What's in a name?

'You must know the joke about Fredric March III. What would Tuesday Weld be called if she married Fredric March III? Tuesday March III'

By Miles Kington
Wednesday 27 November 2002 01:00
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I am glad to say that our resident language expert, Dr Wordsmith, is with us again today in the office, prepared to wrestle with more of your challenging questions about the state of the English language today.

All yours, Doc!

Dear Dr Wordsmith, One of the most interesting young stars of the film world is the actress Halle Berry, and one of the more interesting things about her is her name. How many actors can there be in the world who are named after a major orchestra?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Is there a Berry Orchestra?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, No, but there is a Hallé Orchestra.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Just kidding. It is, of course, most unlikely that she is named after a Manchester institution, as she has no known link with the city of Manchester...

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Hold on! Not true! Her mother is from Liverpool.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Yes, but Liverpool has no known connection with Manchester.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, None, except the connection of deadly rivalry, perhaps. But that makes it all the more extraordinary that a girl with a Liverpudlian mother should be given a Mancunian name.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Perhaps there aren't any orchestras in Liverpool, or not any with euphonious names.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, That's not the point! The point is: why would a girl be given the name of an orchestra?

Dr Wordsmith writes: I don't know. Why would a girl be given the name of an orchestra?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, No, you don't ask the questions. I ask them and you answer them.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Right... What was the question?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Why would a girl be given the name of an orchestra?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Maybe she wasn't. Maybe she was meant to be given the names Holly Berry, and the clergyman misheard them.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Why would any girl be given the name of a wild fruit such as a holly berry?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Maybe it wasn't the name of a wild fruit. Maybe she was named after a mixture of Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. And the clergyman heard it wrong and thought it was Halle.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, But Halle isn't even a girl's name!

Dr Wordsmith writes: Of course it isn't. But it doesn't have to be these days. Lots of actresses have men's names these days.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Name one.

Dr Wordsmith writes: OK. Brooke Shields.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Hmm... Name another one.

Dr Wordsmith writes: How about Cameron Diaz?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Very good. Name another one.

Dr Wordsmith writes: No. You asked for only one. I've given you two already. Anyway, movie stars have had crazy names as far back as one can go. They have been named after cars...

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Such as who?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Such as Mercedes Ruehl. And they have been named after major exhibition areas...

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Such as who?

Dr Wordsmith writes: Such as Olympia Dukakis. And they have been named after days of the week...

Dear Dr Wordsmith, I feel I ought to know this one.

Dr Wordsmith writes: Such as Tuesday Weld.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Of course! Hence the joke.

Dr Wordsmith writes: What joke?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Oh, the old joke about Fredric March III. Surely you know it.

Dr Wordsmith writes: No. What old joke is that?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, What would Tuesday Weld be called if she married Fredric March III?

Dr Wordsmith writes: I don't know. What would she be called?

Dear Dr Wordsmith, She'd be called Tuesday March III!

Dr Wordsmith writes: This language clinic is going downmarket faster than I care to witness. It is closed until further notice. Emergency consultation can be obtained in person from me at the bar of the Waterman's Arms, Wapping, on payment of a round of drinks.

Dr Wordsmith will be back again soon. Keep those enquiries pouring in!

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