I can’t help but think of a lycra-clad blonde swinging a pugil stick.

FF13's Lightning, Snow and Vanille

Actually, I think I could cope with ‘Lightning’.  If she was the only one with a hideous name.

For a warrior an odd name sort of works; I mean Cloud (FF7) and Squall (FF8) had anglicised names that require very-little brain exercise to work out their meanings and I could cope with that.

But the crux of the problem was highlighted when they introduced the eye-rollingly badly named “Snow”  and when I actually laughed at the cut scene when the little boy admits to be named “Hope”.

I feel like my intelligence is being insulted.

From what I’ve seen of the game (very little I hasten to add, and so I may be prejudging these names some-what) Final Fantasy XIII looks phenomenal.  Rescuing the series from the dreary, and instantly forgettable, depths of FF12, Final Fantasy XIII seems to be back on track with a gripping story-line, engaging battle system and top-notch graphics.

Like my meeting with Mr Johnson, I’m sure playing FFXIII will be more enjoyable once I can shake off the nagging awareness of the character’s unfortunate names…

Shakespeare once posed the interesting question :”What’s in a name?” (Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1)).

And for me, it turns out to be a lot.

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