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The Scrivener: I Did Not Become Briny

There a lot more to a personís name than the name itself, as Brian Barratt reveals.

To read more of Brianís wonderful columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_scrivener/

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A couple of years ago, an English journalist whom I respect told me that he would never write about Blair or Bush. He would give them their full titles, Mr Blair and Mr Bush. Not all journalists feel the same way. There's an article by a New York columnist in this morning's Melbourne newspaper. Colin Powell, Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin are named as such when first mentioned. Thereafter, they're referred to merely by their surnames, with not a first name or an honorific between them.

In England, 60 years ago, our neighbour was Mrs Raymond. She had been Mrs Raymond for years and she remained Mrs Raymond. My parents would have been appalled, I think, if they knew that I called her Lulu, because her first name was Louise. It was her idea, not mine.

Mr and Mrs Berryman had also been family friends for many years. He was a retired headmaster, and his first name was Lawrence. I just cannot imagine that anyone would dream of calling him Larry. She was a talented artist. I still have the drawing she contributed to my autograph book. It is signed G. Berryman. I like to think she was Gladys. That would have suited her, lovely old-fashioned person that she was.

There's a review in today's newspaper of a television programme, 'The Prime Minister is Missing'. It opens with a reference to 'the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt' in 1967. Thereafter, he is referred to as Holt. Strangely enough, the actor playing the part of Mr Holt is Normie Rowe. Not Norman, not even for a serious role, because he used to be a pop singer and, even though he now has grey hair, he is still Normie.

The same review also mentions the name of the Treasurer at the time, Billy McMahon. Billy, not William. We're very free and easy in Australia.

Shortened names, and names ending in Ėy or Ėie or just -i seem to be very popular. On today's TV programmes, we'll be able to see Benny, Charlie, Jackie, Jamie, Judy, Kerri, Kerry, Kylie, Larry, Libby, Lyndey, Sherri, Toadie and Whoopi. All of them apart from Kerry are on commercial TV channels. Scattered round all the local channels, commercial and otherwise, we have neat little Dan, Jim, Pete, Pip and Tim.

It's somehow reassuring that we can also see, if we wish, Angela, David, Dennis, Elizabeth, Martin and Paul. I'd much prefer them to Angie, Davy, Denny, Lizzie, Marty and Paulie. And there are a few names which cannot easily be shortened ó Ismail, Ivan, Kurt, Silvio and Ulrich. Ivy isn't appropriate. Silvy could be Sylvia. Ulie would present a challenge.

In the olden days, I worked for a boss who gave every male employee a nickname. Richard was Dicko; Ross became Rosco; Stephen was Stevo; another chap was The Spook; someone else who shall remain nameless was That Idiot (when he wasn't in the same room). When I arrived on the scene, he struggled to shorten or adapt Brian. I did not become Briny. I became, wait for it, Bri-bri. Yuk! It was one of those times when I really wished I could have been old-fashioned Mr Barratt.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2008.


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