Smiths & Joneses



Smiths & Joneses

Once there was a time when a man was his surname –
The only name they ever used at school, or in the Guards.
A gentleman at club would be hailed as little better
Than the sappers in the trenches or the inmates in the yards.
Forenames were for sissies and for ladies – or your relatives,
And only then because they else would all be called the same.
Soon as breeched and blazered, they were down to the initial –
All that mattered was the fam’ly silver and the fam’ly name,
But one or two more wily gents had first-names not to be ignored –
Jerome K Jerome and Ford Madox Ford…



Gods’ Breath

wind god


Gods’ Breath

Cry out your name to the wind,
As it gathers and flies,
Let it carry your name on its wing
To the edge of the skies.
Cry out your name to the wind,
And the wind replies –
“I am Aneurin, I am Belinda,
The unseen and wise.
Now I am Cormac, blowing, blowing,
Davina rising, Ezra free –
Soon to be Fortune, waiting, growing –
Filling the sails at mill and sea.
I am the storm and the maelstrom twinned,
The harbinger-bringer, the hurricane eyes !”

So cry out your name to the wind,
And your name shall rise.



Hannah Without the Aitches

Turquoise Beads by Arsen Kurbanov


Hannah Without the Aitches

Anna with an accent,
A European accent –
So she could be from anywhere…
(Well, anywhere but France.)

I’m no good guessing accents
Much beyond ‘North of the Trent’ –
Though ‘Eastern European’,
That must put me in with half a chance.

(In France she would be Anne, see,
With an ‘e’, is what I meant.)
But Anna’s international,
And how those borders love to dance…

But hang on…wait…she’s Ana,
One ‘n’ Ana !  Oh, that’s different !
There’s less and fewer Anas
And so suddenly my odds advance.

Except…there’s Spain…and Portugal…
The Balkans…half the continent !
And yet, I just can’t make those fit,
And I dismiss them at a glance.

Perhaps she’s Anastasia…
She must be Greek or Russian sent !
And Greek ?  I just don’t think she’s Greek –
There’s something Slavic in her stance…

So Russian.  Nazdarovya !
Though by way of cockney Kent,
Where London adds its subtle spice
Into her journeyman’s romance.

In truth, I only know she’s Ana
Maybe Moscow, maybe Ghent.
One day I might just ask her where,
But not today – why break the trance ?



Handle for a Han Girl

woman wearing eyeglasses
Photo by Phong Bùi Nam on


Handle for a Han Girl

Don’t ask me her birth name,
For I never heard it
Till many years later – too late to take root.
No, she was called Clover:
So terribly English,
So strangely old-fashioned, and strangely un-cute.
And pure Anglo-Saxon – her name, but not her –
No, she was as Chinese as any I’ve met,
With excellent English and excellent manners,
Yet bearing the name that was all Somerset.

And as for her birth name,
I knew that she had one,
But she never told me, and I never asked.
And had I been told it,
I’d only be baffled
By which was her first name, and which was her last.
So she plucked a new one, did Clover, a new name –
I don’t know why this name, but this name is she.
She chose it at high school, I gather – they all did,
Her classmates and Clover, they chose who to be.

She still has her birth name,
She hasn’t erased it,
She still has her birth name for using back home –
But here she is Clover
For living in London,
(Though maybe she’s Clio when living in Rome).
We in the West are too jealous of birth names,
We get what we get, and we lump what we got,
Then sneer at the actors and writers for daring –
But Clover is Clover because…well, why not ?







There’s something strange about forenames
In the Anglophonic world –
We’re pretty relaxed about the unusual
(Like Sue for a boy and Manson for a girl).
I was saying as much
To Anglophone Sutch.

“Ah well,” he replied, “we’ve always been
So easy going in our names.
Indeed, we’re laissez-faire to a fault,
And sometimes turn our children into games.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t care –
Why, ask my daughter, Laissez-Faire !”

“Could it be a Protestant thing ?”
I asked him, but he shook his head.
“Denmark, Iceland, Germany,
Are just as strict as Spain” he said.
“But why not ask a registrar ?”
And so I turned to Proddy Parr.

“We’re under orders not to interfere,”
She told me, “more or less –
So just last week, I registered
An ‘Octopus’, a ‘Table’ and a ‘Mess’.
Little Britons set to make their mark,
Like ‘Superman’ and ‘Sharky-Shark’.”

“That said, we do have, on occasion,
Cause to be a prudent voice
To overly-creative parents,
When their child will have to bear their choice.
It only takes a quiet word
To stop a ‘Clitoris’ or ‘Turd’.”

“But by and large, we’re mostly made
Of Johns and Janes, and that’s okay –
We’ve got the choice, though, that’s the point !
It seems to work, so what they hey.”
And that is why, my darling child,
I named you Unverboten Wilde !



Nominative Determinism

The Entrepreneur by Kathy Morris


Nominative Determinism

Dammerung Dasching:
A girl with one hell of a heck of a name !
It’s hardly her fault, of course,
She didn’t choose it –
Her thunderbolt handle is hardly her blame –
In fact, it’s absurd,
But her parents once heard
Of the power a moniker has on its wearer,
And children so labelled
Were feted and fabled,
Endorsing their promise upon the proud bearer.
And so she became
An incentive for fame,
Did Dammerung Dasching – the girl in the frame.



Nom de Guerre

Duel !  by


Nom de Guerre

Somewhere out there,
I’m not solitaire,
Cos somebody’s sharing my name.
An unaware pair, we are,
Not quite so rare, we are –
Feels so unfair, but there’s on-one to blame.
I must share a claim
To some unwitting fame –
I ought not to care,
But it still seems a shame:
With names going spare,
It is baffling, I swear,
That two of us bear one the same !



The Name Not Taken



The Name Not Taken

I always wanted to change my name –
But of course I never did.
I’d invent noms de plumes as a game, as a kid,
But be far too embarrassed to tell.
Instead I languished on in the hell
Of my parents’ choice – my nominal shame.
And I never gave voice to my secret name –
The pseudonym that I never became.

But hey, we cannot help the way we’re christened,
And parents cannot ever hope to guess –
And so we get their hand-me-downs
And grow to like them, more – or less.
And maybe also we’re conditioned
By these names with which we’re branded:
Bright Miss Pinks and drab Miss Browns –
We’re bound by handles that we’re handed !

I always wanted to change my name,
But of course I never will.
Though who needs shelter more from unsought fame
Than the bashful-still ?
So my lovingly-crafted pseudonym
Is firmly kept inside,
And it’s too late now to allude to him –
I could never be him if I tried.



Don’t be a Steve

Young Boys Playing Dice by Bartolomé Murillo


Don’t be a Steve

Some are Mikes and some are Harrys,
Some are Davids, some are Barrys,
Some are even Lens and Larrys,
So I do believe.
Some are Gavins, Grants and Garys
Some are Dustins, some are Carys,
As they live and breathe.

Not all children must be Steven,
Some are Karl or Keith or Keven,
Some of them are daughters, even !,
Nora, Nell and Neve.
V or PH ?  Stop deceiving !
Pick a name for high achieving !
Not all kids are Steve.


Incidentally, Bartolomé Murillo’s middle name was Esteban.



A Rose by Any Other Name but This

The Brutal Murder of Jezebel at the Hands of the Baying Mob by Gustave Doré


A Rose by Any Other Name but This

Atheist parents do not breed Jezebels,
Their daughters are precious, not pawns in a game.
Atheist parents may mock what the Bible tells,
But that is no reason to resurrect the name.
It may sound pretty, and the Bible may teach slander,
But why would any parent choose a stripper’s name to brand her ?

Atheist parents do not breed Jezebels,
Their daughters are Marys and Sarahs and Janes.
Atheist parents may not fear burning hells,
But that is no reason for bully-bate names.
It may sound pretty, but it’s home to tarts and brats:
For we cannot name our children in the way we name our cats.