Friday, March 26, 2010

An inconvenient name

Back from my week in France to find two messages from friends - ones who don't know each other and are different sexes and ages - pointing out that an article on the sexual abuse of choristers in Vienna in today's Times is written by one Roger Boyes.

"Is this some inappropriate joke by a sub-editor?" one asked. The other just found it very funny. And strangely it was the older woman rather than my oldest male friend who has the disturbing sense of humour.

No, it was not a joke. Yes, Roger Boyes is a real person. He has been the Times's man in Berlin for ever (well, longer than the nine years I've worked for the paper) and no doubt he has heard this many many times. I don't imagine that sex abuse stories are that rare, sadly. Even in Germany.

Those with names that can make others snigger have it tough. Sometimes people who disagree with views on my cricket blog note my surname and leave comments saying: "Surely you are KIDDing". Yes, they use capital letters in case people don't get the joke. I live in peril of an editor thinking it would be a good idea to give me a column called Just Kidding.

I had a teacher called Dick Paine (he genuinely preferred to be called Dick rather than Richard), which sounded uncomfortable, and my mother tells me that she was taught by one Ivor Herring, which would seem unnecessarily boastful in certain fishing communities. Being a music teacher, perhaps he could have moonlighted (moonlit?) as a piano tuna.

On opening my post just now, I found an advert for a dentist called Mr Stab, which reminded me of a sign I once saw at university advertising the services of an optician called Mr Death (well, De'Ath, but who was he kidding?).

Perhaps the least appropriate name I have come across, though, was when I worked on The Times's public-sector supplement a few years ago and had to write something about two health experts giving advice to a Parliament committee on tackling obesity.

Their names? Mr Crisp and Mr Podger. Seriously.


King Cricket said...

I've known a number of people with similarly unfortunate names (Joy Ryder being one that immediately springs to mind) but my favourite story was when a friend phoned the doctor having just had a back spasm.

He was lying on the floor, in enormous pain, mobile pressed against his ear, when he got through to Doctor Pepper. By all accounts it was the most agonising laughter of his life.

johnmc said...

That reminded me of an old teacher at my school, in a story that is sadly relevent to this piece

Needless to say he was known by one and all by the shorter form of Richard

AngieT said...

I too had a head teacher called Ivor Herring. Might be same one? This was at Chingford County High School in the late '50s/early '60s. It was actually a VERY 'fishy' school. Mr Herring's wife Maisie also taught there, we had a Mr & Mrs Bream , Mr Fisher, and the caretaker was Mr. Roach.
We also had a games mistress with the resounding name of Zena Lusty....