In the deepest dark late 70s, a young couple in Birmingham were struggling to find the perfect name for their impending daughter. It couldn’t be too short…a single syllable surname put paid to a single syllable forename. And any descriptive words were a no go with a surname that made any word an adverb. So they took inspiration from the radio. Alan Fluff Freeman and Pick of the Pops. The dulcet tones of Hot Chocolate filled the room.
“How about Errol?” Pa Lee says.
“How about Emma?” Ma Lee says.
“How about Emma, Emmalene? Like in the song?” Pa Lee says.
“Should we drop the first Emma?” Ma Lee says.
And so, baby girl Lee becomes Emmalene. No-one is quite sure how to spell it, but shoving lots of “e’s” in seems like a good idea. Seems there was some suffragette woman with a similar name in the past, but that was spelt “line” with an “i”, not “lene” with an “e”. They reject “Emmaleen” and “Emmalean”. Yet these are all ways in which the name will be spelt in future.
I grew into my name. I accepted that I would have to spell my name out to everyone on the phone. I also accepted that people seeing it written down for the first time would ask how it is pronounced. I accepted that every computer would try and auto correct my name to “Enamel”. Or “Emmanuelle”. Yes, like she of the early 70s French softcore porn movies.
Although Emma, Emmalene in the Hot Chocolate song didn’t fare much better. She wanted to be a famous actress. She failed. She killed herself.
“It was a cold and dark December night
When I opened the bedroom door
To find her lying still and cold up on the bed
A love letter lying on the bedroom floor”
Luckily I don’t hanker after stardom and I’m not “living on dreams” as poor fated Emma, Emmalene did. She may have wanted her name on the silver screen. But no-one would have known how to spell it.