What’s in a Name, Grasshopper? As Usual, It Depends Who You Are, Where You’ve Been, and What You’ve Seen.


Cher, Madonna, Prince, Rihanna.  Some names are prime candidates for singular expression these days.  Others, well, probably not so much, although in another time perhaps Edith, Cuthbert, Cecil and Joan were just as recognisable.

What is it about the famous four, Cher, Prince and the rest?  They’re words, of course, which are symbols, and these particular words represent figures we know as celebrities, famous persons in particular countries and sub-cultures: in the case of these four, music.  They’re brands, just like my great-great grandfather’s V&S tomato sauce.  

These words are like nano memoirs in that sense.  You can build a story around those names when you see or hear them.  The nano memoir is a one word provocation to write a story that may help you uncover a truth or create a part of your own legacy

Whenever I see or hear Cher’s name, for instance, I return to childhood and quickly add ‘Sonny &’ to the mix as I recall a few of their songs.  Remembering hits like I’ve Got You Babe, and Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, I see images of the hotel my parents managed when I was little. 

We had a jukebox in the lounge and if I did some dedicated urging and nudzhing, I could score 20 cents from Dad, and Mum as well on a good day to play my favourites.  Believe it or not, it was 3 selections for 20 cents – yes, I’m getting long in the tooth – yes, I still have my teeth, grasshopper.  Yes, I admit I also loved Alexander’s Ragtime Band and I can sing every song from The Sound of Music – what can I say other than, who doesn’t?  It’s joyful, it’s fun, it’s got rhythm, just like the nano memoir which has its own rhythm for you to uncover.

But seriously, or not so seriously, my small example is simply by way of saying that any word can provoke personal memories and contribute to detecting more of your special memoir.  The same applies at a local level with family and friends.  There are any number of one-name wonders in families and local communities who are, or were so unforgettable they forged their way with just the one nominal.  And guess what, you’re one of them, too

Someone, somewhere will always remember you by just your first, or last, name, or even your initials.  No-one misses out.

This is a conceit seen in all kinds of popular culture as well.  Remember Kramer and Newman from SeinfeldHow about the never seen but always memorable Maris in FrasierWhat about your pets?  You’ll always remember them by single names, by and large.  Felix, Rex, TC.  And let’s not forget the inanimate artefacts, like cars, which could generate a list as long as your arm. 

So go to it, grasshoppers.

  • Make a list of single names that are famous in your life.  It doesn’t have to be long, in fact, it could be just one name.  It’s nano memoir, after all.
  • Focus on one name and think about that person, or pet (or vehicle) for a while.
  • You might want to create a mindmap by putting the name in a a circle in the middle of a sheet of paper, and then you can write down other words as they arise, circle them, and draw lines to connect any words that form further connections. 
  • Note down any memories that come to you, consider any feelings that arise, envisage the colours you might associate with the name you’ve picked, their particular habits, the styles of clothing they wore or wear. 
  • Is there another single word that comes to mind when you think of that name?  Edgy, loving, kind, green, fast, shaking?
  • Construct a short narrative around the name, or simply read out the words and phrases that have come to you as you focussed on that one name.     

You’ll find that simply focussing on one word, one name, will provoke so many other memories you’ll have enough for a legacy and then some. 

And remember, as always : Memoir = Life = Now

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