Friday, September 21, 2007

Name Games

Australian observer of life, Barrie Hibbert, has recently penned this article:

What’s in a name ? Often quite a lot.

Recently, I was intrigued to read that when Mississippi riverboat man-turned-author Samuel Clemens was looking for a pen name, his old profession provided it. It was the call made by the skipper when he needed to let the crew know that the depth of the river was two fathoms. He would shout: “Mark Twain!”

Most people stick with the names they inherited from their parents, but some don’t.

Show business people often take a new name. Norma Jean Baker became Marilyn Monroe, and Reginald Dwight became Elton John. Sometimes a chosen name is cheeky and clever. A few years ago, there was a stripper in a New York nightclub who was billed as Norma Vincent Peel, and apparently in London at the moment there is a burlesque performer who plies her trade under the name Scarlett O’Harlot.

This use of “association” of names is always good for a laugh.

It’s impossible to miss the irony in the fact that as the current political circus plays out its silly season here in Australia, two of the star clowns are Abbott and Costello. One of the cleverest names invented for Britain’s Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was Attila the Hen.

I thought of that recently, when I saw one of Gary Larson’s very clever Far Side cartoons. A little man with a swag over his shoulder, stands in front of a fortress wall. High above him, soldiers crowd the battlements, and spears rain down on the lone figure standing below. The little man anxiously calls up to the spear-throwers :
“Hold on there ! I think you misunderstood - I’m Al Tilley… the bum.”

Let’s hope the message got through. Otherwise that might have gone down as Al’s famous last word.

Source: Barrie Hibbert, ‘Occasional Ruminations’ 21 September 2007.

Image: “Show business people often take a new name.”