What’s In A Name? Judging Katie Hopkins

Robin Wells

On viewing the whole Katie Hopkins débacle, I shared the opinion of the 90% of This Morning viewers who voted to say that yes, Hopkins was indeed talking out of her arse when she advocated judging children (!) by their first names.

I think that view is outdated, snobbish, and frankly moronic. However the point I wish to talk about today is not the hypocrisy of Katie Hopkins for deriding geographically-based first names when her child is, of course, called India. Nor do I wish to focus on the fact that it’s a bit rich of her to judge anyone’s character based on a name when her own public misdeeds and indiscretions are numerous (bitchy comments to fellow Apprentice contestants, shagging a fellow contestant in the attic of the Apprentice house, getting photographed apparently shagging her then-married future husband in a field, to name but a few).

However, what I do wish to focus on is the importance of a name. As someone who is interested in linguistics and etymology, names are just as fascinating to me as any other part of language. They can have deep meanings and historical or cultural references; surnames can be used to trace the ultimate origin of your ancestor (Johnson, Smith, Baker etc). Similarities in names can show links between different languages (Peter, Pierre, Pedro, Petro, Pyotor).

Some names are seen as lower-class purely due to how commonly they occur (John, James, Steven) or the fact that their diminutive is used (Dave, Pete, Gaz, Daz, Jim). However, just because someone has a certain name, it doesn’t mean that it says diddly squat about their nature.

As those of you who know me personally will be aware of, I am very much into my family history, and going back through my family tree (and especially going through the distant cousins) you see a heck of a lot of different names – some of which ‘seem’ more middle-class (such as Laishley, Luscombe and Steinheuer-Turner) and others which, frankly, don’t (White, Wells, Wichall, Wilson, Brown). I’m even the direct descendent of a Hopkins, and I’m hoping it doesn’t transpire that I’m related to Little Miss Snooty, though given how common the name is, I highly doubt it.

The point is that it has nothing to do with their background, it’s a name which they did not choose and which bears no reflection on their nature: my Catholic great granduncle had the Jewish (?) middle name Zephaniah, whilst my working class granduncle had the middle name Paladine, which is an allusion to the Twelve Peers of Charlemagne’s court. As lovely as I’m told he was, I don’t think he was at any time at risk of being knighted.

The really insightful names are the ones we choose to give to ourselves and to others. My grandfather’s nickname right up until he died was “Sam”, short for “Samson”, stemming from an incident when he worked in a cable factory in his 20s, and he tried to move a 10ft cable drum by himself, not realising that there were cranes to do that job. That is a name that shows insight into a person.

Another name that people give, which shows something about their character, isn’t so much a person’s name, but an abstract concept: home.

Home  is still something which is difficult to locate. Obviously, for most family classes as “home”, but living away from them in the centre of town also felt like “home”. Home isn’t necessarily where you sleep at night – some feel that a park is “home”, or being with their other half is “home”, or that a collection of like-minded individuals is “home”. Soho is “home” to a lot of LGBT men and women.

“Home” changes – more often than we’d like to admit. I once again got the feeling of “This used to be my home” when I was back in Berlin, but I realised that it’s as much about what you used to call home as what you now call home, and even where you envision your future home to be, which offers an insight into someone’s personality.

These things allow you to wax lyrical about someone’s personality, not whether you’re called Tyler or Bella or Charmaine. But even then, get to know them! Don’t judge. Common sense half hour.

About Robin Wells

Robin is an actor and a languages enthusiast, freshly-graduated from the University of London. He spends a fair amount of time in the YouTube community, and recently made the documentary 'Coming Out, Going On' for National Coming Out Day 2012.