Almanac Conundrum: What’s In A Name?



What’s In A Name?


“What’s in a name?” asks Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Or, in a more amusing form (“Wot’s in a name?), the question exists as a refrain in C. J. Dennis’s The Sentimental Bloke, when the Bloke and Doreen attend a performance of the aforesaid play.


What’s in a name, indeed?


Our names are important.


They are how people refer to us. They are how we are known to other people.


What a confusing world it would be if we didn’t have names!


In spite of this, so often our names are gotten wrong – misspelled or mispronounced or in some other way mangled – and for any of these things to happen, it doesn’t automatically follow that the particular name, whether it be a first name or surname, is at all complicated, or in some other way difficult to write or say.


I’ve discussed this matter with various people, and even a bloke married to a relative of mine, Brian, told me that his Christian name is stuffed up. “How could your name possibly be?” I asked him via Facebook. “People spell it Brain,” he replied, accompanying his response with a laugh emoji. I have to admit that this is funny.


Me? It’s my surname that me and all Densleys (I imagine) have had to contend with. For one thing, it’s the pronunciation – it’s actually simple and logical. What’s the plural of the word “den”? … dens … add “ley” … Dens-ley (or pronounced Denzley, if you like, the same way that Presley is pronounced Prezley). Yes – but I’ve been called Dennersley, Dempsey, Denzy, Denseley (that’s a popular one)! Jeez, the name’s not that difficult!


Most of the time, the messing up of my surname is quite amusing; sometimes, though, it’s just plain annoying!


Here’s the question: along the same lines as I’ve just laid out, is your first name and/or surname regularly screwed up in some way?



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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, was published in late 2020 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. My name, Dips, comes from the Hebrew word “Dips” which means to dip ones bread into a bowl of hummus.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Ha! Classic, Dips!

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Introduced as “Peter Baulderstone” for the first time – 50% of people call me Paul. It’s a rhyme thing. I no longer correct them.
    I was named after my mother’s favourite brother Peter. Her lack of religious education meant she overlooked that the origin is St Peter – “you are the rock on which I found my church”. So my name is Rock Boulder Stone. School was a joy. Rock Jaw. Rock Head or just plain Rocky.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Really interesting, Peter.

    Love the Rock Boulder Stone wordplay in itself, though I understand that some of the school nicknames would have been annoying. I was sometimes nicknamed Dense-head in primary school ( a few Densleys I know got this nickname), based upon a mangling of the pronunciation of my surname. Funny thing was that for the majority of my primary school years I was dux of my class – but there you go.

  5. PB – that is hilarious.

  6. Daryl Schramm says

    Pre Adelaide Oval redevelopment, you could pay money to have your name on a picket that could be read from the spectator side. I often had to look at the name Brian Brain more than twice in wonderment as I often ended up in my favorite spot mid pitch on the members western side.

    Some one sends you an email at work with your first name spelt incorrectly when the correct spelling appears in the email address. Used to give me the absolute shits. How many ways do you reckon you could spell Daryl? How many ways could you spell Schramm? How many way could you pronounce it? Discuss!

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your comments, Daryl. Brian Brain gets me every time!

    And yes, one would think that Daryl Schramm is pretty straightforward, but then again …

  8. Kevin Densley says

    And, very belatedly, Peter B … Peter and Paul – what biblical names; one “the rock on which I found my church”, the other very much connected to a “Road to Damascus” experience … heavy stuff!

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