PETER and Nan looked at me blankly when I said their names suggested types of bread to me.
You know, I said. Pitta and naan.
‘Oh,” said Peter.
I tried the same thing with our friends John and Lou from Brighton. I bet you flush when people announce your names at a party, I said gleefully. “What?” they said in unison.
In my youth I knew of a woman called Elsie May Rust who married a man named Crowe and thus became Elsie May Crowe. Not an improvement, perhaps.
My own mother was Bessie Lister, appearing on the school register as B Lister, and thus, inevitably, known at school as Blister.
Had she lived in our exciting modern times she would have had the back-handed compliment of being a B-lister, a celebrity not far short of the top of whatever tree it is to which celebrities aspire.
I should have left Roger and Sue from Barnoldswick well alone. This really went wrong.
“Funny,” I said provocatively. “That your names could, under certain circumstances, be perceived as active verbs.”
Roger and Sue looked at each other. “Eh?”
“... Or perhaps a firm of solicitors,” I added hastily.
Isn’t it odd that, having dug yourself a hole, your first instinct is to grab a spade and make it deeper?
“But I’m an IT manager and Sue is a care worker.”
I liked inventing names when I was writing the Slaitholmethorpe Chronicles back in the 1990s.
The characters included Bertie Bolstermoor, Arnold and Mavis Gibberish, Hezekiah Brockstabber and the Rev Tobias Slaughterhorn.
Robin Barstead was my favourite. He was an estate agent, general wheeler-dealer and spiv, unreliable and disreputable. His features included a pencil moustache. “He twirled his pencil moustache,” I wrote. “And smudged it. I’d told him a dozen times to use indelible ink.”