What’s in a name?

I was christened Francis Xavier Potts, after a saint who went to Japan as a missionary, converting heathens to Christianity, so that they could subsequently suffer cruel martyrdom at the hands of those whom he’d failed to convince. Like St Bernadette, his body is on show in a glass coffin. For me, the best thing about him is the X his name has bestowed on me as a middle initial. People ask me what it stands for, which makes for the opening of a bit of conversation. The FX together, which is what my mother abbreviates my name to, makes me feel special, too. Everyone in the film industry has heard of Special FX.

If I had been called Clint, or Butch, I might have turned out differently. I’m much more of a Francis than either of those. I will admit to having tried to be a Frank when I was a teenager, but I wasn’t very good at it, and I suspect that as a Clint or a Butch I’d have been an abject failure. I just don’t have the muscles. See the previous post, Nudity (warning: contains nudity), if you don’t believe me.

Frank and FX aren’t the only nicknames that people have used, and indeed still use. My mother calls me Francie, which was one of the names she used for me as a child, the other being Dangey. Dangey was apparently my best attempt at saying Francis (or possibly Francie) when I was learning to speak. I have to admit that I’m glad she’s more or less stopped using it, though I don’t mind her calling me Francie. I’m much more of a Francie than I am a Frank. A friend of mine on Twitter () once mistyped Francis as Franci, which makes me sound a little like a Swiss prostitute, hawking my pearly in a miniskirt along the banks of the Limmat in Zurich. My guess is that Franci is pronounced the same as Francie, so maybe my mother is trying to tell me something.

Twitter has brought other nicknames with it. Pottsy seems particularly popular, being used by and , among others. Becky pointed out that Pottsy was a lovable cartoon character, but I don’t think that’s where Grumbling got it from, and besides, Jay Irving’s cartoon cop bears no resemblance to me that I can see. Like my teachers at school, generally just goes for my surname, Potts. Since my teachers were brothers of the order of St Francis Xavier, I did occasionally get called Francis Xavier, though if I was in trouble, I just got called Potts. Mostly I just got called Potts.

Fran is the name that most Americans (and some Brits) know me by, and it’s a nickname from work, of almost thirty years’ standing. When I started working with computers, the maximum length of an access code on the system we used was six letters, and rather than sounding like a Swiss prostitute (see above), I lost the entire last syllable. It’s stuck, and has been independently adopted by a number of people since. I’m happy being Fran. In the way of things, it also got lengthened to Franny, which I don’t mind either. Many years ago, when I was suffering a bad bout of depression, I attended an outpatients’ clinic, and when I gave my name as Francis Potts, the receptionist asked me if I had another name. It struck me as a silly question, but after some thought I replied, “At work they call me Franny.” For some reason, she gave me a funny look.

I like Franny. It’s about as far from Clint and Butch as you can get. In John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire, Franny is a girl. I don’t have a problem with that, though when I was at primary school, there was a girl called Frances in my class, and I didn’t like being teased about having a girl’s name. I grew out of it, and used the name Frances to register for the Race For Life. No one noticed that it was spelt differently on the credit card. One of the most touching nicknames I’ve ever had was Francine. A (mostly) gay friend of mine used to call me that. She’s sadly dead, now, but I rather liked the idea that she’d make me into a woman so that she’d feel better about our friendship. We fought like cat and dog sometimes, but I miss her.

16 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Enjoyed. I’m jealous. I’ve only ever been Hap. 🙁 Oh, once in a while I get a Hapless, or a Happy. I like the first better. If you’re known for being happy, you’re a bore. I’d rather be thought of as dour, unreachable. You know, tough!

  2. Brilliant post Potts! Names and our attachment to them and definition by them are strange. BH is officially Charles John Martyn Hedges, but always known as Martyn…except in the Diabetic clinic, where he is known as Charles, coz that’s what he told them. I’ve said he’s creating 2 personae: Charles, who has a health condition, and Martyn, who doesn’t. He says when the evil Diabetic dietician, who is Ms Food Taliban on legs, tells him off about his weight, it isn’t ‘him’, so he doesn’t have to do what she says. Men are soo complicated.

    • Thanks, Carol. I was worried it my be a bit dull, since there aren’t any pictures, but I’m glad you liked it. Xx.

  3. I too really enjoyed reading this Mr Potts. Coincidentally I have a parrot named Frankie that gets called Franny too. I found your blog invoked memories of my own school days, and the names I was called then. Bish was the most common one, and lasted until I left university. Since then Ratty seems to have stuck, though whether in homage to the character in The Wind in The Willows, or attributable to my general disposition, has never been clearly defined.

    • Thanks, Roger. Coincidentally, I played Ratty in Toad of Toad Hall at Mayfield. I’m tall and thin, so obviously typecast as a water vole. My sisters had less complimentary nicknames for me.

  4. Top stuff, Pottsy!! My name is Theresa, which I hate, and I’ve been Terry to everyone but my parents since I was 12. I could call you Fanny, if you like 🙂

    • Haha, Terry. Thanks. No one has called me Fanny yet, but I suppose I could learn to live with it. Like Franci, it looks like a typo.

  5. Isn’t it odd how we assume that a name with more than one syllable must have a shortened version? Odd, but true. I’ve wondered since we first chatted what you prefer to be called, but didn’t want to ask. Now I know I have many options. Today, you will be: FX. 😉 xx

  6. You will always be ‘Pottsy’ to me…the very execution of the word is almost like a kiss…a puckered moment between pals…gentle…innocuous…with light dustings of laughter. What’s in a name they ask?….Everything……..:) x

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