I repeat my name for the second time. The cashier at Aroma coffee bar on Tel Aviv’s Schocken Street continues to look at me blankly. I spell out for him in Hebrew letters: “Shin, resh, lamed, vav, tet. Char-lotte.” A look of recognition washes over him. “Ahhhhhh, Sher-lot! he exclaims, with painfully incorrect pronunciation and a rolling ‘r’ to boot. “Why didn’t you say?”
Of course, it’s not just Aroma. It’s every phone call with the bank, every encounter with a doctor’s secretary and every new acquaintance. I don’t complain. It’s the fate of many an immigrant to Israel. But with yesterday’s news that the new royal baby of William and Kate will be known as Princess Charlotte, my luck could be set to change.
Even as a child in Seventies London, the name was hard going. Rare, old-fashioned, with high-class connotations, it didn’t feel like a good fit for a Jewish girl in the dreary suburbs. Yet, I was from a generation of non-Orthodox Jews where the trends – and perhaps the desire for acceptance – dictated that the more “English” your name was, the better. My best friends from the synagogue youth movement are living testimony: Elizabeth (now stuck with that name in Mevasseret Zion) and Sophie (who probably has an easier time in Ramat Hahayal). It’s different in England now. Many of my Jewish peers call their children overtly biblical – and even Israeli – names; the more “ethnic,” the better.
The forces of fashion have smiled on the name Charlotte, too. In Britain, it has grown hugely in popularity in recent decades. It was the 17th most popular name in the U.K. last year, even before it was given its renewed royal stamp, which will no doubt propel it even further up the list. Originally a French name, it means “womanly” or “petite” and until now has been most associated with unmemorable monarchs, the eldest Bronte sister, a heroic spider (in E. B. White’s children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web”) and the square one from “Sex and the City.”
So in addition to congratulating this glowing royal couple, who have succeeded in reviving the cynical Brits’ love for their monarchy, I should thank them too. Their choice of name will probably make my life a lot easier. May I live long enough to see the baby princess on the throne. Queen Charlotte! Now there’s something to aspire to.