Saturday, October 2, 2010

A little pretension never hurt anybody

After years of joking with people that I was a little pretentious, my girlfriend outright told me that this "quality" described me, doing so in a very critical manner.  So this got me thinking.

Am I really?

Looking at my birth certificate, it lists my given first name as well as a middle and surname.  I'm told that my parents only had two name possibilities for me, both male.  Without intent to offend anyone in possession of the name which went unused, I must admit to being happy in my current life that they opted for Sean rather than the more dated Donald.

My ex-wife was Irish.  And when I say "Irish", I mean that she was born and bred a daughter of the Emerald Isle, so when she informed me that my Gaelic name should have an accent over the "a" called a fada I knew I could trust her.  Having successfully developed an adult signature of my name that I could finally both enjoy aesthetically and sign consistently, I found this fada to be an easily incorporated flourish.  Granted, it's not on the level of John Hancock's signature on the Declaration of Independence, but combined with my abandonment of the cursive "S"--my own print-cursive hybrid "S" has supplanted it--it gives me a nice, distinctive mark or set of initials with which to commit my approval to documents and contracts.

The fada, which I eventually began adding even when printing and typing my name, became a great little conversation starter, too: "Why do you put that accent on your name?"  Sometimes socially awkward, it occasionally prompted other people to strike up a chat with me.

It's not like my name can be shortened, like many others.  People named James, Elizabeth, John, Charles, William...these folk have options on what they want to be called!  As much as I love my name, it's a little confining.  And besides, I'd justify this slight re-spelling of name, that's how it's supposed to be spelled!  The fada just got lost crossing the ocean, and forgotten among the American penchant towards simplification and phoneticization (Shawn/Shaun? Blech!  Seán!)

Conscious of the fact that some people found my flourish a trifle silly, I began joking that it was "my sole bit of pretension".  Most would nod.

Then she told me that I really was prententious.  And suddenly I don't like this apellation any more.

So I went in search of the definition to refute my girlfriend's accusation.  Here's what has to say:


1. the laying of a claim to something.
2. a claim or title to something.
3. Often, pretensions. a claim made, esp. indirectly or by implication, to some quality, merit, or the like: They laughed at my pretensions to superior judgment.
4. a claim to dignity, importance, or merit.
5. pretentiousness.
6. the act of pretending or alleging.
7. an allegation of doubtful veracity.
8. a pretext.
...and you know what, I actually don't think any of those apply to me!  I was relieved beyond explanation to find this to be so.  But even so, a little prentension never did any harm.  Let people think more favorably of themselves, I say.  Better a little pretension than a feeling of worthlessness.
So now I'll claim a little pretension in the form of the fourth definition above, thinking that this blog may have some merit among the uncountable opinions, musings and diatribes strewn across the internet.