Truth be known, and I don’t think this will come as much of a surprise if any to my family; I really hated my name when I was growing up. I wanted to be called Richard, David, Anthony, Michael, anything other than Geraint. My sisters were named Susan and Barbara, not too difficult to pronounce. I got saddled with Geraint. While my middle name of John was reasonable and would offer no pronunciation difficulties for a person of any age, it was also the name my dad went by and would later cause me some problems (more on those later).
I was an awkward kid, especially in my early teens. I played sports and was the key track athlete (I ran the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meter races and the 4×100, 4×200, and 4×400 meter relays) at my school from the ages of 12 to 14, but none of this mattered when it came to the abuse and ridicule I received on account of my name. When you threw in my stutter, George Harrison haircut circa ’63, bowlegs, and pigeon-toes, it’s a marvel I made it out of school at all. Teenagers can be assholes, and anything they can do to ridicule another person to make them feel better about their own insecurities the better. I suffered more abuse than Lindsay Lohan’s liver. And it wasn’t self-inflicted either.
The most common bastardization of my name was usually handed down from the older kids and it was in the form of a question – “you’re gay-right?” My name is pronounced with a hard “G” (more on this later) so “gay-right” instead of the actual pronunciation was supposed to be both funny and demeaning. To a 12 year old, whose older sister had many camp gay friends who were so inexplicably foreign and odd to me, this was the height of insulting. Thankfully, I grew out of that train of thought. Now I would just find it sophomoric and annoying.
I was called Grant, which later become Grunt. Some local kid always called me Garth, assuming the “N” in my name was silent and I had an invisible “H” at the end of my name as well. Even when I broke my name down the easiest way I knew how, into two syllables – Ger (hard G and rhymes with air and care) and Aint (rhymes with pint) it was still too much for them to handle. I settled on Ger, which of course no one could say and it became Gary, which I hate. If you can say Gary surely you can drop the “Y” and say Ger. And you’re only allowed to call me Grrrr when we’re in the bedroom. Simple rules really.
Seeing as no one could pronounce my name I thought I’d use my middle name, John, to make it easy on people. I’m all about the people, and forsaking my own identity and becoming one of the faceless masses seemed better than constant shame and ridicule. I finally learned the true burden of going by John when my social teacher phoned my house after I had skipped class and asked to speak to John. It was assumed he meant my dad, as he didn’t identify himself and I handed my dad the phone. My dad had no idea why “John” hadn’t attended social class that day, or the day the previous week. Talk about an awkward way of being busted.
As I got older and I realized that people only insult others to make themselves feel more secure, I embraced the originality of my name. Even in Wales, the land of my parents and a land I hold dear, my name is less common than I once thought. I see this as another notch to be added to my own half-joking self-awesomeness.
The Welsh name Geraint is from the Latin Gerontius, which in turn was taken from a Greek word meaning Old Man. JRR Tolkien named one of the Took family of Hobbits in Lord of the Rings Gerontius. This Took father lived to be 130 years old, as the name is associated with long life. Seeing as neither of my parents are Tolkien fans, this was not how my name came about.
The name was taken from an old Welsh folktale from the Mabinogion, a collection of tales loosely surrounding King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. While Lancelot gets the bulk of the press, Sir Geraint, legend states, was a cunning hunter, fierce warrior, and probably extremely good looking (just threw that last part in there). Geraint was the son of King Erbin of Dumnonia, and therefore royalty himself (no wonder I have an ego). The tale of Geraint and Enid, one of the Three Romances is a tale of honour, trust, and love. While I have read different takes on the story, the version I prefer, and the version I first read and have read most often goes as such:
Geraint defends the honour of his Queen, challenges the knight who offended her to a joust, but has to offer the honour of his love as payment. He loves none, so he asks the innkeeper of where he is staying if he can joust in the honour of his daughter and promises that when he wins he will honour her and her family. Naturally he wins, and is good on his word and sets the innkeeper up and takes the daughter, Enid, as his bride. Rumour circulates that Geraint has grown soft, and Enid takes this to prove that she is a bad wife. Geraint sees this as an admission of unfaithfulness. (It’s good to know that even back hundreds of years men and women had trouble communicating.) He is rude to her, most unpleasant, but not violent it is said. He doesn’t listen to her and in fact, orders her not to speak at all. She joins him on a particularly long journey, ordered not to speak of course, but she breaks this order several times to warn him of potential danger. He, of course, does not heed her warnings out of spite and stupidity. He encounters numerous dangers, and proves again that he is indeed a warrior to be feared; but suffers near fatal wounds in the process. Enid, seeing the state of her husband, refuses to leave his side, nursing him night and day. When Geraint recovers his strength and sees Enid caring for him like she loves him madly, and despite his unpleasantness towards her, well, let’s just say the boy receives that internal smack to the head that all men deserve at one time in their lives. He realizes his mistake. The story ends with Geraint realizing that he loves Enid like no man has ever and will ever love a woman again. Pretty sappy huh?
Alfred, Lord Tennyson later penned two poems about Geraint, the first The Marriage of Geraint, and the second Geraint and Enid, based on the tale from the Mabinogion. I don’t think my parents read either before they named me.
My name is as much a part of me as the dimples, the blue eyes, and my still occasional stutter. I wouldn’t dream of telling people to call me John anymore. I have become a little more lenient to people calling me Gary; but that offer is only extended to people whose first language isn’t English because I figure they have a hard enough time of things. I’m proud of my name. I’m proud my parents saw fit to give me a strong Welsh name on which to base my character.
I was going to prepare a video to go along with this but decided against it. I would have pronounced my name for you, possibly told you one of my favourite jokes, and no doubt leave you wanting to hear more of my sultry Canadian accent (that a lot of people think sounds Irish – it does not sound Irish one little bit). Naturally, I would not have been wearing a shirt because, well, I’m like that.
Ger (with a hard G)