David Bruce: Names Anecdotes

Carl Linnaeus became the father of classification by virtue of creating a new way of naming plants and animals using a binomial system of nomenclature, with the first name identifying the plant or animal as belonging to a specific group and the second name giving a specific characteristic of the plant or animal. Both names are in Latin, the language of science in Dr. Linnaeus’ day. For example, white clover is Trifolium repensand red clover is Trifolium incarnatum. Trifoliummeans three leaves, and clover has three leaves. Repensmeans creeping, and white clover has stems that are close to the ground. Incarnatummeans red, and red clover is of course red. One day, while Dr. Linnaeus was looking for plants, something bit him on his arm, which swelled up. To get the poison out of the arm, a surgeon cut the arm open from the armpit to the elbow. Dr. Linnaeus thought that a small worm had bitten him (he was probably wrong), and he named the wormFuria infernalis, which means a Fury from Hell.

The name “Ramones” comes from a pseudonym that Paul McCarthy used while traveling: Paul Ramone. Of course, there’s more to the name than that. Founding member Tommy Ramone points out, “It sounded tough. Like the streets of the city. Yet it also sounded ridiculous, like a joke. It was like something absurd yet dangerous. It really struck you.” Tommy was instrumental in creating the Ramones’ uniform—blue jeans, tennis shoes, T-shirts, leather jackets—and he insisted that each band member change his name to Ramone. By the way, Tommy was born Tamas Erdelyi in Hungary. He once watched a movie in Hungary about the “decadent west.” It featured a soundtrack with “animalistic” music from America, and Tomas fell in love with rock ’n’ roll.

When the Replacements performed at their first concert, they were supposed to be known as the Impediments. However, their first concert was in the basement of a Presbyterian church, and the promoter thought that the name the Impediments was not very Presbyterian and that it sounded anti-people with handicaps. Forced to pick a replacement name very quickly, they very quickly named themselves the Replacements. Of course, they had nicknames as well. At times, members of the band were so drunk that they could barely perform. At those times, they called themselves the Placemats, or more simply, the ’Mats. Once, in Portland, the ’Matswore their own clothing on stage—and over their own clothing, they wore the clothing of the opening act.

When author Judy Blume handed in the manuscript for Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, it didn’t have a title. A typist in the publisher’s office filled in the title space with the opening line of the young people’s novel, and that became the title. Judy’s young daughter, Randy, came up with the title of another book: Freckle Juice. Randy used to play in the bathtub, making a mess with powder, shampoo, and soap—a mixture that she called, yes, freckle juice. The title for Just as Long as We’re Togethercame from creative problem-solving. Ms. Blume and her agent, Claire Smith, couldn’t think of a title, so they started singing old campfire songs. The title for the book comes from a line in the song “Side by Side.”

E.B. “Andy” White picked up his nickname while attending Cornell University. The President of Cornell at the time was Andrew D. White, and students gave the nickname “Andy” to any student with the last name “White.” E.B. much preferred Andy to his real first name: Elwyn. Names were important to Andy. In his book Charlotte’s Web, he was going to name the spider Charlotte Epeira after the Latin name for the Grey Cross spider, but he took a closer look at the spiders in his barn and discovered that they were a different species. Therefore, he changed the name to Charlotte A. Cavatica.

Scottish singer Amy Macdonald regarded Pete Doherty as an early idol, and she wrote the song “Poison Prince” about his drug problems. Mr. Doherty has heard about the song, although he may have misheard its title. On television, an interviewer asked him, “So you’ve met Amy; she’s a big fan. And you’ve heard the song?” Mr. Doherty asked, “What song?” The interviewer replied, “The song she wrote about you, ‘Poison Prince.’” Mr. Doherty was not amused, saying, “Why would I want to listen to a song about me that is called ‘Poison Prick?’”

These days, you can legally change your name in Britain for only £7.50 online, and many people have taken advantage of the cheap rate. Many people have used UK Deed Poll Service to change their names. Unfortunately, some people have changed their names to such atrocities as Toasted T Cake, Daddy Fantastic, and Jellyfish Mc-Saveloy—possibly as the result of lost pub bets.Louise Bowers of UK Deed Poll Service says, “I did a Darth Vader once, and he asked me to become his Princess Leia. My husband wasn’t too pleased.”

In 1983, Barbara McClintock won the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She was the first woman to receive an unshared Noble Prize in that area, and only the third woman to receive an unshared Noble Prize. Long before she won the Noble Prize, she had acquired a nickname: Big Mac. In studying genetics, she grew crop after crop of corn, necessitating that she wear working clothes. On cool mornings and days, she wore a denim jacket in the cornfields. The buttons on the jacket bore the brand name of the clothing: Big Mac.

Jane Austen, author of Sense and Sensibility, never married, although she was engaged once—briefly. Still, when she was a young teenager, she tore a sheet from the parish register of her father the clergyman. On it, she wrote some imagined possible names of her future husband: Edmund Arthur William Mortimer, of Liverpool, and Henry Frederick Howard Fitzwilliam, of London. Jane being Jane, of course, one name was humorous: Jack Smith.

Frank Zappa and Gail, his wife, gave their children odd names: Dweezil, Ahmet, Diva, and Moon Unit. Actually, Dweezil’s legal name is not Dweezil—it’s Ian. When Dweezil was born, a nurse at the hospital refused to write down the name Dweezil on the birth certificate.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


David Bruce’s Lulu Bookstore (Paperbacks)


David Bruce’s Amazon Author Bookstore


David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore


David Bruce’s Apple iBookstore


David Bruce’s Barnes and Noble Books


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: