Dr Monicker and the mysterious world of names

Is Desmond Tutu the only Archbishop named after a piece of ballet dancer's equipment?
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The Independent Culture
PEOPLE'S NAMES are a constant source of fascination. We are always asking ourselves questions like "I wonder where my name comes from?" and "I wonder if Desmond Tutu is the only Archbishop named after a piece of ballet dancer's equipment?". And the man who can answer all your questions is Dr Vernon Monicker, one of the world's leading experts on nomenclature. He is here today to tackle all your queries about names. Take it away, Vernon !

Why is it the woman who always has to change her name when two people get married? Why does the man never change his to hers? Why does anyone have to change his or her name?

Dr Monicker writes: Steady on there, steady. One at a time. The reason that people adopt the same name at a marriage is only so that they will know what to call the children later on. And it is not quite true that the man never changes his name to suit the wife. When Philip Mountbatten married Elizabeth Windsor, she didn't become Elizabeth Mountbatten. It is still called the Windsor family, and her children call themselves Windsor, so strictly speaking we can say that Prince Philip became a Windsor too.

Yes, but that's a bit of a rare case. Men never change their names otherwise, do they?

Dr Monicker writes: On the contrary, men are the only people who do change their names, at least voluntarily. I have never come across an example of a woman changing her name by deed poll, but men do it quite often.

Go on, name one.

Dr Monicker writes: John Major.

Oh? What has he changed his name to, then?

Dr Monicker writes: He changed it to John Major. He was John Major-Ball previously, if you remember. His brother never changed his name and is still Terry Major-Ball.

Hmmm... Does this mean that Zoe Ball's original name may have been Zoe Major-Ball? And that she dropped the other half?

Dr Monicker writes: I have no idea. Next question !

Why do Brazilian footballers only admit to one name? We know that Ronaldo is called Ronaldo, but we have no idea what his last name is. Or is Ronaldo his last name?

Dr Monicker writes: It is his only name. Brazilian footballers never use their real names. When they turn professional they have to go to a football equivalent of Equity, give up their real names and be given a stage name. That is why there are so many Brazilian footballers with strange single names like Leonardo and Socrates and Aristotle and Pythagoras...

Is there a Brazilian footballers called Pythagoras?

Dr Monicker writes: Bound to be.

I was intrigued by the name of the French footballer Zinedine Zidane. Is he the only footballer ever to play for his country with two names beginning with Z?

Dr Monicker writes: No. I believe that Zsa Zsa Gabor played once or twice for the Hungarian ladies' football side.

Great heavens above! Is that true?

Dr Monicker writes: Si non e vero, e ben trovato.

I'm sorry?

Dr Monicker writes: Forget it. And the next ?

One thing has always puzzled me about names, Dr Monicker. With all the people in the world you'd think that all available names would be used over and over again. But there are some names which are only used once and never again.

Dr Monicker writes: Oh? Such as?

Well, Aldous Huxley is the only Aldous I ever came across, and Rudyard Kipling was the only Rudyard...

Dr Monicker writes: Oh, I'm with you. Yes, there are lots of examples of one-off names, but the odd things is that they are all writers. Somerset Maugham, Wystan Auden, Garrison Keillor, Kingsley Amis - all unique names and all writers. Psychologists now believe that a person cursed with a name like this has to escape into writing to get away from his fellow man... Time for one more.

Do tell us - is Desmond Tutu in fact the only Archbishop named after a piece of ballet dancer's equipment?

I'm sorry - that's all we've got space for. Next time perhaps. Keep those queries rolling in!