By LESLIE LINSLEY Special to The Citizen
"I'm Penny Parker. You can remember that 'cause it's got the same letter at the front of each name. That's important theatrically, you know." -- Penny Parker, MacGyver, "Every Time She Smiles"
The first thing I do when opening the Sunday paper is turn to Mandy Miles' column. Aside from her clever writing and subject matters -- taking ordinary subjects and making them personal, entertaining and relatable -- she has the "right" name. Her name confirms my belief that all persons with alliterative names should be columnists, actors or authors, so as not to waste the creative vision that our parents probably had when naming us. I include myself in this generalization as I have always enjoyed the fact that my name is in this extremely thought-through, rational-thinking, albeit biased category.
According to Wikipedia, in language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series of words or phrases. An alliterative name is a name in which the first and last names begin with the same sound. For this reason I've always had an affinity for the actress Laura Linney, who might just as accidentally been Leslie Linsley,
Giving a character an alliterative name is one of many ways a writer can make a name more interesting and catchy, which in turn makes the character more memorable to the audience. This is especially important in works with lots of characters, where extra help is needed to differentiate between them. By the way, this is one of the things I dislike about Kindle, it's too hard to go back and forth to remember who's who.
This got me to wondering about names of things in the fashion and interior design world that have to be renamed every year to keep them fresh. We're no dummies. We all know the primary colors, but plain old yellow or green cannot simply be used year after year to describe a new fashion trend, so yellow becomes citrus this year and sunshine the next. There must be people out there in the world of fashion whose only job is to come up with names for nail polish colors, paints, fabrics and such, or how else would the ordinary, uniformed person know to specify celadon cushions one year and sea foam the next? I want that job. Years and years ago, the only fancy variation for green might be aqua, and those in the know felt pretty darn "hip" ordering aqua paint for a living room. It must have been a day for celebration in the boardroom of Sherman Williams or Benjamin Moore when some bright young art school graduate suggested 27 shades of white. Imagine how much more paint they could sell when they added just a smidgen of brown to gallons of white paint and called it eggshell? Oh the headiness of it all: sand, antique beige, vellum, atrium (just add a drop of pink), ivory and, later, on a bolder note -- greige!
So here you are, ready to repaint a bathroom. Blue would be a nice color, you decide. With this idea in mind you head off to the paint store only to discover that the amount of paint you need is the least of your problems. First you discover the excitement of choices. Faced with a rack of lots and lots of little squares sporting a multitude of shades of all sorts of blues you begin to get a headache. You see hundreds of other possibilities and suddenly think maybe blue wasn't such a good idea after all.
Why not be daring? Go for a shade of purple, maybe lilac to match the orchid on your coffee table? So you return home with a dozen strips of color samples plus several sample bottles of paint colors to try. You stop at Ben Franklin and get a few pieces of white poster board to practice on. You remember reading somewhere, maybe one of my columns, about how you should paint a board and pin it up for awhile to see how the light, at different times of the day, affects the color. You know you're going to paint the room some color at some point so you already purchased the roller and pan as well as a drop cloth so your toilet, sink and floor do not look like a poor attempt at a Jackson Pollock painting.
Once home, you look at the colors and mull over the names. You are attracted to robin's egg blue. It evokes positive feelings. You look at all the others: sky blue, marine blue (never!), baby blue and the more exotic sounding jewel box. The names of the purple color range seem more interesting so you switch gears. By the time you've worked your way through the mauves and taupes you are convinced that your bathroom looks OK and maybe you'll wait awhile longer.
The phone rings and your best friend tells you about the fabulous pants sale at Blue. You drop everything and off you go to Caroline Street. You try on lots of pants in sherbet colors like pistachio, coral, sugar and cream, as well as coffee and mocha, even though you cannot for the life of you see the difference. You leave with nothing except a resolve to paint the bathroom a nice safe color like white -- if you can find the right shade.
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.