As St Patrick’s Day approaches and I struggle to think of something to write to celebrate the occasion (don’t hold your breath, I’ve still got nothing) I recall that he was in fact Welsh and was kidnapped and brought to Ireland. At school we were taught that his kidnapper was a character called (I am not making this up) Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Naming was obviously simpler in those days. The guy was called Niall, he had nine hostages, problem solved, although one wonders what happened as the hostage negotiations progressed and he freed a hostage every hour or so, starting with the pregnant woman (there is always a pregnant woman in every hostage situation). I wonder did he amend his name accordingly each time, finally ending up as Niall the Don’t Shoot, I’m Coming Out Now.
The principle has been followed by such notables as Vlad the Impaler, Postman Pat, Dora the Explorer and Joan of Arc (she had a degree in trigonometry). But over time the process has become diluted. Margaret Thatcher never thatched. Gary Cooper did not coop. Pat Butcher never butched (no, stop it). I’m betting that JK Rowling doesn’t rowl, and that Justin Bieber doesn’t bieb.
Arnold Schwarzenegger. What can I say?
So over time names have come to tell us less and less about what their owner actually does.
Just ask Ed Balls.
(PS: I am giving myself a special clap on the back for not mentioning Dick Van Dyke at any stage during this post).