Wednesday, 31 August 2011
Nephew-in-law, Ian Edwards, posted on Sunday about the troubles he has with his name. He decided when he married my niece to adopt her surname name instead of her adopting his. However it has not been straightforward. I've never had problems with mis-spelling of my surname although in Napier I am sometimes asked if my Edwards has a second 'e' because there is an Edwardes Road in Napier. This has reminded me that I had written a piece some time ago and it's been lurking for a long time as a draft post. So here it now is!
The idea for this post is not new.
Nor is it unique in its application to my name. It could be Miller instead of Millar or Thompson instead of Thomson.
The matter was originally brought to mind by a letter I received. The letter annoyed me. Not by its contents but because of its address.
My name is Edwards. But the letter was addressed to Edwardes. I am, I confess, a little sensitive about that extra E. When I see it stuck onto the end of my name I am conscious of an annoyance altogether disproportionate to the reality of the situation.
The Edwardeses are as good as the Edwardses. There is nothing to choose between us. We are all the sons of some Edward or other. Why in heaven's name someone along the way had to stick an extra E into his name, though, I fail to understand.
It is probably pride on his part. Just as it is pride on my part not having that E.
But whatever the origin of the variations we feel a pride attaching to our own particular form. We feel an outrage on our names as we feel an outrage on our persons.
It was such an outrage that led to one of Robert Louis Stevenson's most angry outbursts.
An American publisher had pirated one of his books. But it was not the theft that angered him as much as the mis-spelling of his name. "I saw my book advertised as the work of R L Stephenson and I own I boiled."
I feel at this moment a touch of sympathy for, or is it with, that snob Sir Frederick Thesiger. He was addressed one day as 'Mr Smith' and the blood of all the Thesigers boiled within him.
"Do I look like a person with the name of Smith" he said and passed on.
And as the blood of all the Edwardses boils within me I ask "Do I look like and Edwardes?"
Yet I suppose one can fall in love with the name of Smith as with the name of Thesiger if it happens to be one's own.
I should like to see the reaction of Sir F E Smith if someone were to have called him Sir Frederick Thesiger.
But perhaps there is another reason for the annoyance. To misspell a person's name is to imply that he is so obscure or negligible that you do not know how to address him and cannot take the trouble to find out.
And whether we like it or not there is something within us all which rebels at the thought that we are not even worth that much effort.