What's in a name? So asked Juliet when musing over her feelings for Romeo. Can't say I blame her; with such a mushy sounding moniker she should have known there'd be no future in it.
Odd names, though, are standard fare if you're a Brit. Next time you tune into a British telly show be sure to stay for the credits. Fionnula Tambling-Goggin, Benedick Cumberbatch, Royston Munt, Mia Fothergill, Nigel Plaskitt, Pat Pennelegion, Arthur Nightingale, Prunella Scales, and my all-time favorite...your starter for ten...Bamber Gascoigne, who for 25 years hosted University Challenge (based on the US's College Bowl). I assure you these are all real names. You couldn't make them up. But then, why would you want to? Unless, of course, you were JK Rowling.
Not even Dumbledore, though, could turn perfectly ordinary sounding names into the unfathomable, such has been occurring for centuries in Britain. The name "Featherstonehaugh," for instance, dates back hundreds of years. Plenty of time - you'd think - for someone in the family to have changed it to how it's pronounced: "Fanshaw." But, like Cholmondeley (pronounced "Chumli"), Marjoribanks ("March banks"), Leveson-Gower ("Loosen-Gaw") and Wriothesley ("Roxli"), Featherstonehaugh has a noble background. Seeing as most of the U.K.'s aristocrats have had to turn their castles into guest houses, I suppose the only thing left for them to defend nowadays are their antiquated surnames.
Then there's the place names. Pity the poor tourist trying to track down Godmanchester, when it's pronounced "Gamster." They're also not going to get very far asking for directions to Belvoir instead of "Beever," or Happisburgh, instead of "Haysbruh," or Woolfardisworthy, known verbally as "Woolsery."
Even when a last name is pronounced exactly as it's spelled, there still seems to be an inclination among many parents to lumber their offspring with a name that produces a bit of a reaction. 76-year-old Stan Still of Cirencester in Gloucestershire ("Gloss-ter-sheer") for instance still holds a grudge against his former RAF commanding officer who found it highly amusing to yell out "Stan Still, get a move on"! I also once knew a man called Douglas. His parents, Mr. & Mrs. Douglas, either had the imaginations of gnats, or he was so good as a newborn they named him twice.
Then there's my Aunty Rosie, named, like many girls of her generation, after a flower. Excepting, she ended up marring John Bottom, thereby becoming "Rosie Bottom." Not to worry Aunty Rosie, as Juliet would say, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
The topic of this month's column was at the request of Afternoon Tea viewer Priscilla Marsh. If you have a topic you'd like to see covered in a future column feel free to let me know.
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