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David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.

David Bruce: Names Anecdotes

• In the early 1600s, Ana de Osorio, Countess of Chinchon, went to South America with her husband. Quickly, they began suffering from malaria. Because her home remedies didn’t work, the Countess of Chinchon decided to try a local remedy and sent people out looking for a certain species of tree — from whose bark quinine is made. The cure worked. In 1638, the Countess and her husband returned to Spain. Fortunately, the Countess took along some of the bark and used it to cure some cases of malaria in Spain. A century later, Swedish botanist Linnaeus began giving plants scientific names, and he gave the genus name Chinchonato the trees that produce quinine in their bark.

• Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated his Concerts pour Plusieurs Instrumentsto Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg, who apparently thought very little of them, because he did not include them in a catalogue of his works and there is no evidence that he ever had them played. After the Margrave died, the ownership of the works passed from person to person, until eventually they came into the possession of the Royal Library in Berlin. Finally, the works were played in 1850 — 100 years after Bach’s death. They were highly successful, and today they are known as the Brandenburg Concertos.

• In 1713, Giuseppe Tartini had a dream in a monastery where he was staying. In the dream, the Devil offered to buy Tartini’s soul for whatever price he wanted. Tartini made request after request, all of which the Devil granted, then, being a composer, Tartini requested that the Devil provide him with a sonata. The devil played a beautiful sonata on a violin, and Tartini fainted. In the morning, he did his best to recreate the Devil’s sonata, but felt as if he had recreated only part of it. Because of the inspiration he had received, Tartini called the sonata The Devil’s Trill.

• While in Tel Aviv, West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt visited the Mann Auditorium and said that it was a very forgiving gesture on the part of the Jews to name such an impressive building after a German writer. On hearing that the building was not named after Thomas Mann, author of The Magic Mountain, but was instead named in honor of Frederic R. Mann, the Jewish philanthropist from Philadelphia, Mr. Brandt asked, “What did he write?” His host answered, “A check.”

• When the Marx Brothers’ classic A Night at the Operawas finished, humor writer Al Boasberg didn’t get any credit for his gags (which was standard procedure for many humor writers who improved other people’s scripts). Therefore, the Marx Brothers sent Mr. Boasberg an autographed picture of themselves with this inscription: “To our pal, Sorry, but we couldn’t get your name on this picture either.”

• Ray Humphreys was a star reporter for the Denver Post; in addition, he wrote Western stories in which he used the names of other reporters on the newspaper. In one Western story, the name of reporter H. Allen Smith was given to a comic character — an Englishman with a monocle who was totally out of place in the American West.

• The writers of Jackie Gleason’s series featuring him as blowhard Ralph Kramden wanted to call the series “The Beast,” because they felt that Ralph was like an animal. However, Mr. Gleason felt that love was a major element of the show and underlay the arguments between Ralph and his wife Alice, so he insisted that it be called The Honeymooners.

• Alan Brady’s original name on the pilot that became the basis of The Dick Van Dyke Showwas Alan Sturdy, chosen by creator Carl Reiner because it sounded strong. The name was changed because executive producer Sheldon Leonard and actor Morey Amsterdam (who played Buddy Sorrell) both thought the name sounded like “Alan’s Dirty.”

• Hedda Hopper’s real name was Elda Furry. When she married De Wolf Hopper, she was his fifth wife. His previous wife’s names had been Edna, Ella, Ida, and Nella. Because her first name was so similar to theirs, she decided it was no longer suitable: “I changed it to Hedda, because I was afraid he wouldn’t know who I was.”

• Ian Fleming fell in love with Jamaica, and he built a house there, naming it “Goldeneye” after a wartime mission he had led during World War II. Mr. Fleming and his men had crossed the English Channel to occupied France, where they had destroyed any enemy outlook posts they could find.

• The name “Quaker” came from an English judge named Bennet. When George Fox told Mr. Bennet to “tremble at the name of the Lord,” Mr. Bennet called him a Quaker. For a long time, the name was used to mock the Quakers, but they eventually took pride in the name.

• In the 1960s TV series Get Smart, the audience never learns Agent 99’s real name. At her wedding to Maxwell Smart, the audience could have learned it, but when the preacher pronounces her name, a loud snore from Max’s best man, the elderly Admiral, drowns it out.

• Names are sometimes arrived at in strange ways. Drama executive Sydney Newman named a famous British tongue-in-cheek spy series by saying, “Let’s call it The Avengers. I don’t know what it means, but it’s a good title.”

• Humorist Ellen Orleans brought a new cat home. She named it Amanda, but it ignores its name and comes only when you call “Kitty, Kitty.” Therefore, its unofficial name is “Amanda Kitty, Kitty.”

• Sydney Smith believed that anyone who had the last name of Smith should have an unusual first name. He named his own daughter Saba, which was the name of a king in the 72nd psalm.

• People who are intensely devoted to ballet are known as balletomanes; people who are intensely devoted to melodic Italian opera are known as melomanes.

• George Balanchine once joked that all ballets should be named Swan Lake— that way, they would be guaranteed a large and interested audience.

• Anton Dolin was actually an Irish dancer of ballet. His real name was Sydney Francis Patrick Chippendale Healey-Kay.

• An actor in theater had the name Will B. Able.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.