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More Moniker Reversal

by Alice Shirell Kaswell, AIR staff

Scores of investigators answered the call in mini-AIR 2000-02 for a (20 word or fewer) theory of which names are especially susceptible to moniker reversal. Moniker reversal is what happened to investigator Adriano Melis when his name was published as "Melis Adriano."

Because most respondents exceeded the 20-word limit, we have reluctantly loosened the length restriction. The most piquant entries were published in mini-AIR 2000-03.The most chewy ones are here, though, brutally edited for your convenience.

I certify that the data set
was not altered in any way
that anyone cares about.
 --A.S. Kaswell
   Annals of Improbable Research


Based on a study I did thirty-five years ago including ten carefully-chosen universities, I postulated that a moniker-reversal-enabled name was a prerequisite for appointment as a university president. I'd like to know if there are any more extensive studies that support this theory.
-- Jerry Barton

The real answer to the moniker reversal mystery is probably bureaucratic - poor Adriano has filled in so many forms that ask for surname first that he believes it is the normal way to write a name in any circumstance - it isn't, Adriano, just put your name down the way you introduce yourself to strangers.
--Tom Wilson


Other Moniker Reversed Individuals

Never forget the genuinely real pro bowler from the 50's and 60's whose name was (and quite possibly still is) Joseph Joseph Joseph. Or maybe the reverse.
--Carl Witthoft

This is not, apparently, only an American problem. We have begun getting faxes from Europe signed, for example, Vosando-Elio BRADEN. Do we reply to Mr. Vosando-Elio, or to Mr. Braden? Apparently, the latter is correct. Is that convention used elsewhere?
--Thomas ALLEN or, perhaps, THOMAS Allen

NIH researcher Theodore Theodore has his moniker reversed all the time.
--Nice Frank*, DPA, CPHP 

* moniker reversed

I have the same problem that Adriano Melis has. My name is
--Jones Wynn.

I have a good friend whose name is "Morley Farquhar." Not only is his name susceptible to "Moniker Reversal," it is also susceptible to a "Spoonerism", to wit: Farley Morquhar. When my wife chided me once for innocently calling him "Farley," he replied, "That's all right, my mother called me 'Farley,' too."
--Paul Kuckein

I have enjoyed 3 "last" names for 58 years (long before the latest trend to us traditional surnames as first names).
--Collier Nash Smith

My father and I have had to deal with moniker reversal all our lives. My father had a radio show and would sign off with "This is Charles Christopher Mark with today's national report on the Arts" and he used to get fan mail asking to hear more from the guy with 3 first names. We would also inevitably get asked how to spell our last name too.
-- Christopher J. Mark

I have a name that is frequently reversed, Giles Marion. It's more of an annoyance than either a blessing or curse. A while back I got to thinking (dangerous): What if I married someone named Marion Giles and we decided to take hyphenated last names. I would become Giles Marion-Giles and she would become Marion Giles-Marion. And if our children were to perpetuate this nonsense, they might become Giles Marion-Giles Giles-Marion and Marion Marion-Giles Giles -Marion. It boggles the mind. And PLEASE refer to me as Investigator Giles Marion.
-- Investigator Giles Marion


Otherwise Confused or Confusing Individuals

Pharmacists always call me Lewis Dafydd when I collect a prescription. No-one else does. Pharmacists are weird.
--Dafydd Lewis

I would like to submit my own easily manipulated label. Christened "Matthew George Stanley" I have a completely modular name, allowing (among other variants) Stanley Matthews, George Matthew Stanley, and George Stanley Matthews. I often go by the less dangerous "Matt Stanley," but am still vulnerable to the syllabic transposition "Stat Manley."
--Matt Stanley


Unnamable Tale From the Field #1

An addition to your name-reversal principle. I have now reached the stage in my life where I refuse to answer to my surname, "Scott", when it is mistakenly used as my first name. Like your correspondent Adriano Melis, I wonder what makes people's eyes glaze over when they encounter my first name. However, there was one occasion where I was forced to use my surname as a moniker. I was in Texas, where clearly nobody is named Iain. I was ordering curly fries (an exotic dish in my part of the world) at a bowling alley and was asked to give my name so they could call it out when my fries were ready.

"Iain," I said.




"Oh, the heck with it - - Scott."

I am working on a theory to cover this appalling eventuality, which I shall name the 1st Curly Fries Theory of Deliberate Self-Imposed Moniker Reversal.
--Iain Scott


Unnamable Tale From the Field #2

My name is Tom Roberts or, more fully, Thomas M. Roberts. About 1/5 of the clerks who ask for my name respond to my answer ("Tom Roberts" I say, or "Thomas M. Roberts") like this: "Robert Thomas. That's funny. You have two first names," or like this: "Bob, do you spell Thom with an h?" or with another utterance that suggests misunderstanding.

Let me make this clear: I am a native speaker of English. I have never been told that I speak with an impediment. Indeed, the clerks who misunderstand my name usually seem to be native listeners to English who understand everything else that I say. And telephone books suggest that my last name (Roberts) is common in most towns where my name has been misunderstood.

I don't know whether this is a blessing or a saddling, but it's a-puzzling me.


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