Charles Nevin: Oh for Peter's sake, Mr Doherty

Fiddling with your name is a sure sign of taking yourself too seriously

Share
Related Topics

Considerable mockery, I fear, will attend the decision by Pete Doherty, the mercurial boulevardier and talented musician, to re-style himself as Peter Doherty on the cover of his new album, Grace/Wastelands, out today. If there is still one taboo in British society, it is taking yourself too seriously, and fiddling about with your name is a top indicator of the inclination.

We are all used to the recipients of honours insisting on the new handle being applied at all times by all people – and I'm certainly not talking about you, Sir Ben Kingsley – but the move away from friendly diminutive to formal form of first name seems to up the obloquy even higher.

You will remember the move by the late visionary Mancunian music and media impresario, Tony Wilson, to Anthony H Wilson; and the wish of Andy Cole, that glowering prince of strikers, if not scorers, to henceforth be known as Andrew Cole.

You will also note that in neither of these cases did the change have a positive effect: Tony was much mocked (even if he seemed to enjoy it); and Andy received no more deference from fans or markers. He was, in any case, soon upstaged by poor Gazza, who, in a sad/splendid example of his unique style, decided to be known as G7, which was confusing for a time for economics correspondents. There have also been the artist formerly known as Prince, and the one variously known as Sean Combs, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, and Diddy, but not, so far as I know "."

Peter must be aware, though of some successes: Reg Dwight, Marion Morrison, Diana Fluck, and William Pratt, for example, fared rather better as Elton John, John Wayne, Diana Dors and Boris Karloff. Let us pass over the attempt by the Royal Mail to pass itself off as Consignia, and instead consider the triumphant moves by such as Jif household cleaner to Cif household cleaner.

Despite the flak, these people were on to something. Names are important. True, Shakespeare had Juliet doubt their importance in the matter of her Romeo, but we know what happened to them.

And first names are of especial significance. People react to them even before meeting their bearers, judging them by those they have known, and not always loved. Parents agonise over their choice. Children agonise over it, too. And small wonder, when you remember the challenging time laid on by his dad for the boy named Sue. (And by theirs for Warren Peace, Merry Christmas, Art Gallery and Moon Unit Zappa.)

Peter may have gone formal, but there is the opposite, often more successful, popular movement: one thinks of Tony Benn, Tony Blair and, of course, Dave Cameron. But if you are looking for something different, why not try initials. Very classy. T S Eliot, J K Rowling, JRR Tolkien, T J Hooker, P J Proby, A L Rowse, for example: alluring semi-anonymity, gravitas married to non-gender specificity.

I have, though, saved Peter's finest role model for last. And it's a very big one indeed: another inspirational communicator who at one time was also known by a short form of his first name. So would you have voted for Barry Obama?



Charles Nevin is the author of 'The Book of Jacks', a history of our most popular first name and its famous bearers, published by Mainstream at £9.99

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before