You really aren't somebody, I've decided, until your house has a name.
The really fancy houses (you know, the ones belonging to important people) have names.
And not just any name, either. The name really should sound like it's being uttered by a guy in a tuxedo, with a British accent, who hasn't been to the bathroom for several days.
I got to thinking about this when I saw a piece on the news a while back about Cumberland Island, off the Georgia coast, where there are several mansions, with names like Plum Orchard, Greyfield and Dungeness.
In Gone With the Wind, as we all know, Scarlett O'Hara lived at Tara.
Maybe it's a southern thing, I thought. Then I flashed on those crazy Brits, the absolute masters of the house-naming game: Howard's End, Gateshead, Downton Abbey, Thornfield Hall, etc.
In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest that the trend in this country (and in Canada, where we were introduced to Green Gables) really just reflects (and extends) the British tendency to attach grandiose monikers to one's domicile.
To get a better understanding of this phenomenon, I visited my old friend, Mr. Internet, where I discovered an informative website called houseandgardenplaques.co.uk/why-do-we-name-houses. I'll save you the trouble of going there:
House names and house signs started many years ago with rich people naming their homes, the site explains. The rich named their halls, houses, manors, castles and lodges, according to ancestry, location, and family titles: Norfolk House (Duke of), Belvoir Castle (overlooking the Belvoir Valley); Castle Droge (named after a 13th ancestor), etc. Gradually over the years, other people began to give names to their homes, too. House signs are becoming more popular with the increase in home ownership and the relaxed rules governing the use of house signs. Generally speaking, throughout the UK house names can be used without notifying the local authorities providing the house number is used in the address line.
Now, I've been thinking about naming my house. Trouble is, I'm not sure how to go about it.
After some research into the issue, I've learned that the names of British houses follow certain themes. The most popular names are inspired by animals and birds (Fox Hollow, Cuckoo Cottage, etc.), trees (Orchard House, The Willows), plants and flowers (Honeysuckle Cottage), locations and views (Hillside, Meadow View), historical references (The Coach House, The Granary), fairy tales (The Nest, The Little House) and even holiday and beauty spots (Windermere, Ambleside, Blencathra, etc.).
Most of these, of course, are just plain inappropriate. Hailing, as I do, from the hollers of Lincoln County, I could never get away with picking a house name that sounds like it was stolen from public television's Masterpiece Theatre. (Oh, yes, we've decided to summer at Blencathra this year.)
In fact, I could probably get beaten up just for uttering such silliness.
The key, I've decided, is to marinate my house name in reality. Animals are good because we have them at my house. So are certain less-than-pretentious adjectives.
Bearing in mind that our house was built in 1979 and continues to wear a coat of extremely uncool T-111 siding, for crying out loud, I'm thinking something self-deprecating and truthful would be best.
You know, like Old Rotten Wood.
Or Squirrel Haven.
Or The Big Ugly. Well, at a mere 1,500 square feet, big isn't exactly correct. Maybe The Little Ugly?
The Nut House?
And, finally, when you factor in the most important structural detail about our house that any time we've ever removed the tiniest bit of wood anywhere we've discovered problems I'm pretty sure the most fitting name would be Dry Rot Cottage.
OK, it's official. Dry Rot Cottage it is.
I feel fancier already.
(A former editor for several Oregon newspapers, including the Woodburn Independent, Lake Oswego Review, Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, Mikel Kelly now works on the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune and contributes an occasional column.)