Thursday, 1 July 2010

Is your name Baboonio?

Is your name Baboonio?

by 'Nomenclator'


Were you teased horribly at school? Did your schoolfellows make ape-like grunting noises, shrieks and whimperings? Did they make jokes about bananas? Did they swing from branch to branch scratching their armpits, sticking out their lower jaws and going Hoo-hoo-hoo mockingly?

Never mind. Names will never hurt you. You have the last laugh. You see, you are a CLERICAL ERROR. Your name is really Bassoonio.

So, what happened?

Bassoonio and Saloonio are two characters in Shakespeare's New Wives For Old, the early comedy he never managed to finish nor in fact to start. Set in Renaissance Italy, Bassoonio and Saloonio are drunken, bawdy servants of Cosimo, Duke of Milan. They spend their time in bars and bordellos, wining and wenching. Their famous eructation contest is rudely broken up by the watch, led by Nogood, a leper, and Scrotumio, the Duke's wrinkled retainer.

When New Wives For Old came to be translated into German, the double S in Bassoonio was rendered by the German double S, called es-zett or scharfes S, which looks quite like our capital B.

Here's a row of them:

Please feel free to take one home with you if you would like to. HURRY while stocks last!

You see how it happened? Bassoonio = Baßoonio = Baboonio. Simple, really. And nothing to worry about. No need to trouble the deed poll office.

Why, if a Shakespearian pedigree wasn't enough, Coleridge mentions you as well in his famed Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If you remember, the Ancient Mariner could not expiate his sin of shooting an albatross until he had confessed all to a stranger, in this case a guest on his way to a wedding:

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

'The ship was cheer'd, the harbour clear'd,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

The Sun came out upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—'
The Wedding Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud baboon.


Next week: 'Nomenclator' asks 'Is your name Fillyfod?' and explains the 18th Century ƒ.

Good morning.

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