updated 31 Dec 2010, 13:08
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Fri, Dec 31, 2010
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Son, blame me for your name
by Clara Chow

IT ISN’T every day that a baby gets an identity crisis in a lingerie shop.

But, last month, as I was browsing in the newly opened Victoria’s Secret in Singapore I overheard a smitten salesgirl asking what my four-month-old son’s name is.

“Lucien,” replied our Filipino helper Gina, who was carrying him.

The salesgirl did a double- take and exclaimed in amazement: “Lotion? As in baby lotion?”

Well, who could blame the woman for her creamy state of mind, given that the shop she worked in was filled with different moisturisers and various sweet-smelling body lotions.

But the episode made me realise all over again that I might have given my son a name he might need to defend against playground bullies and in pronunciation- challenged Singapore society.

Apart from some polite, blank looks I got when I revealed my baby’s name, there has been one instance of a friend asking me if I’d made up the name myself. For the record, it is a proper male name of French origin, from the Latin “lucis”, meaning “light”.

My mother, doting grandma to my two boys, has come up with her own unique Mandarin- inflected version of his name. She calls him “Looshien”, which makes him sound like a cross between Lao She and Lu Xun, both pioneers of modern Chinese literature – and I like that a lot.

But if, years from now, Lucien is reading this column from the newspaper’s archives, I have this to say: Son, if you hate your name, you can totally blame me.

It was I who, one night, while watching the 1996 French film L’Appartement with your father, suddenly became convinced that I should name the child I was then carrying in my stomach after a minor lovelorn character in the movie. More than that, dear Lucien, your name is also a collection of meanings and associations. It is a nod towards Lucien The Librarian from Neil Gaiman’s seminal Sandman comics, the tall bookish guardian of all the books ever dreamt of, including the unwritten ones.

It is my wish that you grow up to be as learned, loyal, sensitive and wise as your fictional namesake.

Meanwhile, your Papa is fond of telling people that your name is a link to Lucian, the leader of the Lycans (played by British actor Michael Sheen) in the Underworld vampire-versus- werewolf movies. If that ups your cachet among guy pals, good.

But, seriously, few people in our family are calling Lucien by his given name right now. To us, he is Winky. It was what his elder brother Julian, almost four, came up with when we asked him to help think of a name for the baby.

And it has stuck. These days, pretend to take Lucien away from Julian, and the latter will exclaim: “No! He is my Winky!”

With that, Julian has laid claim to his little brother. It is this sense of ownership, I believe, that has contributed to his adoration and lack of sibling rivalry with Lucien/Winky. So, really, what’s in a name?

In the best possible case, a name serves to lubricate and anoint our relationships. Sort of like lotion.

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