Raffle My Tit

I’ve been editing a lot of speaker biographies for an international conference and have come across some interesting names. I wondered if Mr Klompmaker made, er, klomps and it turns out that he doesn’t. He makes magazines, but ‘klomps’ are clogs so perhaps this Dutchman’s ancestors chiseled wooden shoes for a living. Names are often linked to the occupations of antecedents; Smith for example. But how do some people end up being named after fish? There’s the British weather forecaster, Michael Fish, who famously failed to forecast the Great Storm of 1987, but other fish names are even more specific; I know a Haddock, a Guppy and a Trout; they were all in different schools (sorry, those folks must be sick of jokes like that). Were their forebears fishermen who caught a lot of one specific variety of fish, or perhaps were unfortunate enough to look like a particular fish?

Another of the biographies I worked on last week was for a Mr Fleerackers, which again has Dutch or Flemish origins. In the old days did they torture insects? Picture the scene of the poor little flea being stretched on the rack. “We have ways of making you talk.” The Dutch language seems to have more than its fair share of curious names; I know a man called Ouderwortel (which means ‘old carrot’) and a South African called Potgieter (watering can).

Royal names are interesting. I know a Don Prince and a Mike King but I’ve never met anyone with the surname Princess or Queen, only people who behaved like them. Presumably royal names are not necessarily linked to the occupations of forebears – as far as I know, Mike isn’t descended from an actual king. Come to think of it, kings aren’t called King; they don’t usually even have last names at all.  The current lot in UK call themselves Windsor, presumably so they can put something on their passports; it must be nice to name yourself after one of your own castles.

Choosing a pen name is fun. I went for Matt Firefly, which is an anagram of Tim Lafferty. So far I’ve only used it on Twitter. Other anagrams of my name (kindly contrived by former colleague Meg Walmsley and her husband, when bored) are Raffle My Tit, My Fat Trifle and I Felt My Fart. One way to choose a good pseudonym is to combine the name of a pet you’ve owned with the name of a street you’ve lived in. On that basis I could be Leo Cavendish, Sheba Pembroke or Walter Merritt (aged six, I named my pet rat Walter after visiting Walt Disneyland. My hamster was called Cuddlers but I won’t be using that as a nom de plume).

I’d love to hear what your pen name would be – please post a comment.

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4 Responses to “Raffle My Tit”

  1. Catherine Says:

    My surname used to be Chattle and I got a nickname from a doll that was around at the time – Chatty Cathy. Possibly a good pen name for Twitter don’t you think.

  2. If I ever write a book, I’d pen it as Emma Wonder. Then I’d only need to change my first name; and I am lazy, so that works. Or, I could reinvent myself as an initial – I. Then I’d be I. Wonder. Even better. Especially if it’s a memoir. An anagram for Trudy is Durty. Durty Wonder (which is better than the alternative: Turdy Wonder. That’s what sometimes comes out when I type too fast – or just poorly. I think I’ll stick with Emma.)

    • Turdy is hilarious. Durty might be good if you wrote a bodice-ripping romance. I’ve always loved your name. I think of it as Truly Wonder! I confess that the draft of my novel has a Wonder in it. I’ve gone with Cheryl (perhaps a long lost cousin of yours!). You are a Wonder woman, literately and possibly literally.

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