The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, July 01, 2004

During today's cover lesson, I encountered a bright young thing named Ariel.
At least I hope he was called Ariel, as it appeals very much to my liberal sensibilities, and my entirely predictable love of The Tempest.
However, I may have misheard, he may equally have been called Uriel, of Blakeian fame (I can never recall what he's the embodiment of - I only ever remember Urizen = bad, Albion = good).
He may have been called Arial, which over here is a particularly good brand of washing powder. Or Aerial, for that matter. Although perhaps in the days of satellite, broadband, mobile masts, GPRS and cable connections, that's a little rusticated now.

Teachers come across more weird names than you can shake a stick at. Some jewel bright, some lovely, some plain daft, others cursed by their owners. You learn to recognise your particular cultural group response to certain names, and restrain it (it's hard to look at a class list of Darrens and Kellys without anticipating something).
African religious names often provoke an involuntary smirk. It's hard to tell off someone Charity, or Sweetness for being a selfish little monster.
Televisual heroes and influential pop stars always come to us ten years out of date. We've just finished one rash of Kylies, and are expecting in four years to see another.

Misspellings are difficult - you never quite know if you're allowed to say. I recall a student whose parents had been deeply entertained by the sitcom Roseanne to the extent of adopting the name of Roseanne's son for their own youngest son. Except the character D.J., surely, is a shortened form of his father's name - Dan Junior.
Still, D'Jay has a slightly exotic, French sound to it, if you don't work out your dates.

My favourite oddly named ex-student was Marvellous Johnson. He was a very cute, very beaming, very very naughty child in a rough Southwark comprehensive state school when I met him. The sort who knows his 'christmas present smile' will get him off too many crimes.
But no matter how serious his infractions, it was always difficult not to raise a sly grin whenever the headmaster would bark angrily over the school's intercom, "Marvellous! Marvellous Johnson report to me right now! Marvellous!"
You can't disassociate a word from it's meaning. Somehow I think Marvellous' parents were in full possession of that fact....