However, recently I’ve realised that I’m becoming increasingly irritated by a recurring question. Whenever I flick to a page or website that my articles have been published on (in a vain attempt to get a glimpse of my own name and remind myself how good my words are) I find myself furrowing my brow while fixing my mouth into a slight moue. A single question frustrates completely: am I Sam or Samuel?
I am assured by my mother that since I was a young boy, I absolutely despised anyone’s attempt at shortening my Christian-name. This is easy to understand: far too many people had made the mistake of confusing ‘Sam’ with ‘Dan’. This led to many irritating instances of miscommunication, with my mother becoming increasingly confused as to who this Dan was, and why people would often start questions about how much of a good looking and well-behaved young man he was.
The name ‘Samuel’ has its origin in the Hebrew name Schmuel, and is thought to mean either ‘name of God’ or ‘God has heard’. In the Old Testament, Samuel is regarded as possessing direct contact with Yahweh (the Christian God), in addition to being a judge and perfect leader who never makes mistakes (it seems we share some qualities more than others!). He is also said to have been born as an answer to his mothers prayers, something I’m sure my mother could sympathise with.
My parents chose to name me after my granddad, Sam, who fought fires in London during the blitz of World War Two. When asked whether people should refer to him as Sam or Samuel, he had insisted that he had always been ‘just simple Sam’. My parents felt that it was necessary to distinguish between my name and his, as his partial deafness left him immensely confused whenever anyone would reprimand me for wreaking havoc as a baby. My dislike of the shortening continued into my primary school years, during which I would admonish anyone who called me Sam, reminding them that my mother had chosen to call me Samuel, not Sam.Yet, by the time I had reached secondary school, I must have warmed to the shortened moniker of ‘Sam’ that my friends had chosen for me. I remember wondering, while introducing myself to people at the time, why I had gotten so annoyed at the shortening of my name. It was definitely easier for people to say, and definitely easier for teachers to bellow when they found my behaviour in the classroom ‘disruptive’. So the name stuck with me throughout my years at secondary school and sixth form.
No longer concerned with the distinction I once forcefully made, I came to university as ‘Sam’, and it is only now that I am considering my future that I wonder whether it’s worth keeping this up. Is it possible that I can accomplish all that I want to in life as ‘Sam Osborne: the astute and widely read writer, the fierce defender of human rights and harsh denunciator of stupidity and ignorance wherever it arises’? Or would this job be more suited for ‘Samuel Osborne’? (Some would even go further, requesting I use my middle name instead… Consider: Samuel Elliot Osborne!)
In order to throw some light upon this conundrum, I recruited the assistance of some of my Facebook friends and posed the question: Sam or Samuel? Most replies seemed bias towards ‘Sam’, possibly as a result of my friends having grown used to the name over the years. One responded that neither ‘Sam’ nor ‘Samuel’ quite cut it, and that I should instead call myself ‘Samwise’, in the spirit of Frodo’s companion and friend throughout his quest to destroy The Ring in Lord of the Rings. The most humorous response I received suggested that I should simply be ‘Sam’ in my current state, but whenever I grow my beard (as I did in order to survive the Christmas exam-revision period), I should take on the alternate persona of Samuel. Other, more serious replies, suggested I use my full name in print, whilst allowing the concession that people could shorten my name while talking to me face to face. However I’m inclined to disagree with this. I feel that if I have t o be affectatious about something, I’m damn well going to go the whole way. To me, it simply has to be one or the other. Sam or Samuel.
Still, my mind is not made up. Perhaps the biggest issue would be that if I did decide to enforce the longer version of my name, people would take some time to get used to this. It seems to me that the most important question is whether a person grows to define their name, or whether their name grows to define them. While I don’t have an answer to this, I have pondered it for a long time. Considering my heroes (and villains), both the name and the character seem to be intrinsically linked, so much so that it would be almost impossible to think of them having any other name. This seems the most salient point: whichever name I choose, I will still be the same (insufferable) person.
By Sam (Or is it Samuel?) Osborne