Wednesday 5 December 2012

Richard Grayson Replies

Because Richard Grayson, author extraordinaire, is a cool cat, he generously consented to answer my stupid question: “How do you feel about being named Richard?”

He provided an awesome, long response. Here it is!

I am fine being named Richard.  It was very common among people I grew up with (born in the early 50s). I was once in a high school class of maybe 35 with three other Richards.  It was very common in my neighborhood among Jews and Italians, the two major ethnic groups.  In college, I had 4 or 5 friends named Richard: most, like me, were Richie, one was Dick.  It became less common among children in the 1970s; generally, it's considered that Nixon damaged the name, but I suspect it just started to sound like an older person's name, as names go in and out of fashion.  (For example, three of my great-grandfathers were named Jacob, Max, and Harry, which are popular names now but not for parents naming babies in the 1950s and 1960s because they seemed, to my parents, like old Jewish men's names [their grandfathers].  So my brothers named for Jacob and Max are Jonathan and Marc, after the Jewish tradition of naming only for dead people, and just using the Hebrew name and not the English name.  I am actually named for my great-great-aunt Rhoda, who was a chemist in the Soviet Union.)

I notice Richard is more popular among my college students again, though mostly among Hispanic (South and Central Americans especially) and Asian (Chinese, Korean) boys.  Cheney probably didn't kill it like Nixon did, because people thought of him as Dick, not Richard. But today, people have much more varied names.  I teach in NYC people from literally 60 or 70 countries, and I've lived in neighborhoods that are very Polish, Russian, Arab, Turkish, Chinese, Bukharian, Tibetan, Moldovan, Nigerian, Bangladeshi, Korean, Cambodian, etc.  So today people have all sorts of names.  In most of my college classes, I would say I probably have never before seen a third of the names in every class. The only Richard I have in a class this term is a Ryzsard.  (Pronounced “Richard.”)

My parents called me Richard, like everyone else in my family although they told me their originally intention was to call me Ricky.  I answer to anything -- Richie, Richard, Rich, Rick, Ricky -- but Dick.  The Robin character in Batman just made it worse, but I never associated myself with being called Dick.  It seemed like another name.  In school up to college and through the early 70s, I was always called Richie by friends.  My old friends call me Richie still, though some have switched to Richard.  I don't like anyone but the people I knew when I was in my childhood, teens or twenties -- old friends -- calling me Richie, and I now think of myself as Richard. I am an old man now.

It is a nondescript, semi-popular Anglo-Saxon name.”


Well, Richard is always going to be a mega-popular name on this blog! Huzzah!

Thank you again, Richard Grayson, for humoring me and answering my question. I really appreciate it.

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