Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fortunately, the British Are Coming - with Their Names

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fortunately, the British Are Coming - with Their Names

Article excerpt

Along with a talent for driving on the wrong side of the road, the English create unique names for their children, towns, and food. I can't imagine residents anywhere else coming up with a quiet vegetable dish with a noisy name like bubble and squeak, or a breakfast creation called Toad In The Hole. As for towns, unless you're Lewis Carroll, it's hard to beat Newbiggin-by-the-Sea or Stow- on-the-Wold.

But the English really excel when it comes to naming their children. True, Americans have come up with their share of unusual first names. After all, State Rights (what the late head of Braniff Airlines, Harding Lawrence, named one of his sons) isn't your everyday Tom, Dick, or Chuck. Celebrities, for some reason, seem to have this need to make their children even more visible by giving them first names like Apple (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Kal-El (Nicolas Cage).

But the English know that putting the first and last name together takes real genius. How can anyone possibly be grumpy when they come across Cuthbert Purse? (Uncle Cuthy to my British wife.) And who would not want to have tea poured and sugar offered ("one lump or two, my Pooh Bear?") by a nanny like Tiggy Legge-Burke?

The fact is the English affix names to children that just aren't replicated west of the North Sea. You'd have to dig pretty deep in America to find a schoolmate with a moniker as evocative as my wife's childhood chum Drusilla Duffel, a name that conjures up visions of a Wagnerian soprano belting out the "Ring" cycle in a tweed suit and sensible shoes.

And it's difficult not to smile when you see that the role of Mrs. Fawlty on the BBC's comedy "Fawlty Towers" has been played by Prunella Scales, which evokes fish and dried fruit. …

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