What’s in a name?

I was recently put in touch with a man who will trim some trees for me. There are branches obstructing a view and he will lop them off. His name, surprisingly, is Mike Root. I wondered whether somewhere there is a man named Branch who deals with roots. And that got me thinking about names.

In my corner of Connecticut we seem to have an abundance of individuals whose names fit their professions unusually well. There’s Nick the Barber for example. And Dr. Mangle the Dentist. And Dr. Haydock the pediatrician.. When we needed a well dug, we called on the local expert, Joe Flood.

There are many appropriate names I’ve encountered over the years in the Episcopal Church. Not everyone is familiar with the title “Canon.” They are not terribly big guns but are usually part of a cathedral staff. Sometimes it’s an honorary title. The first one I never met was the college chaplain and he was redundantly Canon Cannon. Not long after that, I heard that the Rev. David Ball had been made a Canon. Oscar Wilde, of course, named one of his characters Canon Chasuble but he would probably have thought Canon Ball too unlikely even for the stage.

At later points in my life, I met Fr. Priest and Fr. Bishop.

This last June one of the candidates for presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church was the Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley. I was disappointed when he was not elected. It seemed like such a typically Trollope kind of name.

And all this made me think as well of the Hong Kong construction firm I heard of when I was living in the far east that had billboards all over the city advertising the “How Long Construction Company. But this is somewhat far afield from where I started! I started with Root and branched out.

1 Comment

CarolineJuly 15th, 2006 at 9:08 pm

A San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen, had a name for these nice matchings of name & profession: namephreak. Readers of his would mail them in and every once in a while he’d have collected enough to build a whole column.

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