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.


Tim Footman said...

For his next trick, he explains how the trumpet derived its name from a flat, bread-like tea-time treat.

Sarah said...

Good morning.

At school I had my bed filled with icky mud once. I retaliated and was gated for the entire term..story of my life.
Don't remember having a nickname.

Dave said...

Oddly, I caught a bit of QI last night (I like living a dangerous life) and learned that posh people who start their surname with a double small f (eg ffoulkes) are in fact descended from illiterates. The capital F, written in a gothic-type style, looks like two small fs.

I, Like The View said...

and now Lydian Airs comes with a free gift in each edition!



Vicus Scurra said...

Well, I'll be sugared.

Christopher said...

Tim: Better not mention the ophicleide, then.

Sah: Hi. I sometimes wonder what school they put you to? Clearly not Mallory Towers?

Off again, I hear. Where to this time? Happy journeyings, anyway.

Dave: That's to say your name was never ffeast?

Jax: I'm sorry to say this, but I think you may have taken MORE THAN ONE.

Vicus: Fhaken or ftirred?

Rog said...

Ffoulkes Sake.

Surely any ffule kno that the "ß" was in fact the earliest "emoticom" signifying a left breast in Chaucerean texting. The right breast was signified by a "Clarkkson".

patroclus said...

...and there I was thinking that Baboonio, Bassoonio and Saloonio all played in midfield for Brazil. It's good to be put straight on such matters.

moreidlethoughts said...

And they were all Prosperos.

In my day, you'd get detention for messing about with the Big Poets.

Christopher said...

Rog: Ho ho.

Patroclus: All I can say is stick by me and you'll get culture.

MIT: Duly chastened. I'm due to stand in the corner for 15 minutes after lunch.

mig said...

Good afternoon. There seems to be only one ef-zett left (sorry, I can't get my computer to produce a proper one. Do you have any more in stock?

Christopher said...

mig: Some who must remain NAMELESS (but I know who you are and which lace curtains you skulk behind gnawed by GUILT and REMORSE) took more than his/her fair share for purposes which shall remain equally NAMELESS with the result that there are none left and righteous, sober and godly persons like yourself are forced to DO WITHOUT. I'll know better next time...

Dave said...

Good luck for tonight. Break a baton, or whatever it is one wishes conductors/composers.

Christopher said...

Dave, how very kind. Thank you so much!