The Prime Ministers, More or Less
Puder, Jim, Word Ways
The names of the American presidents have been transposed in various ways in at least three Word Ways articles, but to my knowledge no such attention has heretofore been accorded the names of their British counterparts, the prime ministers. To address this oversight, offered below is a table of metatransposals (i.e., transdeletions and transadditions) of British prime ministerial surnames similar to the one for the surnames of U.S. presidents offered in my August 1998 article, "The Presidents, More or Less."
If one begins the count with Robert Walpole--generally considered to have been the first true prime minister--51 individuals have now held that post. Subtracting one of the two Grenvilles in the list leaves a total of 50 different "surnames" for the table. (There is only one Pitt in it, as the elder Pitt is listed as the Earl of Chatham.) A complication with this group is that prior to the twentieth century, most prime ministers bore titles of nobility (often as a conferred honor) by which they were more often better known during their prime ministerships than by their personal names. In deciding which names, titular or personal, to use in the table, I have followed the listing of prime ministers given in Kenneth O. Morgan's The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain.
Here are my vocabulary rules: To be eligible for the table, a word or phrase must be a boldface entry in a major dictionary, or a reasonable inflection of such an entry. Not acceptable are words that are the plurals, inflections, or derivatives of an untransposed base name (thatchers, northern, vice-chamberlain, majority, lawyer, etc.). Also excluded, mainly for esthetic reasons, are proper nouns, transdeletions that delete more than a third of the letters in the base name, and transadditions that add more letters than there are letters in the base name.
In the following, all less-than-optimal metatransposals--those that add or subtract more than one letter-are shown in italics, with the number of letters added or subtracted indicated in parentheses. W3 = Webster's Third; W2 = Webster's Second. Prime Minister Transdeletion Transaddition Walpole wallop walloper W3 Wilmington twinling (2) W2# world-animating (4) W2# Pelham maple helpmate (2) W3# Newcastle cleanest sweet archangel (4) W3# Devonshire overshine W3 devil's-grandmother (7) W3# Bute tub tuber Grenville reveling revellings Rockingham charming (2)# knight commander (S) W3# Chatham match (2)# hatchman W3 Grafton forgat W3 frontage North horn thorny Shelburne busheler W3 double-strength (5) W3# Portland portal (2)# postprandial (4)# Pitt tip petit W3 Addington atoning (2)# nodding catchfly (6) W3# Perceval cleaver perceivable (3) W3# Liverpool overlie (2) W3# overpotential (4) W3# Canning caning enhancing (2)# Goderich chider (2)# chowdering (2) W3# Wellington toweling W3 town-dwelling (2) OED# Grey erg gyres Melbourne bemourn (2) W2# double mordent (4) W3# Peel lee sleep Russell rules (2)# sulliers Derby bred breedy W3 Aberdeen breaden W3 aberdevine (2) W3# Palmerston temporals W3 trampolines Disraeli sideral W3 side rails W3 Gladstone longest (2)# garden violets (4) W3# Salisbury burials (2)# bushy-tailed rats (6) W3# Rosebery soberer gooseberry (2) W3# Balfour flour (2)# four-ball W3 Campbell-Bannerman Asquith quash (2)# squattish (2) W3# George gorge engorge Law al W3 wall Baldwin bland (2)# windable W2 MacDonald calando (2) W3# collared monad (4) W3# Chamberlain camel hair (2) W3# climbing hydrangea (5) W3# Churchill church (3)# chlorsulphonic (5) W2# Attlee elate talented (2)# Eden end needs Macmillan laminal (2) W3# animalculum (2) W3# Douglas-Home doghouse (3)# manganous chloride (6) W3# Wilson lions lowings Heath hath health Callaghan gallach (2) W3# pantographically (7) W3# Thatcher ratchet hatcheter Major roam jorram W3 Blair bail tribal As can be seen, only the compound surname of Edwardian prime minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman presently stands in the way of the table's completion. …