Ref! The final whistle

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads,

I see we’ve all woken up, then. From the snooze that was the England-Slovakia game, Baz. Load of rubbish, wasn’t it? And all the people who were talking Sam Allardyce up beforehand, about this system he had that the players could fall back on, well it didn’t look like they were particularly inspired, did it? And him sitting there like a face in the crowd.

No, I’m sorry, Dave, but I don’t reckon he’s up to it. I’m really sorry to be negative about it. Particularly as this is the last Ref! blog.

Why? Because the guy who writes this stuff is packing it in, that’s why. He says he’s been doing it for a year and has had a lot of fun, but he’s got other things to be getting on with. So that’s it.

He’d like to thank everyone for their support, blah blah blah, but what good’s that to the likes of us?

Cheers Gary, no drink thanks, I’m not in the mood. Rather sad actually, gents. It’s been a significant part of my life these last 12 months and I’ll miss it.

But all good things must come to an end and we’ve had the 90 minutes plus stoppage time on this. And all the other threads, Dave, yes. Our colleagues in the expat, pedant, film, pop music, food and religion departments – all the same bloke, as it happens – all packing it in.

So there we are. Nothing more to be said. Anybody wishing to contact the miserable git can use his email address: chrismorvan@gmail.com

Bye.

 

 

 

The English Pedant – The language of deception

One of the dangers of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is not having the time, not having the courage, or failing in some other way to correct a student’s enthusiastic misunderstanding of a potentially sensitive word.

I was recently challenged by a teenage girl on the meaning of the verb to  cheat. We were on the subject of school and she was telling me how a friend of hers had done much better than she had in a test because he had  smuggled a crib sheet in, placed it in his lap below the desk and was referring to it throughout.

“Cheating,” I said.

“No,” she responded with the smirking satisfaction of having outsmarted the teacher. “That means… you cheat on your boyfriend with another boy. Like you kiss somebody else or…”

She was right in that that word has come to mean what used to be called “being unfaithful”, a term too cumbersome and uncool for the TV  movie generation. It reached epidemic proportions in the US and then, like the grey squirrel, was introduced to other English-speaking areas including the UK and proceeded to take over, sweeping the local population aside.

My explanation that cheating meant generally taking an unfair advantage by devious means was received unwillingly; the student’s understanding of the word had been drummed into her through every dimwitted teenage vampire series and unhappy, unpleasant depiction of romantic liaisons that seeps like glucose into the systems of the young.

She couldn’t offer an alternative single word for the idea of cheating at cards or at school, because there isn’t one, but it was hard for her to accept that the term  could exist without sexual overtones.

If you examine it in that unfaithfulness context, it doesn’t really match the photofit, because the conventional idea of cheating is that the cheat is achieving success in an area where someone or several people are also trying to succeed.

But, like a lazy songwriter who rhymes happen with Clapham, common with forgotten and basement with engagement because they’re close enough if not exact (all these and more in Up The Junction by Squeeze), this one word has come to be accepted as describing the act of having sex with someone other than one’s partner.

Short, puny alcoholic

Coincidentally, other words concerning deception have crept into the language in recent years, by way of internet dating sites. Before the internet existed, dating or “matrimonial” agencies would describe clients in plain English, but since the advent of doing it ourselves, those who feel their physical attributes are not  what is required have become creative. Enter the word “curvaceous”, to describe a woman with an undulating landscape. In the real but unkind world, she is fat, but she’s not going to say that about herself, and there is no conventional adjective that sounds any less critical. Overweight? Negative. Obese? Do you want a slap?

So the choice is between calling your body shape “average” and watching the look on your date’s face when he sees the truth, or using the C word: curvaceous. That or the evocative but ridiculous “volumptious”, a hybrid of voluptuous and scrumptious.

The current favourite is the acronym BBW, which can mean big breasted woman, big beautiful woman or even big black woman. At least your date knows not to expect a stick insect. It’s just a shame that body weight should be an issue at all, but preferences are preferences.

Meanwhile, few men would ever describe themselves as short, so the world must be full of internet dating descriptions claiming “average height”.

And that, when you’re only a shade over 5ft. tall, is cheating. Actually, no – it’s an attempt at cheating through just plain lying.

Ref! On the farce that is Formula One

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee and all-round sports expert Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant

 Referee

Evening lads,

Just for a change let’s talk about something other than football tonight, okay? Such as? What do you mean, such as, Dave? There are other subjects in the world. We just naturally talk about football because… yes, Baz, it’s what we do – very profound.

So how about Formula One? Very popular sport. A man’s sport, you could say, because it’s all blokes in here tonight and they’re all talking about it. Well I tell you what, I don’t see the appeal. I lost interest when it stopped being called motor racing. Now it’s Formula One or even F1. It’s lost its way, you know.  Too clever for its own good. I don’t even understand it half the time. Well, Baz, do you? You do? Because you are also a driver. Yes, you’re a lorry driver. You can call it a truck driver if you like but here in Britain you’re a lorry driver, mate. And it’s hardly the same thing, is it?

Okay, I’ll grant you that you and Lewis Hamilton both have to have a basic understanding of motor vehicles, but that hardly means you have a lot in common. Okay, I will test you. What was all this nonsense about tyre pressures on Sunday? And why did Hamilton have to start last? And if they’ve perfected a new head protector on the cars why aren’t they using it?

You see? None of it is about actually driving. It’s all technical stuff. No, Dave, I can see he’s trying to answer and I deliberately gave him three questions at once because the whole thing is confusing. They change their tyres two or three times during a race, they’ve made the engines quieter but some people think that spoils the fun. They could actually go faster than they do but there are restrictions on that. It’s cobblers, mate. Nonsense.

Cheers Gary, I’ll have a cocktail please. The most complicated thing they can make. I don’t care.

Look, if other sports did what F1 does there’d be an outcry. You pole vaulters can’t use those poles because they’re too good, so you’ll have to use an inferior one. Mo Farah, you’ll have to use soft spikes and stop halfway and put wet weather ones on. And you can use a headset to communicate with your coach, but you can only use it a certain number of times or they’ll penalize you.

Whatever happened to just getting in the fastest car your team can make and driving it as fast as you can? No, Baz, that isn’t what they do. There’s all this other stuff that gets in the way. You hear that Fernando Alonso is one of the fastest drivers and Jenson Button is a more naturally gifted driver than Hamilton, so why do they not win races anymore? It’s like saying Dave is a better singer than Pavarotti because he’s got a better microphone.

It’s like making cricket bats with holes in them to stop the great batsmen scoring so many runs.

Absolute nonsense, mate, the world’s gone mad and Bernie Ecclestone and the rest of them  are out of their heads on money, intoxicated by cash. Cheers Gary, what the bloody hell’s this?

 

 

The English Pedant – And so to Z

iTunes might seem like a strange resource for looking at language, but it’s where I went when I found myself writing about the letter Z. Not only is that the last letter of the alphabet, but it’s probably the most underused.

In English that may be because we often pronounce s as z (was, because etc.) So interchangeable have they become that there is a transatlantic split. The spellchecker on Microsoft Word, being a US national, automatically changes my spelling of organisation to organization, just as it changes centre to center and so forth. Regardless of its being pronounced zee rather than zed, clearly there are more z’s in the USA than in the UK, but it is much more common in Eastern Europe.

So, iTunes. Being a music buff, I have more than 2,000 songs at my disposal, but not one title starts with z. As for artistes, iTunes complicates the search by its insistence on using first names for alphabetical order, but the only two bands in my list are ZZ Top and Zero 7 (whom you’ve probably never heard of and I’ve only ever heard one track, so don’t worry about it).

Thinking about second names, there’s some Frank Zappa among my souvenirs, and The Zombies. You may recall In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans, but I  never liked that.

Album titles: Zuma by Neil Young. Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust is in there somewhere, but not under z because the album is officially called The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars

Look up any list you like and you’ll find the same story. Films: Ice Station Zebra. Actors: Billy Zane.

US presidents: Zachary Taylor (1849-50). UK Prime Ministers: a couple of Fitzsomethings but no first letters.

Its rarity makes z an exotic letter. Zen sounds mysterious because of the letter at the start. If it was called Ken, it wouldn’t have the same je ne sais quoi.

It does crop up as a penultimate letter from time to time, though, which is what brought it to my attention. In an article about the disgraced American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, written by an American, it told how Lochte was “a jock” (that means Scottish where I come from)  and how university students give newcomers to their fraternity a good “hazing”. Adrift on this sea of Americanism I eventually decoded it. A jock is an athletic type, a fraternity house is like a men’s hall of residence and hazing means giving someone a hard time to the extent of humiliation.

Although it is easy enough to find the definition in a dictionary, the origin of this word is unclear, as is the reason for its recent popularity.

Perhaps it is something to do with the word “faze”, which became widespread a few years earlier. To be fazed by something is to be deterred, put off or intimidated and it is often heard  in a testament to someone’s fortitude. “Nothing fazes him”.

And that has nothing at all to do with the word with which it is sometimes confused, phased, which is occasionally used as a verb to describe a gradual process. “Steam engines were phased out in the 1950s.”

Dispensable though those two words are, at least they  breathe a bit of life into the struggling z.

 

Ref! On the Olympics and George Michael

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads,

So, what did we think of the Olympics then? Needs a rethink, Dave? I don’t disagree with you, mate, but I wonder if we have the same thoughts on the general principle.

Well, it’s a paradox, isn’t it? A paradox, Baz, is… kind of hard to explain. It means two things exist together when you’d think it doesn’t make sense. Like George Michael and Aretha Franklin, Dave, thank you. The American Queen of Soul and an English berk who was a teenage girls’ heartthrob until he got arrested for gay activity in public toilets.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Baz? I appreciate that we’re men of the world and despite your Neanderthal appearance you’re trying to keep up, but actually there is something wrong with that. Not necessarily the gay part but the public aspect. Look, we’re going wildly off the subject; what’s the matter with you two tonight?

The Olympics, gents. What I was trying to say is that on the one hand it’s supposed to be a celebration of man’s physical gifts – stop it Dave – and yet you can’t believe any of it because you don’t know who’s been taking performance-enhancing drugs. Now I know we once had a spliff before that match against Woolford, but we didn’t ever do it again because cannabis is not performance enhancing. It robs you of your edge.

There was a time when Malcolm Allison was in charge of Manchester City and he caught one of his players in the middle of a match gazing at the sky and when he asked him what the hell thought he was doing the guy said he was looking at the birds flying overhead. That’s only performance-enhancing if you’re a landscape painter.

But athletes seeking to gain an advantage, they’re taking drugs to make them stronger, bigger, fitter. Yes, it’s been going on for years, but it’s got to stop. I don’t know if there is a drug to make George Michael sing as well as Aretha Franklin, but there are some that will make him think he’s as good as her.

Cheers Gary, I’ll have a shot of Jagermeister and see if I get arrested by the thought police because it looks dodgy.

No, you see, it makes football look like an innocent’s game. Apart from Maradona that time with his wild eyes that had “out of me head” written all over him, I don’t reckon the beautiful game has a drug problem. They’ll push the boundaries with things like injecting sheeps’ placenta into an injured knee – afterbirth, Baz; yes I’m serious, believe it or not – but you don’t find footballers looking like Ben Johnson.

I know Gianluca Vialli when he was Chelsea manager gave everyone half a glass of champagne before a match, but that was psychology. You’re never going to win a game if you’re pissed, and that’s what footballers like to do of an evening.

Of course I’m not saying everyone’s at it, Dave. Probably not even all of the Russians, but you just don’t know, do you? When Maria Sharapova, who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her lap, admitted taking meldonium but said it was for a heart condition and she knew it by a different name and anyway she’d stopped before it became banned – when that happens, lads, we have to admit the current system is  a lost cause.

 

 

The English Pedant – When names become fashionable

Why do certain names catch on while others don’t? A primary school teacher told me a few years ago that suddenly her school, in a poor area in the north of England, was full of Jordans and Kayleighs. Several years on, research has shown that youngsters with such names are far less likely to be at university than people called Josh and Daisy.

Kayleigh, of course, can be traced straight back to the rock band Marillion and their huge hit single in the early 80s. But Jordan? Why?

There was no influential man with that as a first name at around Kayleigh time, and the Scottish footballer Joe Jordan was hardly a cult figure. Michael Jordan? He’s American and a basketball player, so he wasn’t all over the papers and magazines and broadcast media in the UK.

Josh and Daisy are simply names that went out of fashion for a few generations and were then reassessed and popularized. It’s the same with Daniel and Joseph and Rebecca and Rachel. Not many of those were christened in the 1960s and 70s, but suddenly they had a revival, mainly shortened to Dan and Joe and Becky.

These are all biblical names, which is perhaps strange in these unbelieving times, but you can bet your life most of the young parents have no idea what the namesakes were well known for in the Bible. It is probably just coincidence that the current list doesn’t include such catchy names but dubious characters as Jezebel (seductress, murderer, worshiper of idols) and Delilah (cut off Samson’s hair as he slept lovingly in her lap and thus removed his extraordinary strength).

Muslims are more than happy to call their children Mohammed, and the word Islam crops up in names (Cat Stevens, the English singer-songwriter, converted and was known as Yusuf Islam, although he dropped the last name recently, perhaps because it raises the subject of religion when it doesn’t need to be raised).

Why are there quite a few Jesuses  (pronounced hayzoose) in Spanish-speaking countries but none in English-speaking ones?

Perhaps it feels blasphemous or appears to be tempting fate in the UK, US, Australia etc. to call a child after one considered perfect and who was crucified at the age of 33.

Even the clunky old grandparent names such as Mabel and Ruby have undergone a bit of a revival, with the male side not quite so keen, but the occasional Walter and Wilfred is creeping in.

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan was responsible for a spike in popularity for the name Wendy, which came to the author’s attention when his young daughter couldn’t pronounce “friendly”.

Several years of living in the Caribbean have shown me that names don’t have to be traditional and can be completely made up. Anything that sounds good is fair enough out there, while in the UK,  registrars and ministers are likely to object. The English actress Suranne Jones, for instance, who made her name in the soap Coronation Street and recently won awards for Doctor Foster, was christened Sarah Anne because the minister politely informed her parents that Suranne wasn’t a real name.

The name-pedants’ vigilance hasn’t stopped Jonathan being spelled Jonathon, perhaps because people are used to seeing the word marathon. And talking of the Olympics,  the same contingent must be bracing themselves for a flurry of requests, such as to call boys Trayvon, as sported by American athlete Trayvon Bromell. Then again, the world’s most celebrated athlete, Usain Bolt, hasn’t had his name lifted by hosts of adoring fans. Nor have Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Usain Smith? Trayvon Carruthers? Zinedine Johnson? You just never know.

Ref! On Sunderland and new life

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Sunderland, Dave. Yes, Sunderland. I would like to hear your thoughts on one of the sleeping giants that’s been asleep so long it’s got hair and a beard like Hagrid in Harry Potter. The Robbie Coltrane character, Baz. Fat bloke with hair and a beard that look like Sunderland would if it was a man. Bloody hell it’s hard around here sometimes. But as you say, Dave, giving cultural references to a man devoid of culture is, well, it’s hard to finish that thought without another cultural reference.

But if Leicester City can achieve what they did last season, supporters of the other perennial strugglers must be thinking it’s just possible it’s their turn now.

So, the team in red and white stripes with black shorts are dreaming of glory, and why not? Their manger until about a month ago is now the manager of England. And he’s been replaced by a former manager of a Champion’s’ League-winning club. The sobering reality is that it’s David Moyes, but, again, think back just a few years and he was highly respected for doing good things with Everton. Anybody would have struggled at Man U straight after Ferguson. Nothing wrong with Moyesy, and he’s probably better off somewhere where expectations are not high.

Sunderland’s a working man’s club. Have you seen their crest, their badge? It’s got a ship on it, a silhouette of a ship. Not the Queen Mary or a cruise ship, but it looks like a merchant vessel or maybe a warship. And that’s because that’s what the town is famous for, building ships. I know it’s not like that now, but what do you think they’re going to put on their crest, a silhouette of a council estate? That’s their history and they’re trying to use it as inspiration.

Raich Carter, Brian Clough, Tom Finney, Ian Porterfield, Jim Montgomery. I know the kids haven’t heard of them, but why does it always have to be about kids? Nobody’s ever heard of Baz, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. I had to explain to Jody the other day who Brian Clough was, and she’s 25. Only one of the greatest centre forwards in the English language and a legendary manager who won the European Cup twice on the trot. You have to explain what the European Cup was too nowadays, and tell them the old First Division was what is now the Premier League.

Cheers, Gary, something from the north-east, mate. Do they still have Newcastle Brown ale? I know Sunderland supporters would probably object, but it’s the closest we’re going to get. See if they’ve got Shipbuilding on the juke box. Robert Wyatt or Elvis Costello, I don’t mind. Or Don’t Give Up, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Bit gloomy for a juke box, I know. Tell you what, I’ve got it on my iPod, which I happen to have here. We can take turns. To get in the mood, Baz. To bring luck to the boys shivering up in la la land.

Sentimental? Yes, I suppose I am a bit. I’ll tell you the truth. The ex-wife’s daughter is up the duff. Pregnant. The father’s a guy from the Job Centre, originally from the north-east. So I’m going to be a granddad. No, she’s not my own flesh and blood, but close enough. Jody? Not amused, but she’ll get over it.

At least Sunderland have a history. Leicester didn’t. Towns and cities tend to have successful football clubs when the town is doing well, and Sunderland was booming once with the shipbuilding, but what’s Leicester’s claim to fame? Look at Aberdeen. They were a force in Scottish football in the days when Britain suddenly discovered it had oil and gas under the sea, and a lot of it happened to be in the frozen north. So the town no longer just had beer and fish and chilblains, it had money, and then it had Alex Ferguson and European football.

Life goes on, gents, life goes on.

 

 

The English Pedant – Mutants in our midst

It often happens that getting a phrase wrong comes about because people have half-thought  about something, but not pursued the issue to its real conclusion. Such an example is  the now-epidemic “off my own back”.

It means doing something yourself, using your initiative and not involving others. The fact that it used to be “off my own bat” is neither here nor there (almost). Back works just as well and in fact probably looks the more likely of two options which both seem rather odd.

One theory is that the phrase comes from cricket, a game in which a bat is used to strike the ball, although it is possible for runs (points) to be scored without the leather touching the willow. It’s an unsatisfactory explanation, largely because if it really originated there, it wouldn’t need the “own”. You can’t score runs off someone else’s bat. Even if you’ve borrowed one, it is essentially yours because it is the one you’re using.

On the other hand, “off your own back” implies the effort of carrying something, and “own” fits slightly better there, but again, it’s not a clear, unarguable solution.

It’s an expression that has established itself somehow and , even though no explanation is totally convincing, we know what it means, and only a pedant would take the time/waste the effort required to analyse it.

A much clearer case of incorrect use is “most amount”. John is in the lead because he has the most amount of points. No he doesn’t. He has the greatest amount of points, or perhaps  the largest amount. You can hear the cogs creaking in people’s brains as they scan the list of superlatives: largest, biggest, heaviest, blah blah blah, can’t decide. So the generic one, “most”, it is.

When you scrutinise it, though, if you’re going to use “most”, why use “amount” at all? John has the most points. Cricket has the most strange expressions of all sports (it has).

Curiously, this appears to be a modern mistake. It wasn’t common until quite recently, so why has it crept in? Could it be that modern scourge, the ease with which we can communicate publicly? The fact that someone only has to say it once on TV or online and it infects the entire English-speaking world? Incidentally, to describe this phenomenon we use the term “going viral” with no regard for the fact that viruses are overwhelmingly considered to be bad. Nobody celebrates catching a virus, so why should videos, jokes, verbal expressions etc. be said to go viral in a good way?

Now that the English football season is underway (after the briefest of intervals), there is an amusing mistake to be enjoyed occasionally when someone describes a player with a particularly skillful way of kicking the ball. A commentator who knew what he was doing once referred to a player’s “cultured left foot”, and people wishing to repeat it, but who had forgotten the exact word, fished around in the area of their vocabulary that contains “cultured”. What they found in that section was a group of words on the theme of learning, and so came the “educated left foot”.

It tends to be the left foot, perhaps because most of us are right-footed, so it is more remarkable to see a left leg performing sporting works of art.

So there you are: a little tapas plate of expressions that are making their way in the world of the English language. Odd, slightly misshapen, maybe mutant, but hoping to slope along with a hood up and eventually be accepted by the authorities.

Ref! On Pogba and value for money

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Ludicrous, Dave. Insane. £100m. A hundred million nicker for a player. And a player who’s not yet the finished article.

Yes, I know if someone is stupid enough to give you that sort of money you would be equally stupid to turn it down, but really. Paul Pogba. If he’s worth that much, what would Pele be worth if he was playing today? What’s Messi worth?

That’s just taking people for a ride, exactly, Baz. You’re old enough to remember when Trevor Francis became the first million pound player, aren’t you? Dave was in nappies and I wasn’t much older. 1979, wasn’t it? And Francis wasn’t worth the money either. He was a prodigy at Birmingham City – they used to call him Superboy because he was playing in the First Division at 16.

But was he worth a million? I think you’ll find even he doesn’t think so. The football world was aghast – yes, it is a funny word, and probably not the right one, but you know what I mean. People were shocked. They were still recovering from Jimmy Greaves being signed by Tottenham for £99,999. They did that, Baz, because they didn’t want him to have the pressure of being the first £100,000 player. So they paid a quid less than that.

Like you see in the supermarket, everything is a penny below a landmark price to make it seem less expensive. Did I pay a tenner for that bottle of wine? Did I hell. Bargain, mate, £9.99.

But Pogba, you see, isn’t afraid of that. His agent isn’t, anyway, and he’s getting millions out of the deal too. I tell you, boys, that’s the racket to be in. Never mind working for a living, doing something worthwhile. Like being a referee, Dave, yes. My former career contributed to the wellbeing of this country. In a modest way, I agree, but professional football provides enjoyment for millions of people and it has to be played in the right spirit, so the people who ensure that, like myself, are making a contribution to society. You could call it a form of philanthropy.

And now I’m teaching people to drive. It’s a life skill. I’m helping to keep the world moving, but in  a safe way.

Cheers, Gary, bottle of Pils please. Czech Republic if they’ve got it.

So anyway, getting back to the point, if Mino Raiola, the superagent, had Baz on his books, how much would he get for him? Veteran centre half, unflappable, hard as nails,  has been known to score goals from corners. Got to be getting on for the price of a bottle of wine, don’t you reckon? What do you think, Baz? Are you worth a Chilean Merlot or a magnum of champagne?

Pogba. I’d have offered Juventus a case of Chianti. Yes, I know you know what that is because I explained it when Hannibal Lecter said it in Silence of the Lambs. He had someone’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. Can’t have been a footballer, then, old Hannibal. Cos if he had been he’d have had some carbohydrates with it. Pasta or rice . Not mashed potatoes, Baz. Because they just don’t, mate.

Well, you could have it on top of a mound of spaghetti with the beans on the side. They’re known as broad beans in this country. No, I don’t like them either.

 

The English Pedant – Mispronunciation? Blame it on Elvis

Aaron

If your name is James Brown and you are routinely referred to as James Ground, does that bother you? If enough people do it, do you accept that that’s what the world wants to call you, and get it changed officially?

This issue has followed me throughout my adult life. My surname is Morvan, which is pronounced like Morgan. (Actually, it’s a French name and should really be pronounced in the French way, whereby the an at the end sounds roughly like oh, with no trace of the n. But that’s another story.)

Everybody can pronounce Morgan, so what is so difficult about putting a v in there instead of the g and retaining the overall sound?

But no, for some reason, people feel the ending should be stressed as much as the beginning, and that the name should sound like more than.

Being as I am, I have spent much more than half my life correcting people. After all, it’s my name.

The next generation, though, is not united in this. I have a nephew, now in his thirties, who not only accepts the mispronunciation, but apparently uses it himself.

There are other examples of this among famous people. The American statesman and general,  Colin Powell, must be the only Colin in the world whose name is rendered as coe-lin.

Of course, there is a difference between the American pronunciation, (kah-lin) and the British one (where the o is pronounced with a narrower mouth, somewhere between ah and oe).

In fact, Powell’s own story is that he was christened Colin with the traditional American pronunciation, but during World War Two there was a US air force pilot who became famous, and he pronounced his name Coe-lin, which apparently was an Irish influence. So, as Powell said in an interview on Fox News Talk Radio, “My family call me Colin and my friends call me Coe-lin”.

In the case of the legendary cricketer Sir Ian Botham, (boe-tham) the change in pronunciation from the obvious one, sounding almost like bottom, was probably sanctioned by the family at some point because, in the UK, bottom is a word that makes people titter. And botham sounds close enough to cause teasing in the playground.

It’s a relatively common occurrence, given our predilection for toilet humour. The famous house of Cockburn, producers of port wine, is pronounced Coburn, like James, the actor. The capital of Grand Turk, an island where I once lived, is Cockburn Town, and the pronunciation was explained to me by a grown woman as “Spelled c-k, pronounced coe,” thereby avoiding the dangerous word cock.

One name that has changed wholesale in recent years is Aaron, which, in the UK, used to be said as Airon. Suddenly, it isn’t like that anymore. Now it’s like arran. And the confusion is all Elvis Presley’s fault.

The path of this one is very complex, because it seems there was originally a Hebrew name Aharon, plus the English, Scottish and Irish Aron, Arun and Aran.

All of them were pronounced Arran, and so it remained until Presley was born. Elvis had a stillborn brother, Garon, which was supposed to be said as Gairon, and the boys’ parents pronounced The King’s middle name, Aron, to match that of his late brother.

Presley himself added the extra a officially.

To confuse matters, a typical American pronunciation of the ar sound does come across like air, so even if they were saying Aaron like barren, it comes out as bairren.

How it came back to the original in the UK is unclear, but that’s what happened.

So, if your name is Aaron and you have a definite idea of how it should be pronounced, you should be on the side of tradition – depending on when you consider tradition to start.