Monday, September 5, 2011

Recycled Lou

The dedication I've had on The Ax and the Vase since it was a little baby book, not even a manuscript yet, says:

To Louise Smith and those who recycled her name

Louise Smith was my grandma, and mom and dad gave me her first name for my middle name.  And my middle name is how I became an author.

When I was a kid, if anyone ever found out my name, they called me "Weezy" after Mrs. Jefferson - and they always did so with this screeching pronunciation - so it was never my favorite part of my name.  Diane doesn't really seem to have any provenance but that mom liked it, and Major ... well, that part of my name will come up in a later novel.  It's #3 in line and a rollicking story.

But Louise, now ... Louise wasn't a good name, in my book, for a quite long time.

Then I learned its etymology.

I also learned to love the link to my grandma.  I am the only Louise in my generation of the family.  And my grandma ... can never be replicated.

Sooner or later, running across Clovis had to happen.


Clovis' name is the progenitor of mine, of course - but even "Clovis" isn't the real name.  It is the Romanized version of a name we theorize was most likely something more like "Chlodo-vechus".

Chlodo ... Hludo - the first-root means famed, but is also a distant cousin of the word loud.  I can appreciate this, as a part of myself.  Nobody much mistakes me for a dainty, shy flower.  And, if fame is not a state I in fact seek, the essence of meaning in the word, the stream and thread of meaning that links it to A Big Noise, is something I understand.  Clovis was a seeker of glory.

Vechus ... Wiga - the second-root means warlike, warrior - a man of conflict, of terrible power.  Clovis sought this through his whole life.

Famed warrior.

Glorious victory.

Clovis had a connection to his name far more fundamental than me and my Weezy issues.  He fulfilled its promise - its threat - its ultimate depth - absolutely.

He was named by his mother, the Queen Basina.  She became Queen to Clovis' father in a welter of scandal, and I enjoyed countless inspirations creating her character.  Legend of her is rife with her overweening pride, her terrible selfishness, her unseemly behavior.  And she it was who endowed her son with his epoch-shaking name.

Because his name has adorned dozens of monarchs ... been appropriated in languages across the world ... survived a millenium and a half ... and burned with enough power people still reach for its light even not perceiving the fire.  Clovis.  Louis.  Ludwig.  Ludovico.  Lew, Lou, variations of centuries, cultures - genders - the most dizzying array of extensions ...  He lives with us, almost anyplace.  It's a given name.  It's a surname.

It is a middle name.

And I am so grateful to have been given it.  To share it with my granny.

To share it with my King.

To have told some part of its endless story.

1 comment:

Mo said...

Mahalo from a word geek. And to make it all the better, Diane Louise, I just finished drying and packing some sage for a tribal give-away.

"So what?" You may ask. (and more quietly, "Why is it always about you?")

The species is Artemisia ludoviciana. Now it means something more than it did yesterday.