What’s in a name?
When choosing for their kids, pets, or boats, some people try to embody the character they perceive within them. Others attempt to reflect their hopes and dreams for them. A third set will seek to honor someone in the past by bringing a name back into the present. And a fourth set, perhaps out of step with the first three, will just grab for some character from whatever TV or movie franchise happens to be hot at the time.
I belong to this last set. I’m pretty sure that, over my wife’s objections, our next dog will be called Voldemort.
And finally, there are those who, in naming their boats, just like to display a fondness for wordplay.
Wordplay’s greatest practitioners, of course, imbue their linguistic fireworks with meanings that transcend mere cleverness. But most of us do not attain to that ideal. Furthermore, the bottom of our barrel of lingustic talent holds many who appear insensible to the unhappy connotations their boat names carry.
Let’s consider one such person’s literary output.
To people of certain minimum ages or levels of cultural awareness, the reference to the popular Depression Era song, or, perhaps, to TV comedy’s 1970s-era look back at the 1950s, is clear enough. What is less clear is the reason for the pun. In certain contexts, the word “daze” might loosely be associated with giddiness, which in turn might loosely be associated with with joy, which would be all very nice. But on the back of this motorized vessel, it rather seems to suggest drunken driving.
Let’s consider another somewhat more complex example.
Here, we have a pun on a word in the well known name of a widely revered social ritual. The vessel’s name simultaneously hints at the owner’s cultural identification and invokes the physical phemonenon associated with the movement of a boat through water. This boat name would have been a dead ringer, had it not been for the fact that the ritual invoked actually does happen in the context of death.
I suspect insensibility here. But I allow that this boat’s owner might indeed have been fully aware of the name’s associations, and might just have chosen to indulge the morbid side of his sense of humor.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, when dealing with something as personal as a boat name, we owe it to others to exercise good will and make all allowances.
Still, after all allowances are made and all good will expended, it seems to me in the end that some boat names are just. . . Not Right.
“Irish Wake” by Pamela Webster.
All others by Mike Webster.