Ray­mond Briggs

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Ray­mond Briggs

It’s odd how the ‘ee’ sound on the end of a name makes it sound more af­fec­tion­ate. Jenny, Billy, Freddy, Johnny, Tommy, Susie, Margie, Amy, Lizzie, Winny, Jessie...

It can even be done with sur­names: my Mum was al­ways called Brig­gsy at work dur­ing the war. En­ter­tain­ment stars of­ten had names like Char­lie Ch­ester and Tommy Trinder. I thought I was lucky in hav­ing a first name that could not be al­tered in this way, un­til one day some­one called me Raymie. This was meant to be kindly, even af­fec­tion­ate; so I couldn’t strike them dead.

But now it seems to be get­ting into proper names. Over 20 years ago, I was amazed when I learned that a friend’s daugh­ter, Con­nie, was not an af­fec­tion­ate short­en­ing of Con­stance, but is the name on her birth cer­tifi­cate.

Some women are lucky in hav­ing the ‘ee’ al­ready there: Sally, Lucy, Lily... and Libby Purves? Some names can­not have the ‘ee’ even if their owner wanted it: Hilda, Karen, Brenda, Teresa and Mar­garet? Mar­garet­tee? Doesn’t sound right; so had to change to Mag­gie. Even so, it doesn’t al­ways ex­press af­fec­tion – Mag­gie Thatcher with her hand­bag weapon, for in­stance.

Re­cently, I’ve been told, there is a craze among teenagers to in­vent sin­gle- syl­la­ble names for them­selves. Haven’t heard one yet. Quite look­ing for­ward to it. I hope they have been warned about rhyming slang.

New names ap­pear all the time. Tilda seems to be com­ing in as half­way be­tween Matilda and Tilly.

At first, it all sounds quite a good idea, mak­ing the per­son seem more friendly and ap­proach­able. But it de­prives them of choice. If Con­nie had kept the Con­stance, she could still have used Con­nie as well. Also, does it age well? An 80-year-old Con­nie? Or with a ti­tle: an 80-year-old Lady Con­nie?

It does not work with the re­ally great, ei­ther – Win­nie Churchill? That even causes a change of gen­der. Imag­ine him en­ter­ing the Cabi­net Room and one of his staff call­ing out, ‘Hi, Win­nie!’

Micky An­gelo? Sounds like a rock gui­tarist. Remy Brandt? A lady’s face cream? Billy Shake­speare? Johnny Keats, Willy Wordsworth and Chris Wren? But then we do have Percy Bysshe Shel­ley.

But even worse are the great mu­si­cal names – Joey Sebby Bach, Lud­dyviggy Beethoven. And, with Mozart, you just have to give up. Wolf­gang! Wolf and Gang, two very un­pleas­ant things to have in your own name. ‘Woof, woof, Wolfie.’ TV ad­vert for dog bis­cuits? ‘Sit, Wolfie; good girl.’

In lit­er­a­ture, there is Leo Tol­stoy slip­ping in un­al­tered. Very clever. Well done, Leo! Then, in other arts, we have Vincey Vanny Gogh, Matty Matisse, Money Monet and Bonny Bon­nard. Makes him sound like Scot­tish short­bread. Pablo Pi­casso dodges in, al­ready in­for­mal and friendly.

In pub­lish­ing, there is my own first publisher, Hammy Hamil­ton, though I am sure he would not have liked it, and Johnny Cape.

Now, to cap it all, we have our own lord and mas­ter, the great Harry Mount! Not Harry Moun­tie, which sounds like a choccy bar.

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