Tuesday, 4 December 2007

What's in a name?

Talk of favourite names over on the Purplecoo site the other day reminded me that I used to collect a list of interesting names when I was a reporter.

My job of course brought me into contact with a diverse range of people and some had the most amazing names. One I remember vividly was a woman I had to ring for a story involving access to one of our local beaches. There was some dispute over whether it was sensible for people to be allowed to continue to drive onto the beach in their cars. The woman's name was Sandy Beaches. She assured me that it wasn't a joke!

Another time was when there had been a rather wild and windy night with heavy rain. The roof of a local nightclub had been damaged and the club had suffered flooding to its dance floor. The manager was called Ivor Squelch. I realised the significance of his name halfway through the phone call then spent the rest of the interview trying desperately not to laugh. At one point I actually snorted down my nose and had to pretend it was a sneeze!

I also remember the delightfully named Hope Lemon, who was a really lovely person, but I also remember encountering a Mr De'ath. I don't think that apostrophe really fooled anyone. I was reminded of him when I was watching Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on 'Long Way Down' on Sunday night. They were travelling with Dai the Doctor, which is a name I am sure, that has the potential to be slightly alarming.

Doctor: "Hello, I'm Dai, the doctor. Where does it hurt?"

Patient: "No thanks, Dr Die, I choose life."

Names, for a reporter, are a minefield. It did not help that I had the habit of instantly forgetting the more mundane names, such as John Brown. I once spent the day on a feature about the local traffic police, being ferried around the county, sometimes at hair-raising speeds with the 'blues and twos' on. At the end of the day I realised I had forgotten the police officer's name. Then I had a brainwave: Ask him how to spell it. So I did.

"S. M. I. T. H." He dead-panned. I felt like the village idiot.

And then there was poor Mr Thoms. I wrote about him a few times, the final time, sadly, was his obituary. Every single time I put his name in, the sub-editors changed it to 'Thomas', despite notes to the contrary and a bit of foot-stamping in subs' corner.

I wish I'd kept the list now. By the time I left to go on maternity leave (never to return!) I had a substantial list of sometimes quite delightful names. Including, it is alleged, a girl called Jenny Taylor. It sounds innocuous, but try it a few times...


  1. Oh thats funny. I had to repeat Jenny Taylor about six times faster and faster before I got it!

  2. Love Ivor Squelch - I would have been snorting away!

  3. Yes ...just got Jenny Taylor!!!
    Used to have to deal straight faced with Mr Robin Batman and a Mr Robin Holmes!!!Think I developed that trick sneeze as well!!

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  5. Oh what a giggle, specially you forgetting the policeman's name - but it could have been spelt like Smythe or something!!!! Funniest name I remember was a chap from infant school called Trevor Mortimer - I really thought his name was Trevor Motormower and wouldn't believe my Mum that it wasn't. Hilariously he went on to have Lawn cutting franchise later in life! Then there was Mark Tubby - no way I'd be taking his name if I were to marry him!!!!

  6. Well there are so many ways of spelling Smith like Smyth, Smythe, Smüf :-}

  7. OK it took me AGES to get Jenny Taylor!! One of the headmaster's at a local school is called Mr Whip which always makes me snigger. Ivor Squelch is great. So sorry about the ducks, by the way.


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