What’s in a name?
I only ask because despite the relative simplicity of mine, it’s always caused some people quite a bit of trouble.
When I started writing about showbusiness on The Gazette quite a few folk assumed that the entertainer Ronnie Dukes (of headlining Dukes & Lee fame – and now long dead) was earning a bit on the side as a journalist.
Others thought I was doing something similar – by headlining on Blackpool’s North Pier for a summer season.
There’s still not a week goes by that someone doesn’t add an “s” to the end of my surname – something I also hold the long-running Duke’s Diary in The Gazette responsible for (that and a persistent inability for people to grasp the basic rules of grammar and punctuation).
As well as morphing into Ronnie, my first name has variously become Robyn, Ruben, Robbing and Robert, whereas Duke has become Dook, Duck, Jook and Juke.
It’s always been mildly irritating but nothing like as unfortunate as that recently experienced by one Fanny Carlsson, who found her application for a Sainsbury’s reward card rejected on account of her name.
She was trying to register online for a Nectar card when the website stalled at the word Fanny, asking her to enter a valid first name.
In America the word has long been slang for a bottom, over here it means something else altogether and not, it seems, one that is valid for Nectar points.
Quite what the 1970s all female rock band Fanny, television’s original celebrity chef Fanny Cradock or Michael Sadleir’s successful 1940 novel about prostitution in Victorian London – Fanny By Gaslight (later a 1981 four part BBC drama) – would have made of all the fuss is anyone’s guess.
Fortunately, Ms Carlsson took it all on the chin (so to speak) and eventually succeeded in her mission by using her decidedly less controversial but not nearly as memorable middle name Linnéa.
“Because I already knew what connotation the name had before I moved to England, I chose to call myself Linnéa at work,” she explained. “My parents already knew I had had some problems with my name, so they’re mainly just happy they gave me a middle name that works better.”
Fortunately she was also on the safe side with the surname Carlsson – something which couldn’t have been said if she’d been called Bread or Spinster, both of which have been declared as extinct as the dodo.
If her last name had been Miracle, Tumbler or Villan she would have merely been classed as endangered.
Unusual names have been around for centuries but any last name with under 200 “bearers” is considered endangered says the MyHeritage website. Last names with fewer than 20 bearers include Sallow, Fernsby, Villin (or Villan), Miracle, Dankworth (watch out deceased British jazzman Johnny’s children Jacqui and Alec), Relish, MacQuoid, Loughty, Birdwhistle, Berrycloth and Tumbler.
Endangered last names with under 200 bearers are Ajax, Edevane, Gastrell and Slora while last names presumed extinct since records were last updated in 2011 are Bread, MacCaa, Spinster, Pussett (including Puscat and Pussmaid), Bythesea (and its near relative Bytheseashore).
So why do some names become extinct while others like Smith and Baker go on forever? Names linked to uncommon professions or geographic places are vulnerable.
Many last names were wiped out during the two world wars when so many men died in battle taking with them their distinctive last names of the villages and hamlets they came from. Many other British names migrated with their bearers across to America or Australasia.
Other last names, such as those from Eastern Europe, have become anglicised and popular, taking over the traditional British names.
All things considered I’m probably quite fortunate carrying the flag for Duke (or even Dook, Duck, Jook and Juke).
Life’s a seamless drift of different
Back in the day (which was actually Tuesday, February 22, 1949 – and, yes, you nearly all missed remembering it!) my birthday was something of a celebration oasis.
It was just far enough after Christmas to prevent anyone being stingy enough to combine the two occasions when it came to cards and presents, and just far enough away from Easter to avoid anyone thinking I might be fooled into thinking a chocolate egg could double as a birthday gift.
These days there’s no such thing as a celebration oasis.
We drift seamlessly from Christmas and New Year to Valentine’s Day (once an option but now pretty much a compulsory celebration if you want your partner to continue cooking dinner – or whatever).
Then it’s Easter (check it out, the supermarket shelves are already stacked high with overpriced confectionary and even hot cross buns) and, of course, we mustn’t forget Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, That Nice Couple Down The Street Day (it’s only a matter of time), Halloween, Bonfire Night and birthdays of relatives you’ve never even met.
I thought I’d got used to the shrinking year, and then last week I was e-mailed by Fleetwood Town Football Club reminding me the time was perfect to book a Christmas themed party night at their ground.
The themes in question were Dirty Dancing, hypnotism and mind reading and an Amy Winehouse tribute.
None of which strike me as particularly Christmassy so I think I’ll wait until the Leap Year Party invitation – expected any day now.