By Joe Ribton
Joe The Female Friend
I was going to save it for a start of term ‘tell us something interesting about you’, but here we go…
I have a pretty *outrageous* full name.
Whilst I’m pretty aware that you can have worse problems, nothing is quite as inescapable and everlasting as your own name. So please level with me as I walk you through growing up as Joseph L’amie Burgoyne Ribton.
First things first, I’m the eldest child, the prototype, subject zero, nobody gets it right first time, do they? Joseph is fine, can’t knock the 32nd most popular boys name of 2018, got me all the important primary school drama roles. If I wasn’t a confused cuckold husband on my way to bethlehem, I was a crazed survivor of fratricide, plagued by my prophetic dreams and incredibly vibrant wardrobe. Oscar worthy stuff indeed, and yes they did just pick me because I was called Joseph and the role was for Joseph, easy peasy. My parents have said that they considered calling me Gabriel though, the prefix of which I can’t imagine would have gone unnoticed in an all-boys secondary school.
The main offender, and veritable pièce de résistance of my name is L’amie. For those of you unaquainted with the French language, this translates as ‘the friend’. But the ‘e’ on the end means it is a feminine declension! What possible pronound, time-defying, meaning could have been assigned to ‘the female friend’? My dad has L’amie too, and believes it isn’t weird at all that the only tradition passed down from generation to generation in our family is misgendering the eldest male of each generation. At least we have embraced the frenchness of it all by reverting to a blasé shrug of the shoulders whenever the actual weirdness of this situation is discussed. This was kept under wraps throughout my time at school, because it was a time when you want people to pay you as little attention as possible and let you get your own shit worked out. Now I’m at SCA, however, I have this desire to be as unique as possible. Single me out, if you dare. I’m Joe the female friend. After several years of being at an all boys school, going to a mixed sixth form made me realise that being friends with girls is a much nicer experience than teenage boys anyway, maybe being a female friend is a compliment of some nature? Could it be a hidden message, to never assume one’s gender? Could my ancestors have been players? “Woman is my middle name” is an awkward and confused chat up line at best though. My money is on it being a practical joke, by the way.
Burgoyne is similarly French and not normal, I should clarify here that I’m not French – I can speak French, my mum teaches French and my grandad always tells us that a Baron Burgoyne came over from France with William the Conqueror, I’m as close to being French as one can be. I’m the utterly butterly of being French, you won’t *believe* he’s not french. Burgoyne is actually the name of a region of France that translates roughly as burgundy, which means I can rather tenuously intertwine the family trees of myself and Will Ferrell’s loud-mouthed Anchorman.
Finally, Ribton. Is it a p, or is it a b? Surprisingly hard to pronounce given how banal it is in comparison to the many multicultural names rifled off the register of my South London school. There’s a rather strange medieval urge to not disrespect the house or the name, maybe if we had a fucking sigil I’d have a little more loyalty. Alas, this is not Game of Thrones, this is Croydon in 2009 and I am trying to not get bullied.
Now things are entirely different. You need all the ammunition in your arsenal to best set yourself apart from the pack. It’s a big, awkward, French-looking name, but I’m a big, awkward French-looking man. So deal with it.