Asterisk more than just a footnote
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Asterisk more than just a footnote

In the ladies golf major tournament last weekend one of the top American amateurs was 15-year-old Asterisk Talley. I don't recall ever coming across Asterisk as a name before. Apparently her mother is Greek and the word asterisk in Greek means "little star". So it would seem quite an acceptable name for a baby.

Nonetheless, opinion seems divided on whether Asterisk is a cute name to give a child or one that could become bit of a burden. The young golfer herself said some people think it's "cool" while some others don't. " You just live with it," she said.

Most people are familiar with the asterisk as a star-shaped typographic symbol which can have a variety of uses such as a form of censorship indicating the omission of letters in words deemed rude.

It is perhaps most often used to indicate a reference book footnote which points out that a particular record or event occurred in what is considered not normal circumstances. No sporting persons like to have an asterisk attached to their achievements as it tends to infer it is not quite the real deal.

As former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway once observed: "There's always an asterisk behind someone .that hasn't won the Super Bowl. There shouldn't be, but that's the way history works."

Bad idea

Parents have a lot to answer for when it comes to giving children questionable names. In England among those who have suffered was a lad who lad was named Strange Odour Andrews. Then there was the chap christened William Thrower Fitt. One kid who must have experienced a rough time at school was Longhorne Bullet Dick.

Girls don't totally escape. Among female new-borns registered in England have been Mary Hatt Box and Wava White Flag.

Someone else who must have been confused was Larry Harry Barry. Just imagine being stopped on the highway by a policeman and trying to convince the cop you are not inebriated with a name like that. The same scenario would go for the fellow called Smith whose parents unkindly christened him Mister.

Mr Mister

That sparks memories of an American rock band called Mr Mister which had a number one hit in 1985 with a track called Broken Wings. It's a pleasant but plaintive song and you can hear it on YouTube. The band acquired this unusual name from their high school music teacher who happened to be called Mr Mister.

Apparently the surname Mister appears 1,211 times in the 2010 US census so there are a few of them about.

Named for the job

This brings us to the wonderful world of "aptonyms". For the uninitiated this involves people's names which are particularly suited to their line of work. All the following names are genuine collected over the years by Crutch or submitted by readers.

Considering this canine nature of PostScript's mugshot it would seem appropriate to start with the veterinary world. Who could resist taking their dog to see a vet named Dr Woof or even better, Dr Wagy? And if you wish to improve communication with your pets there actually is a Dr Dolittle available in America. And we must not overlook an animal behaviourist with the splendid name Dr Grunt.

There has even been a scientific name given to aptonyms. It is known as "nominative determinism" which is described as "a sub-conscious force that makes someone gravitate toward a job that fits his or her surname." That may explain why a respected fishmonger in Scotland was Mr Salmon, my local butcher was a certain Mr Bacon and a famous London greengrocer happened to be called James Cabbage.

Under the weather

In the literary world an American author could not have had a better start than being named Francine Prose, while a lady specializing in the structure of the English language was called Faye Vowel. Then there's the Northern Ireland printing and stationary firm called Reid and Wright.

Weather forecasters are particularly vulnerable to aptonyms. Over the years Britain's Meteorological Office has included Mr Flood, Frost and Thundercliffe. Across the Pond the US National Weather Service for many years employed David Storm and Sarah Blizzard, while a forecaster in North Carolina went by the name of Larry Sprinkle who reportedly enjoyed forecasting "scattered showers."

A forecaster at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was appropriately named A Rainbow. And while we're Down Under there should be a mention of astronomer Alan Heavens.

Say when it hurts

The medical profession is replete with practitioners whose names might make you think twice about consulting them. Most of the following come from the US Medical Library Institute.

The roll call for dentists include such reassuring surnames as Butcher, Hurter and Pain. Patients could be forgiven for being slightly nervous about having their teeth pulled by Dr Mangle. Still you can always turn to Dr Yankum. Inevitably there is a urologist called Dr Dick, not to be confused with Dr Dick Finder.

Those awaiting surgery can look forward to the services of Dr Slaughter while a Dr Splatt is also on call.

Head games

You can always rely on psychiatrists for inspirational names. Who better to consult on personal problems than Dr Dippy? And if you are completely stressed out there's always Dr Nutter to sort things out. And the best of luck with Dr Looney.

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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