A Proper Scolding

As a child, I always knew I was in serious trouble whenever I heard my full name booming forth from the kitchen of our house, gaining speed as it echoed down the hallway and bellowing out to our backyard where I stood paralyzed in fear as it washed over me. SSSOOOOOZZENN LOOOOOEEEEEEZZZE RRRIILEEEEE!!!!!!!!! That sound of my mother invoking my middle name set off my internal Shit-O-Meter and left me shaking in my seven-year-old Keds. In some ways it still does… just writing it here made me poop my undies a tiny bit…

Damn that middle name.

Everyone knows that, other than the initial that’s required by the IRS, DMV or TSA, middle names are primarily used by parents when we really screw up. Heck, I invoke the middle-name rule upon my very own self whenever I’ve royally fucked things over. I even use my mom’s voice, to give it more authenticity.

But middle names have only been used for the last few hundred years and, prior to that, last names weren’t even used.  Back then, my mother would have had to use my title or another form of nomenclature to scold me: Lady Susan, daughter of Paul, mistress of Kentley Hill, mother of Basset Canines Sirs Octavius* and Jack!! Come hither and finish thine ear of mutton I have prepared for thee at once, or thou shall not be permitted to attend the Festival of the Vernal Equinox! I beseech thee to consider the young souls of the far East, who have nary a spoonful of grub!  

I surely imagine that the lengthiness of such a proclamation made it evident that another form of naming would be required. So not long after last names became mandatory, middle names were quickly invented by merciless authoritarian figures (read: parents), along with a series of laws that regulated their proper use in the act of scolding.

This is all true, by the way: I looked it up.

Yessiree Robert James, these Hallowed Laws of Scoldery have been passed down generation upon generation and remain in widespread use today:

  • The first, crucial requirement is application of the formal, full name, middle name included.
  • Where multiple Christian or British names are available, they may be used on an as-needed basis.
  • While a specific decibel range is not mentioned, guidelines provide for the employment of a loud, high-toned pitch, delivered in a prolonged, melodic conjecture for the purpose of drama, similar to what’s typically exhibited on TV when the villain’s face is revealed and doom-like music is played. Dah. Duh. DUMMMMMM.
  • Once the Scoldee has been properly identified, the remaining portion of the scold shall consist of the sentence predicate, i.e., the reprimand.
  • It is preferable that this reprimand be immediately followed by a time-honored Momilee (e.g., close that door, where you born in a barn?).
  • As these laws do not require actual knowledge of the individual’s given middle name, one may be made up as needed. This little-known regulation derives from an obscure ruling that resulted from a case back in 1832, The People Versus David PoopyPants Stone.
  • The formal giving of a middle name to a child must not only accommodate this law but also, whenever possible, provide years of family fun via ridicule and embarrassment that lasts well into adulthood.

I sometimes wonder if, given that last point, I have deprived myself years of sadistic enjoyment by not having children, since creating a middle name must be one of the most rewarding aspects of parenthood. Because I would definitely bestow a most prominent middle name upon my child, to ensure that the time-honored traditions of Scoldery were not overlooked in my home. To add to the fun, I would also formulate my very own Momilees in the process:

Joseph Spartacus Riley, you finish that vodka this instant! Just THINK of all the sober children in China!

Dianne Parsnippia Riley, don’t you DARE come home this early on a Saturday night!! Why, when I was your age, I wouldn’t arrive home before midday, Sunday afternoon. Puking all the way, ten miles uphill!

Brian Fortiscue Riley, I DON’T CARE if all your friends are going to Yale… if they all jumped off a bridge, would YOU??? You are going to Hermoine’s Regional So-So Community College and Arcade, where you’ll train for a career in the Wonderful World of Fast Foods, and THAT is THAT! Because I said so. You’ll thank me later. Now go to your room!

Michael Ozzie-Ozzie-Bunny-Buns Riley, I had better not hear you slam that door on your way out to Roxxanne’s Tattoo Parlor and Drunk-O-Rama – what, were you, born in a BAR??

While I would certainly provide a solid, scold-worthy middle name for my child, I wouldn’t want to negatively impact him/her or adversely affect the overall nature of his/her relationship with me. But, as a law-abiding citizen and admirer of the Rules of Proper Scoldery, I need to respect the traditions of my culture.

Not to mention contribute to my own parental merriment.

But I’d make up for it with a special fund of some sort to pay the therapy bills that would no doubt ensue from my otherwise creative amusement.

Wow. Perhaps Mother Nature has been kind in not permitting me offspring. I can hear her now: SSSOOOOOOOOZZZENN LOOOOOEEEEEEEEZZZE RRRIILEEEEEEE!

Damn. She sounds like my mother.