I have just read the lamentations of one Howard Means ("Hi, I'm Howard," op-ed, March 4) that he is struck with a first name much scorned and derided. Although I am sure that Howard Means Well, my only reaction is: Quit your bellyaching.
What's in a name? Shakespeare asked. A rose by any other . . . etc. True, the same lyrical image may not be evoked by an American Beauty Howard, but names are irrelavant. Let Mr. Means look on the bright side of the curse of his cognomen. Since his name banned him from the playing fields of Wheaton, he doubtless spent his formative years in the safe comfort of the school library, along with all the Normies and Hubies and Lennies of the world, twiddling his dactyls and pondering his Milton, while the Toms and Mikes and Daves were outside practicing dunk shots and forward passes. Now Tom and Mike and Dave are pumping gas and getting a gut, while Howie is the senior writer for Washingtonian magazine. Johnny Cash sang of the boy deliberately named Sue, who grew up knowing how to fight; perhaps Mom and Dad Means had similar intentions. Call the kid Howard and point him toward a Pulitzer.
Besides, what's so bad about Howard? Better Howard than Melvin, I say. Ron Howard was a good child actor and Howard County is nice in the spring. Other people have name problems. Even such a common name as John is no bed of howards. How would you like to have been named after a toilet? How would you like to have the same name as the universal term for the sucker customer of the ladies on 14th Street -- the guy with $25 and no talent in singles bars? Pooh.
Howard Means complains of Howard Hunt. Watergate had its share of Johns: the weasely Dean and the stonewalling. Mitchell and Ehrilichman. Oh, we had Sirica, but give me a few breaks. Means has Howie the child molester in the TV movie "Fallen Angels"; I'll see his molester with a mobster (Rosselli) and raise him a gangster (Dillinger). But do I complain?
So cool it, Howard. The way I see it, you have lots of solutions to your problem.
You write of variations on the name Howard, but stopped short at How (as in Now Brown Cow) and Howie (as in Cowie). There are other possibilities within the six letters:
Use the first syllable only and have the same first name as Mr. Chi Min.
Use the second syllable only and join up with Mr. Just and Mr. Chamberlin, Alas, Ward does connote a dependency relationship and, in the case of Batman and Robin, a suspicious one.
Drop the final d. Warning: Your hair may turn blonde and you may get an irresistible urge to go on midday talk shows.
Invert the two syllables, appropriate the first name of Mr. Unseld of the Bullets and have a moniker that would not only meet the approval of Frederick Jackson Turner but would make a great title for a wagon train movie: Wes Wardho. Script by Howard Fest, directed by Howard Hawkes, starring Trevor, Leslie and Ken Howard and featuring Howard Duff as Cookie.
Or you could turn the other cheek when your brother calls you Howard the Coward, whinning that "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me" in the time-honored tradition of every wimp named Howard I ever knew.