Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 20, 2013

Garrett Leiva: Little help with names appreciated

Local columnist

---- — When it comes to names, I draw a blank — unless the answer is clearly written on a tag with the words “Hello, My Name Is …”

Names escape me. It doesn’t matter if they are on the tip of my tongue or deep in the recesses of my mind. I forget every Tom, Dick and Harriet.

I’ve tried all the business seminar tricks: word association, use the name four times in conversation or picture everyone in their underwear. Names just don’t stick in my cerebrum.

Instead, I just smile and talk with Whatshisface and his wife, you know, Whatshername.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had an uncanny ability to remember names. He told his staff he imagined seeing the person’s name written across their forehead. I need a more permanent reminder — like using a Sharpie.

However, writing a person’s name in ink just above their eyebrows is not a page out of the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s more like court evidence presented before Judge Judy.

My parents gave me an atypical first name; presumably so I wouldn’t forget it. My father says the name inspiration came from the phone book, a co-worker or Wild West sheriff Pat Garrett.

I’m just glad he didn’t resort to random Yellow Page listings. After all, Porta John Leiva would be hard to live down on the school playground.

A child of the 1970s, I was the lone Garret — one “t” or two — in a world of Michaels, Jasons and Jimmys. Teachers never forgot my name; not always advantageous for a fourth grader.

As any parent knows, naming a child can be a daunting proposition. I’m not an etymologist, but every would-be baby name should be scrutinized for future psychiatrist bills. Harry Butz or Ima Hogg – come on, think people.

Of course that doesn’t stop Hollywood celebrities from naming their offspring after map directions, bad wordplay and lazy spelling. How else do you explain North West, Audio Science or Kyd Duchovny?

Then again, parents can pick a perfectly sensible name and their child becomes Captain Fantastic.

A UK newspaper had a story on a Glastonbury, England, teen that legally changed his name to “Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk and The Flash Combined.” At the time, it beat the Guinness Book of World Record’s longest personal name registered on a birth certificate by 24 letters.

The 19-year-old music student said he changed his name “for a bit of a laugh.” No word on his parents’ amusement level.

I’m not sure why people make an impression on me, but their names don’t make a dent. I really can’t expect people to mark up their foreheads on my account.

Name tags would be nice. No more blank stares. I’d instantly know every Tom, Dick and Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk and The Flash Combined.

Reach Garret Leiva care of the Record-Eagle or via email at