Friday, November 10, 2006

What's in a hyphen?

Further to yesterday’s fearless rant on names, where do you stand on hyphens? I’m moved to ask because there’s a very serious report out today by the head of MI5, on the subject of what George Dubya calls ‘terrism’ – he doesn’t like more than two syllables in one word, unless it's ‘noocular'. But the report's gyst - basically that there are over 200 terrorist cells working in the UK (hey, wait a minute, no one told me about an election coming up!) - is completely upstaged by the name of its author, whose handle might have come straight out of P. G. Wodehouse: Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller.
In the library of a Welsh village, when I tried to book Internet time, I gave my name and the librarian said, ‘We have rather a lot of them in Wales – do you have another name?’ My point is that if it helps distinguish one Williams from another, I see nothing wrong with the odd ‘Rhys-hyphen-X‘. In Wales, they normally add the incumbent's trade at the end – like ‘Jones the meat’ or ‘Manningham-Buller the spy’. But neither ‘Manningham’ nor ‘Buller’ are names that would create havoc in a Welsh public library, so I don’t see the point.
Look, I know it’s not as simple as that: what if your family name is a much-loved and respected one – or what if your father were a knight, say, or a former Attorney General – or, as, in the case of Dame Eliza, both? Then I guess neither an obscure blog writer nor a wavy red underline from WORD would make you want to change it.
So it seems that on this I am – as I am about most matters – ambivalent.


Ed R said...

I don't mind hyphens if they don't mind me.

RW said...

I even like some of them: like home-made pot-roast or cous-cous.
(That wasn't Parkinsons.)