What's in a name ?

What's in a name ?

by Christopher Anderson
article from Wednesday 3, April, 2013

WHILE OUT shopping with my wife at our local supermarket the other day, I abandoned her among the baked beans and sidled quietly off to the whisky display, to find out what was on offer. I asked the old fella (of my own vintage) who was busy restocking the shelves, if there was any "buy-one-get-one-free" bargains among the single malts. He replied to the effect that I should be away writing scripts for Billy Connolly. Although he didn't say as much, his facial expression clearly also suggested that I should go forth and multiply.

I paused for a moment, trying to put my brain in gear, to produce some witty riposte, while he no doubt, was silently congratulating himself on his devastatingly smooth customer relation skills. Just then two mature ladies bore down on us, using their shopping trollys like battering rams and heading for the wine shelves. One was loudly holding forth to the other and sounding like Lady Thatcher used to, when at full volume in the House, tongue lashing the hapless opposition.

Apparently referring to a mutual acquaintance she was saying, "Oh yes, she's upset just now. Her daughter Kylie is going off to Salt Lake City to live with some American boy. She hasn't known him all that long and he's one of those Morgans or Normans or something......"

When they passed safely out of earshot, the old fella grinned at me and said, "Or maybe even a moron!" As I selected a friendly bottle of Highland Park, I thought to myself, why pay good money to attend stand-up comedy shows, when you can hear funnier stuff at Morrisons.

The strident lady was a worthy disciple of the wonderful character Mrs Malaprop, who consistently mangles the English language in Sheridan's classic play "The Rivals".

Years ago, my mother had a Mrs Malaprop of her own, in the shape of a friend of hers called Agnes, whose conversations when she visited was unintentionally, but really off-the-wall, hilarious. Realising that Agnes was totally unaware that she was being funny, my mother was never disloyal to her friend by laughing and perhaps giving offence. Other members of the family who on occasion happened to be there however, were in great danger of exploding frequently, and on a warning look from my mum, sometimes had to leave the room.

Agnes once related the story of taking her grandchildren to the zoo: "They really love the chimps, you know, seeing these monkeys jump around with all their funny antiques". On another occasion, she was describing a new lounge carpet she had just ordered. "It's a beautiful colour Mona, a sort of tortoise blue".

Another classic Agnes tale was of a young girl, the daughter of a friend of hers, who had just won a prestigious music scholarship, "Of course, her whole family are musical, they have a concert piano accordian and a relative who is a French Horner in a big band".

My own favourite memory of Agnes is of her proudly enthusing about her nephew, who had apparently been so unhappy with his chosen profession as a police officer, that he had suddenly thrown it all up and gone into the property business. "Oh yes" said Agnes, "Donald's doing wonderfully well, both in this country and in America. He now owns several buildings in Scotland and a huge Condom in Miami".

Seeing Crufts Dog Show on television reminded me of how Agnes once described her new pet puppy to my mum, "He's a cuddly, wee, long, German dog called Otto. Everyone calls him a sausage dog, but his correct breed name is a long haired Dutchhound".

Agnes had an "M" as a middle initial in her name. My mother said it stood for Maud, but I wonder ..... Do you think it might have been something else? Dare I suggest Malaprop?

Photo of Hylda Baker, famous for her malapropisms in the 60s TV comedy Nearest and Dearest from gonetoosoon.org


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