Dominic Waghorn Sky News - Washington November 2012 © PA for Sky News

Is it because most of us cannot get our tongues around foreign words that we have to invent names of cities by translation into our own language? In Spanish and French, London becomes Londres, pronounced in accordance with the relevant language´s requirements. Mysteriously, the English feel more comfortable adding a superfluous “s” to Lyon and Marseille (as written) before considering the pronunciation. Even French airports can handle New York on their departure boards, but not the Spanish ones. Nueva York!

Fair enough! The same applies to the names of countries. España becomes Spanien and Deutschland becomes Alemaña. But what about the names of people?

The English-speaking media has never referred to Emeritus King Juan Carlos as John Charles. After all, even in his prime, Spain´s monarch was never a famous Welsh footballer. Likewise the name of the current King Felipe is not Philip; he is respectfully known and referred to as Felipe.

Then, why does the Spanish press not grant the same respect to the British royal family? The late Queen was Elizabeth II and not Isabel II. Prince Harry was born Henry Charles Albert David; we have no Prince Enrique in California, there is no Prince Guillermo in London (or Londres) and certainly no King Carlos III. On the other hand, as far as I am aware, England´s football captain has not appeared in Spanish media as Enrique Kane. Why?

Names have always fascinated me. And on my travels I have encountered some interesting ones, most of them English. Some are just meaningless, such as Grubbidore, Terdifer, Postlethwaite and Earwicker. And then the monosyllabic Popp, Bang, Huke and Jumps. Yes, Jimmy Jumps! Far less amusing, there was a morose character in our Canadian office named Joe Starling.

The ones that I like are those that pose the question: how did they come about and why were they applied to the original ancestors? Like Danny Grewcock and Dominic Waghorn. And Ramsbottom, of course! The name Belcher suggests a distant granddad was in the habit of eating bullfrogs and giving a throaty expression of his appreciation.

The founder of The Entertainer toy retailing group is Gary Grant. Not Cary Cooper! At school an amenable classmate of mine had the unusual but suitable nickname of Good. This was Mike Evans. The world´s top expert on avalanches seems too appropriately named to be true: Henry Schniewind. This is in stark contrast to the white female Scottish member of the SNP – Kirsty Blackman.

I always thought there was a Greek flavour to the beautiful voice of Nana Moussaka. The Dutch master Rip van Winkle used to fall asleep in front of his easel. Sorry, this is getting silly. Almost as silly as the name of 13-year old Alexander Hugh George Cholmondeley, Earl of Rocksavage, whose mother appears to be dating our future King William – not Guillermo!

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.