I like my name. My Dad told me it means “Mankind”, which is weighty and cool. It’s also fairly unique. The only other Carl I knew growing up was on my Babe Ruth baseball team. It’s where I started referring to myself as Carl D.. Our team won the town series, with very little help from me or the other Carl, and we got jackets. Mine read Carl D., and his read Carl C., in cursive stitching and I wore that jacket everyday ’til about a year ago.
My mother was wary of names that could be shortened to a nickname, can you imagine being Dick for the rest of your life? Or Gordo? Carl is Carl and not much else can be done to it, other than adding a vowel at the end to try and mock me for being a girl — but even kids on a playground know that’s a hack insult.
Where my name takes a bad rap is in film and television. Carl is usually the name for a dullard, criminal, or a convenience store cashier. There are myriad examples, Sling Blade’s hero is Carl Childers, Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack is named Carl. The guy who killed Patrick Swayze in Ghost is Carl, there’s a goofy Carl in an Adam Sandler film, and the list continues. There is also a recent sketch on SNL, that I haven’t seen, that causes people to warble my name loudly at the side of my head over and over again.
The only time you feel really bad is in a gift shop when you scan through the small license plates looking for your name. Carl is a 70% proposition, and it feels good when I see it, even to this day. We like seeing our names in print. I don’t know the number, but monograming must be a multi-thousand dollar industry. What does it say about us that we want to put our names on everything we can? Carl D. wonders.