In the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome, the power of a name was very real. It was widely assumed that the essence of a being resided in its name, and that if people could gain access to the names of supernatural beings they could manipulate them into serving their own purposes. Magicians and sorcerers abounded who promised to reveal their secrets to common people. Their spells often included dozens of divine names. It was hoped that at least one of them would hit the mark and force a supernatural being to bring about the desired result.
I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 at the time. It was a gorgeous summer day and I was out making my rounds of the neighbourhood. I stopped in to see Mr. Ratcliffe who lived three doors down from us. He was a friend and a contemporary of my grandparents and I must have been a frequent visitor to his garden as he wasn’t surprised to see me that day. I headed in through the back gate and found him down on his hands and knees weeding. He greeted me with a smile and called out to me: “Hello Jim!” At that I pulled myself up to my full 3 foot something height, looked him in the face and said sternly, “My name’s not Jim, its Jamie!” And with that I turned around and walked out. Clearly the story got back to my family as it and my reply have become one of the family stories told and remembered frequently over the years. It particularly delighted my father who would push the irony of the story to its limits, because, after all, Mr. Ratcliffe’s name was of course, Jim! And my grandmother’s nickname was, of course, Jim