Friday 17 November 2017

On first-name terms with nickable names

England produced one of the most iconic names of all in James Bond
England produced one of the most iconic names of all in James Bond

Fiona O'Connell

Living in a country town is fascinating, not least because of the way that certain names abound. There are wondrous numbers of Walshs, or Welshs, around these parts; a fair few Treacys and a number of O'Keeffes.

There are also surnames that I hadn't heard before. When I first moved here, I was told that the nuns lived in a cottage that I had admired. I had a vision of virtuous females ambling about - until I learned that it was the home of a couple whose surname was Nunn.

This town has not disappointed on the first names front either, having acquainted me with the previously unknown delights of Canice and Shem.

Then there are the sometimes comical combinations of first and second name. I once encouraged my friend Dawn to marry her boyfriend, Dara, if for no other reason that to acquire his surname. After all, just imagine the espionage career she could have enjoyed with the ready-made handle of Dawn Fox.

Having worked with foreigners for much of my adult life means I've encountered novel names from far-flung necks of the world's woods. I was surprised to discover that Spanish folk are partial to calling their children after cars, albeit swanky ones like 'Mercedes'. And they go further than taking the Lord's name in vain, by printing the ever-popular 'Jesus' on their passports.

Many of the Bosnians I have met had names that reminded me of English ones spelt backwards - such as 'Nenad' and 'Nermin'. While I seemed to inadvertently adopt one charmingly cheeky Cuban, who used to sign the register as 'Manuel O'Connell'.

And the name of another clever Cuban with a medical profession appropriately translated as 'Doctor Good'.

Whatever about the successes of our own O'Briens and Ryans, Irish bookmakers Paddy Power must think that their surname epitomises the luck of the Irish. But perhaps the joke may be on them, given that Power is originally a Norman name, which derives from the old French 'povre' - meaning 'poor'. (Though I hasten to add that it is apparently more likely to have referred to a vow than to involuntary destitution.)

But when it comes to winning the name game, we have some of the new Irish to thank for putting the ice on the cake of that superlative surname.

Like one affable African carer I met recently, when I was visiting a friend in hospital.

Because while our neighbours across the water like to lay claim to the most iconic name of all, with the legendary line 'the name's Bond ... James Bond', this friendly fellow leaves that tired title in the shade. As I discovered when we were making our introductions.

"The name's Power," he told me. "God's Power."

How's that for a nifty namesake?

Sunday Independent

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