“There was no way David could allow this new neighbor into the fraternity of good Johns. So he decided to call him Phil. One he remembered from his school days, called Phil Lewis, was a funny bloke. He pretended he was about to take a bite of an open jam sandwich and ploughed it into his cheek when someone called his name. That was his best party trick. Phil was a shifty sort of bloke, a bit too crafty and a real attention seeker.”
- Loathe Your Neighbor ch.1
John is a good solid name. Common but solid. In Loathe Your Neighbour, David Lavender knows lots of Johns at the church he half heartedly and inconsistently attends. He thinks that they are good men. Dependable, morally strong men. Men of integrity. When he meets his new neighbor and an instant dislike arises, he decides to call him Phil because to call him John would be to tarnish the reputation of the Johns that he knows. It seems petty but how many times have you met someone who shares a name with someone else you know, and marveled to yourself about how different the two were. We make associations in our minds between names and characteristics of people with those names. When we meet someone who’s quite different we do a double take. It can be hard to accept them with that name. They don’t fit the mould. We are always trying to get people to fit our preconceived ideas. We need to categorize them and box them up. It makes it easier for us to deal with them. I won’t mention the name, but all the _______ I know are sweet natured, friendly ladies who are…well rounded of body shape. If I met an _______ who was not like the ________ I know, I would be thrown right off. I probably would not be able to call them ________. People are funny. They have strange ides and get stuck on weird thoughts. Often the associations we make between names and people go back to our first encounters. I can’t meet a Theo without thinking of the kid I went to school with who became the subject of my puerile taunts because I was trying to big note myself by making fun of him. I feel like apologizing to every Theo I meet now. The toughest concretized connection of name and character to shake is that of our loved ones. We know a person so well, and love them because of who they are, it’s natural to measure everyone else with that same name against the standard set. Does this kind of thing happen to anybody else? Or am I bit loopy?