Saturday, 20 June 2009

How Changing Your Name May Make Things Better

Changing your name ought to be simple enough. If your surname happens to be Bottom or Willie or some other potentially embarrassing body part the chances are that you are either pronouncing it in a way that is nothing like it’s written - Bowtham or While-ay maybe. Or you will have changed it years ago. Usually straightforward but not always. Eileen de Bont, a receptionist, fell foul of the Passport Office who refused to accept her legally changed by deed poll new name of Pudsey Bear. The rumoured John Jones of Abersoch who allegedly changed his to John Rocket Brother Big Bollock Splash in Cardigan Bay in celebration of his interest in both missiles and disarmament had no such trouble. He never went abroad.

If you want to go double-barrelled then that’s easier. The Smithson-Cumberledges and the Moledigger-Johnsons are on the increase. The Welsh tradition of the Vaughan Joneses and the Walford Davieses are there to fall back on. Triple barrel names also look like they might be in for a return. Although not, apparently, in Germany. There they’ve been declared illegal on the grounds that they might confuse. Germany, of course, is the country which once gave us the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, a name abandoned at the time of the Great War in favour of the much more friendly sounding Windsor.

Name change among companies and their products is just as prevalent. And often just as difficult. Hands up those who have any idea who Consignia were going to be? That was the nice new brand name for the Post Office that most people thought sounded more like a Roman General or an ointment for piles. Snickered recently? They used to be known as Marathon Bars – a name dropped because it turned out to mean something rude in the local language of an emerging far eastern market. How about Aviva, Aveva, Avuncular, Celsa, Crispo and Corus? One of those might be the new name for the Norwich Union. Or I might be making them up. You choose.

Square – the music, poetry and new fiction magazine edited by energetic Nick Fisk and full of bright underdogs and exciting new voices - has discovered that too many other things are either already square or moving in that direction and has changed its name to Cool.

The new issue, still disarmingly square shaped, comes with a free sew-on lemon patch. Ideal for making literary headway, I thought. Content is an entertaining mix of music journalism and accessible verse. Chris White and Dylan Moore on the Stone Roses, Barrie Llewellyn on tattoos, Nick Fisk on artist John Squire.

Way back there was a plan to rename the WMC “Awen” – the Welsh word for “Muse”. But then someone discovered that in English it also meant a facial lump. A wen. Plan swiftly dropped.

An earlier version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail of Saturday 20th June, 2009.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Peter, I just found your blog and look forward to exploring it.

My partner and I recently visited Wales and bought 'Real Wales' in Wrexham. Great book! I mentioned it on my blog - here's a link if of interest

What a beautiful country you live in. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Cheers from Sydney (and sometimes Paris).