A louse is a louse is a louse, Close enough, In German, Norwegian and Dutch, While Romancers keeps it in-house, Close enough, From the Latin pedis, and such, While Slavs use a different nous, Close enough, With vusi – it doesn’t change much. So a louse is a louse, from West to East, And ev’rywhere the same. But a woodlouse, that’s a diff’rent beast – The bug with a thousand names… Roly-poly, cheesey wig, The sow bug, pill bug, backyard blimp – And dandy postman, parson’s pig, Or slater, cafner, carpet shrimp. And other tongues have a similar feast – Or so the pundits claim… But an insect louse ? That’s just a louse – They’re itchy, but they’re tame.
I have touched on woodlice before, and also eyelash lice. Their diversity of names reminds me somewhat of butterflies. Incidentally, though both ‘wood’ and ‘louse’ are present in Anglo-Saxon, they don’t seem to have been put together until 1611.
Whenever I hear people blame How surnames get above their station, Moving up to the front of the name, In a silly fads and trendy game, Calling kids Odell or Mason, Grabbing at that Moon Unit fame That should belong to Jane and Jason – I love to contradict their claims By pointing out it’s nothing new for names – So Franklin, Brooke, and Harrison, Meet Stanley, Joyce, and Allison, Who opened up the door through which you came. But then, there’s many a fam’ly brand Whose use ain’t so contrived or underhand – For they themselves derived from the font-side, Taking a personal name, and riffing free, Which now completes its jaunty ride By cycling back as Price or Tiffany, With not a shred of shame. For labels, monikers and nicks, Are simply anything that sticks – And who wants kids to all be called the same ?
It’s intersting to consider how the four different types of surname get reappropriated: Patronymic-names (f’instance Anderson, McKenzie, Fitzpatrick) are obvious candidates, being already based on a forename. Location-names (like Milton, Beverley, Beckett) would be grabbed if they were thought to sound nice, much like India and Vienna would be later, though now with an added dash of exotic. Nickname-names (say Wiley, Swift, Armstrong) are slower to be taken up, but not unheard-of. Occupation-names (such as Parker, Smith, Marshall) are the most surname-sounding, and their recent large-scale take-up could well come to define this century, just as the Victorians are associated with naming their daughters after flowers and gemstones.
By the way…if Tinker Dill was a character in Lovejoy, Taylor Dayne was an 80s pop star, Soulja Boy is a rapper…then I guess it’s only a matter of time before we can say Hello Sailor…
(And to all you subjunctive-lovers out there, I stand by the two ‘was’-es above, as what it is saying is “IF…given that Character A was in Show B, THEN…”, meaning that the ‘was’ is not part of the conditional clause.)
Pterosaurs weren’t dinosaurs – And so says Lukas, keen to crow. You know what, Lukas ? We already know. And neither were the mosasaurs, And ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, Dimetridon or sarchosuchus – Come on, Lukas, don’t harp on so.
Sometimes, Lukas, we’ll play ball, Cos evolution’s cool and all – But we also need a name instead To call all things that’re scaly, big, and dead. We need a widely-recognised file, A catch-all term, a handy pile – But one that leaves out bird and crocodile.
With chapter, verse, and nomenclature ? Oh, don’t be such a whiny bore, By giving us a minus score In your self-waging, name-defining war – Lumbering and out-of-date, We’ve got your number, Lukas, mate – You’re such a dinosaur !
Cowes, atop the Isle of Wight – East and West, though much the same – Victorian and seaside-y, With boats and seagulls running free. And not a single cow in sight – No running of the bulls – for shame ! No fording droves between the piers, No cowboys showing off their steers. And don’t come here in Cowes Week, right ! It doesn’t live up to its fame ! It’s not the time when bullocks battle, Not a trace of rutting cattle. Why then whet our appetite, To wastes its strange and lively name ? There are no bovine sacrifices, Just cream teas at tourist prices.
I know, I know, despite a spine of rolling chalk downs through the Island, Cowes itself sits atop clay…
Women have answered to ‘Jenny’ far longer than ‘Jennifer’, Whether they’re maidens or maids – A pet form of Janet, Joanna, or even Siobhan, She’s really a jack-of-all-trades. Old English had a few Jinifers, sure, But those weren’t Guiniveres, those were Junipers – Then, from nowhere, Jennifer came – From Cornwall, and from a parallel universe.
As the Twentieth Century progressed, The Jennies were pressed into service And switched their allegiance to Jennifer only, And rode her success to over-abundance – Then into the downward curve of redundancy, No longer heroines, neighbours, or queens – But surely we’ll always remember the Jennies, As wrens, or as donkeys, or spinning machines.
Aisha Asher always thinks her name Has too few letters in it – It takes a whole three syllables to say, But not to write. She likes the sound, but oh, that spelling ! How she longs to discipline it – Make those letters toe the line, And keep their phonemes tight. Whenever a teacher or a stranger Tries, and fails, to call her, They’re guaranteed to get it wrong If reading it as penned. Ay-sha, they would call her, like the Geisha from Croatia, It appals her, But…she cannot really blame them in the end. Her A is really said like I, Her I is really said like E, But who would know to see it written down ? She toys with splitting them apart with Y, To keep her diphthongs free, Or adding dots above the E, Despite her mother’s frown. But nobody respects her favoured spellings, anyway – (It doesn’t help that they are apt to change). It looks like she is stuck With a name no-one can say, Eternally surprising in her strange.
The European Garden Spider Bore a name both accurate and dull. Till some do-gooding Victorian Decided to give the matter a good old mull – And, believing truth must always bow To poetic hyperbole, He grandly named them all orb-weavers And wrote to the Times after tea. Who cares if the webs are as flat as a silk cravat ?, (Of course, monogrammed). Should he have named them all plate-spinners ? Geometry be d-mned !