It is well known by horse owners that it is bad luck to rename a horse. I have had the kind of anecdotal experience that frequently comes forth when attesting to the truth of a superstitious belief. Tara, Tux, and Tucker were great horses, and I did not change their names. Locherran, renamed Luke, and Luke, renamed Boon, were disastrously bad. Given that lineup of names, I could just as well conclude that horses with names starting with “T” are lucky and that those having “L” either in the original or changed name are unlucky. None of that explains Pericles, whose name I did not change, but who is called Peri all the time; he has been both really great and deleterious. I am currently nursing my second serious injury of which he was the cause. If I had stopped before Pericles, I would have a lot stronger anecdotal evidence in support of the old superstition. Either explanation –a name change or unlucky letters in the alphabet – works to try to make sense of the randomness of injuries from a horse. One day he is a model citizen and the next he is bolting from the mounting block—some mysterious luck must be at work.
This bit of equine superstition is on to something fundamental—the part about the name. A horse has many attributes, so why has the name become the peg on which we hang our luck?
My name has undergone changes, once at my own hands and later by others. I was “Lou” for sixteen years of my life and disliked it intensely. I preferred names like Elizabeth, Linda, and Gwendolyn. Luckily, “Laura” was my first name and I have used that since the 1970s, causing a few relatives and even parents for a while to stumble and come out with “Lou Laura.” Recently I have seen a couple of beautiful actors (at least one of them French) and a successful writer bearing the name of Lou. Maybe Lou wasn’t so bad after all. I have reverted to Lou for certain social medias aliases and have added the last name Linton. That was my father’s mother’s mother’s name: Lou Linton. That reminds me—I had an uncle, one of my father’s brothers whose name was the initials, B.L.; just as my father also was named only by initials G.D. The latter was for two grandfathers, Greene and Doc; but, more interestingly, Uncle BL was named for Betty and Lou, two grandmothers. I have never heard of a male child being named after women. I applaud that and think it reveals an appreciation of women and a natural sense of equality felt by those rough and hardy rural Oklahomans in the depression era. I also like “Linton” as my alias last name because of the alliteration and because it is a name in Wuthering Heights: there are two families in the novel, the Earnshaws and the Lintons. I have never met an Earnshaw, by the way.
I knew better than to follow that ridiculous patriarchal practice of “taking my husband’s name.” Never in my life from childhood on up did that make any sense to me or appear as anything other than completely unfair. So, I didn’t have to have premonitions of my ultimate divorce to make that decision, although I certainly am glad not to be saddled with the last name of someone who is completely out of my life.
My other name change came when my children decided I could no longer be addressed as “Mommy.” I neither objected to nor liked the change. The sound of “Mom” still doesn’t sound right but maybe I just haven’t heard it spoken all that much because the change occurred once my children were not around a lot to say my name or anything else, having left home at that point. Thinking about not hearing a name spoken, how much a name is said conveys a lot of meaning, I think. I am always struck when I hear dialogue in a movie or read it in a book, in which characters are constantly calling each other by name. Was it ever really like that? When I took courses in Education, one of the mainstays for creating a “classroom community” was to call every one by his or her name. Clever politicians and other people pleasers are supposed to use mnemonic techniques to remember names and have them ready to use. My former husband, Bill, whom I will here name, never said my name to me in thirty years of marriage. How is that possible? I guess pretty easily because I don’t think he was exerting any effort in that regard. More importantly, why? Or to what effect? He, by the way changed his name to “Will,” which also happens to be my youngest son’s name, so I can conclude he does attach importance to the use of names—at least his own. I believe it is common practice for couples to have replacement names for each other—some special nickname or term of endearment. That was definitely not the case with us; I was not Laura, nor was I anything else except on a few rare occasions when I was “your mother” when talking to the kids. Speaking of little pet names between couples, I have a clear memory of being introduced by Bill to Garland Jeffries either as a newly engaged person or a newlywed; anyway, Garland knew I was the significant other of Bill. I can’t remember Bill saying my name to introduce me to Garland, but I think it wasn’t necessary, since it was clear in what capacity I was standing there, and he said to Bill. “So, this is your sweety.” I was struck by that because I didn’t have the slightest feeling that Bill regarded me as his “sweety”; not only were pet names not a part of our communication, the very idea seemed foreign, although I did think it might be nice to be thought of by someone as “sweety.”
We all have collections of names. We used to keep them in address books, now in our contacts in our phones. The viable names in our contacts decrease in reverse order with the increase in age. Even more so if we care to take the time to prune our contact list–a sad task, since the obsolete names represent those lost in “death’s dateless night.”
It is bad luck to rename a horse
I have renamed a horse,
Therefore, I will be unlucky with him.
But, it does follow that just because I do not rename my horse that I will be lucky.
Luck with horses takes more than a good name. It would be very good fortune to have a horse that never dumps you on the hard ground. Luck in life, aside from horses, comes in many forms, and surely one relates to names: lucky is the person who has heard his or her name (in whatever iteration it has taken) frequently spoken by those now long gone and by those still near and dear.