Friday, February 22, 2008

Being Dave

In today's Times David Aaronovitch writes about how 2008 is the year of David (or at least Dave). The prominent Davids consulted in the sidebar have all had the same crisis at one time or another - the fact that their friends all prefer the shortened form, which somehow makes you sound like a painter and decorator.

I was Dave from my teens on. It was only when my shortened name first appeared in print on a review in the NME that my mother said, with a smidge of asperity, "you have a perfectly nice name, please use it." (I have since discovered that a parent says this with the same emotional force that they might say "don't marry that man" or "don't tattoo yourself all over". Because they don't want to see what they've brought into the world irredeemably ruined.)

Since then I have been David professionally even though my work friends call me Dave. Anybody I know through my wife calls me David. Was it Thelma in The Likely Lads who fought a losing battle against her husband being called Bob because she felt it might impede their social ascent?

People who don't know me but are vaguely aware that some people call me by the diminutive compromise by referring to me as "Mr Hepworth", which remains stranded somewhere between sarcasm and matiness.


  1. Interesting. I was christened Andrew, adopted Andy in my teens in a bid to sound a bit cooler, then reclaimed Andrew as I left college in order to sound a bit more professional. Those who know me from my teens and early student years still call me Andy. Everyone else calls me Andrew. If anyone who doesn't know me shortens it to Andy, I bristle. (I also tweaked my surname so that it began with a K in the mid-80s, which was a Goth thing and I quickly evolved past that.)

  2. Anonymous2:02 pm

    I'm a David living in Liverpool, where shortening names is an art form. There's a guy in our football club called Ian, whose name is somehow shortened to "I" (prnounced "ee")! I've given up saying "No, it's David" now as no-one listens anyway, but I hate it. It's the assumed matiness that I can't abide. Only my long standing friends from school (both of them!) call me Dave; everyone else who knows me well calls me David.

    (And is it just me, or does the link in David's orignal blog entry not take you to an earlier blog of Mr Aaronovitch's...?)

  3. Fixed now.
    Well spotted, David.

  4. My father was a David. No one ever called him Dave, to my knowledge. Just didn't fit. My parents christened me Luke but didn't like the monosyllabic 'Luke Hare' so nicked 'Lucas' from Paul Newman's character in Cool Hand Luke. The conclusion is that I want to be Luke to everyone, but Luke Hare to no one. It's a bloody nightmare. People call me Lucas - how would they know otherwise? - and they sound like one of my old teachers reprimanding me.

  5. I have a long christian name and I've never liked it. I shortened it as soon as I could, and now people aren't even aware of my 'old' name.

    For me, it was reinvention.

  6. Anonymous3:24 pm

    I was brought up in North Wales in the '70s and '80s. There were 3 Matthews in a class of 15, so I was always called by my full name, Matthew Ball, even during football at play time. The Welsh never seemed to shorten christian names. I first encountered it when I moved to London at 16 and since then I've been called Matt, Matty, Matty Ball, and Bally.

    I was called Bollocks at school for a while by the older boys. Not knowing what bollocks meant I asked my mum and she side stepped by saying it meant a "young bull" which left me a little confused.

  7. Anonymous3:31 pm

    Actually, thinking about it, it could have been worse. Mum wanted to call me Davey. Dad put his foot down. Firmly. Thanks Dad!

    (And "Andy Kollins" what were you thinking!? There was a guy in my year at University who called himself "Niq". I suspect he's reverted to Nick by now...)

  8. Anonymous3:59 pm

    I'm Ken to all, though it took my parents about 30 years to catch on. To be honest, I don't like it much but I just don't recognise myself as a 'Kenneth', any more than I would call myself 'Josephine' or 'Barabas'.
    A friend of mine has parents who subscribe to the idea that names mustn't be shortened (with the addad complication of Catholicism, so a saint's name was essential). He got lumbered with Blaise, which does at least have the virtue of being unusual.


  9. I have long first name and the only time it's used in full is when some thing bad happens ie being called into see the Doctor or being abraided by parents of loved ones.
    What about Davey? or D?

  10. Anonymous4:25 pm

    I never really understood my friend Dave's antipathy towards the shortening of his name until they renamed that blokey TV channel 'Dave'. Then it all became horribly clear...

    (I'm happy with Steve though)

  11. I've always been a Dick. Just something I've learned to live with.

  12. Anonymous11:48 pm

    All right you lot, it's not all about whether your names were shortened or not, you know. The Times piece was really about whether names affect one's outcomes in life; giving wonderful examples, like Martin Amis' demolition of the name Tim, which I had forgotten about but which is Amis at his vicious best. Aaronivitch was really saying, names do matter. Seem to recall one W. Shakespeare musing on the subject, so this one might run and run. (By the way I simply cannot believe Aaronovitch didn't mention Dave in 2001, for gawd's sake, how can you write a piece about the name Dave without that? Talk about an open goal.)

  13. I'm known by my middle name, as are my sister and brother. I think it was going round our village at the time - my mum's friend's kids are all known by their middle names, too. Maybe it was a mid-sixties aspirational thing. Now when I get called by my first name, I know there is a hospital or money involved.

    And as for whether your name shapes you, I doubt it. If I'd been christened Jesse James, I'm not convinced it would have made me want to rob a bank.

  14. Dave Gilmour gets very sniffy about being called 'Dave' these days doesn't he? In fact I thing Roger Waters still insists on calling him Dave just to wind him up. Mark Radcliffe interviewed Gilmour once, and made the mistake of calling him 'Dave'. Gilmour corrected him by saying 'My name's David'. To which Radcliffe replied 'It says 'Dave Gilmour' on my copy of Dark Side of the Moon so that is what I shall call you.'

    I used to be uncomfortable being called Dick but I kind of like it now.

  15. Can't help thinking there's something telling that so many of people posting about their name were anonymous.

  16. Anonymous11:53 am

    As a child I hated having been given a monosyllabic name, but now I'm very happy about that.
    As far as referring to you as Mr Hepworth goes on the Word forum, I think Dave is far too familiar. However it is a community where there are regular posters. I'm not quite sure how the relationship should be characterised; we don't know each other formally but we do share views, agree with or contradict each other etc so there is some sort of relationship. On that basis referring to you as David Hepworth sound a bit too formal and Mr Hepworth is to my mind a reasonable compromise. And you are one of the very few forum contributors whose first and last names are known.

  17. Judging by the Aaronovitch article the Amis article on Tim Henman sounds a bit dull to me. The name lacks gravity but there are different ways to win and there have been stars like McEnroe and Cruyff who have hardly embodied gravity. Juvenility more like, the type that's happy to spend hours perfecting a skill. Boy's name 'Tim' is fitting and more than that, maybe it's a bonus if your wussy name reduces distractions and gives you something to prove (even though 'man's game' is kind of an oxymoron anyway).

    To sort of touch on the original subject, the name Tim could be the equivalent of David Beckham's voice.

  18. Anonymous12:28 am

    My name is Huw, which is the Welsh spelling, and I like it. I have no problem wih it being shortened (it would be very difficult), unfortunately some people want to lengthen it to Hughie/Huey which I cannot abide.

  19. I've always called myself Matthew, and left it entirely up to others as to whether they call me Matt, which my colleagues at college decided to do. I draw the line at Matty, mind. Ugh.

  20. And I am a Judith. My friends and my mam, dad and brothers have always called me Jude, and when I started being a so-called music writer, I decided Jude Rogers sounded better. Partly this was because the name was nicely ungendered, and I did have a glorious moment several years ago when someone called me up at Word and demanded loudly and rudely that they speak to "Jude Rogers and not his PA". I very much enjoyed putting them right. Also in my early days of writing, I was been commissioned to write several things on the assumption that I was male. The shock these editors received hearing a Welsh woman talk down the phone to them was telling, if slightly depressing in the 21st century.

    However, the main thing was that I thought the name Judith was terribly old-fashioned. After all, most Judiths you find these days are 60 rather than 30. But I am becoming very fond of it again. My boyfriend calls me Judith now and I don't even growl. Also, I signed up to something recently and when someone called me Judith on the phone I had a nice warm glow.

    I am truly turning into my mother.

  21. I'm a Dave/David/Davey.. Frankly, which variant has never bothered me.. My family called me Davey, only my Grandmother would resort to DAVID!! Or occasionally "ya little twat" when issuing retribution to some misdemeanour, when no one else was in ear-shot. Most people & work colleagues call me Dave. My close friends generally call me Davey. Oddly my MD calls me Davey… Or am I mistaking that we "ya little twat" was in ear-shot.

  22. Anonymous2:16 pm

    Hello Dai. I am enjoying this thread and am reminded of a friend called 'David' who always wanted 'David' so when he is called 'Dave' he replies 'it's David actually'. In any Uni gathering he was (and is still) "David Actually" to everyone.