Just give me a name with a vowel ending

I can think of only one major Hollywood star who lost a final consonant and acquired a vowel: Greta Gustafsson became Garbo
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The Independent Online

As continental drift continues apace, culturally speaking, the National Lottery is reportedly to be renamed the Lotto.

Those of you who have found yourselves on holiday in southern Europe desperately floundering for the right word by sticking an "o" at or near the end of an English one, as I confess I have, will not be surprised to learn that Lotto is what the lotteries of Spain, Italy and France are called.

Of course, the Latin languages do not have a monopoly on words ending in "o". We English might have little time for the euro, but we did, after all, give the Continent the yobbo.

All the same, nobody seems quite sure why Camelot – a name that conjures up that most English, or possibly Celtic, of legends – feel the need to go European. Perhaps they are trying to lend the boring old Lottery some glamour, and it is true that the word Lotto does evoke those newspaper kiosks in sun-kissed foreign cities, which in turn carry a whiff of pavement cafés and Gauloises and raven-haired teenagers passing on Vespas.

To which a committed Europhobe might say that while you're sitting at a pavement café getting lung cancer from passively smoking too many Gauloises, you're more than likely to have your bag pinched by a raven-haired teenager passing on a Vespa. But let's deplore such cynicism, and acknowledge that words ending in shapely vowels generally do carry a little more allure, a little more mystique, than words ending in stodgy consonants.

Oddly enough, however, in the golden age of Hollywood, when mystique and allure were prized even above talent, vowel endings were often jettisoned. Thus, in pursuit of box-office glamour, Betty Joan Perske became Lauren Bacall, Margarita Cansino became Rita Hayworth, Anna Maria Italiano became Anne Bancroft, Edda van Heemstra became Audrey Hepburn, and Charles Buchinski became Charles Bronson. Off the top of my reference book, I can think of only one major Hollywood star who lost a final consonant and acquired a vowel: Greta Gustafsson became Greta Garbo, but then she was foreign.

Still, maybe that tells us more about the sensibilities of mid-20th century middle America than anything else (and let's not forget that plain Peggy Middleton of Vancouver became exotic Yvonne de Carlo of The Munsters).

Moreover, who can blame an aspiring matinée idol for changing a name that is either too banal, or too foreign? Among my favourite examples of these are Reginald Truscott-Jones (who wisely became Ray Milland) and Issur Danielovitch Demsky (Kirk Douglas, ditto). But my all-time favourite name change is Diana Fluck to Diana Dors, largely because it inspired a wonderful anecdote that might be apocryphal but deserves to be true.

You know the one. That at Diana Dors' funeral the minister was so concerned about the pronunciation of her real name that, desperate to sound the all-important L, he played it over and over in his head far too many times, and finally bade a solemn farewell "to our friend Diana Dors, born Diana Clunt".

Of course, it is one thing bestowing a new name on an institution before it becomes an institution, but quite another thing afterwards, which is what worries me about the National Lottery. After all, who pops round the corner to Consignia rather than the Post Office?

Besides, even if you don't initially approve of radical changes to familiar things in your life – such as, oh, I don't know, your favourite daily newspaper, perhaps – they invariably grow on you. Emmerdale Farm merrily survived its re-packaging as Emmerdale, and it is only chocolate reactionaries like me who still think of Snickers bars as Marathons.

Even Oil of Olay (formerly known as Oil of Ulay) and Cif (formerly known as Jif) will eventually blend into the language, like old friends whose slight nose jobs are at first utterly disconcerting, the more so as there seemed nothing wrong with the original, until you stop noticing. I can just about envisage a day when I might include in my supermarket shop a Lotto ticket, a Cif lemon and a jar of Oil of Olay.

And when that day arrives, mine will be a truly transcontinental shopping list. Which, of course, is the rationale behind many of these branding changes, that in a Europe sans frontières skin creams and bars of chocolate will have the same names, promoted with the same advertising campaigns.

I'm not really sure whether I approve or not. I like to think that I am a modern European citizen, but at the same time I'm just a little bit smug that the Continental Raider bar was renamed Twix, and not the other way round.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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