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Name Games

04
Oct
2012
 

By Christine Lovatt

It’s interesting to read what your name means in one of the many baby name books that give you adorable meanings such as ‘precious pearl’ or ‘noble warrior’.

Then try flicking through the dictionary, because it’s surprising to note how many Christian names are included, some with quite unflattering connotations.

Peeping Tom, for instance, is defined in my Collins as a 'voyeur'. This derives from the tailor who peeped at the naked Lady Godiva, according to the legend recorded in the13th century by Roger of Wendover.

Doubting Thomas also rates a mention, taken from the bible story in which Thomas refuses to believe that Jesus had arisen from the dead until Jesus appeared before him.

Peter Pan is an immature man, from the character in JM Barrie’s play about the boy who never grew up.

Jack has many uses, one being the stocky dog known as a Jack Russell terrier. It was named after the English clergyman Jack Russell, born in 1795, who developed the breed and was master of the local foxhounds.Jack Russell

Big Bertha was the nickname of the large German gun used to bombard Paris in the last months of WWI. It was an unflattering reference to Bertha Krupp, wife of the armaments factory owner Alfred Krupp.

The police van known as a Black Maria has a woman at the heart of the story. Back in the 1800s, Maria Lee, a powerfully built African American, kept a boarding house for sailors in Boston. She had a reputation of helping the police, which gave rise to the expression “Send for the Black Maria”.

Names are also incorporated into many everyday things: a cup of Joe, (or a bloody Mary), long Johns, Patty cakes, Teddy bears, Mary Janes and Christmas Carols, just to name a few.

I have good friends called busy Lizzie, Johnny-come-lately, lazy Susan and Joe Public. Does your name have an official dictionary meaning, or is it used in a popular turn of phrase? Or do you have an interesting nicknmae you'd like to share?

Happy Puzzling!

Christine Lovatt

33 Responses to

Name Games

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said:
October 09, 2012 at 4:44 PM

thats why all family and friends call me noonee or noon ..is easier .. love the comments

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Muffy said:
October 09, 2012 at 6:53 PM

Oh yes, the alternative spellings make me cringe too! It may seem cute or interesting to the parents, but it's a curse to the bearer--correcting or explaining all his (her) life. When I was young, I hated my plain name (yes, Jafa, you win the prize). My last name was equally simple. For years, elementary school for the most part, I longed for a more glamourous name. After college, I married a man with a poly-syllablic Gallic surname with an abundance of silent letters. It didn't take long for me to wish to return to my 'uncomplicated apellation.' I have no children, and never will, but after (finally) living on both sides of the street; my plain old "boring" first name was top of the list for girls' names.

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dj1 said:
October 12, 2012 at 2:00 PM

I once taught a class with four girls of the "same" name - Siobhan, Shavorn, Chervourne and Shovorn. At the same school, with 1000 kids and nearly 100 staff, I was the only John.