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Good enough is not enough,” used to be the motto of Jay Chiat, the founder of the celebrated ad agency Chiat/Day. Actress Preity Zinta may not take that kindly as she’s supposedly seeing a financial analyst from Los Angeles who goes by the name Gene Goodenough.
Before our filmi press has a field day punning on his surname, let it be known that the right way to pronounce ‘Goodenough’ is ‘Good-en-oh’ and not what sounds like the fella with low standards.
There are many more English names that reek of oddness, on first impression. But a little knowledge of etymology may help us folks to appreciate things a wee better. For instance, some people believe that Goodenough is derived from Godin Haugh (meaning: Godin’s Hill), indicative, may be, of the place of origin.
Ryan Sidebottom is a cricketer whose surname often evokes a snicker. An analysis of the name history, however, puts things in perspective. Bottom is Old English for ‘valley’. So the Sidebottoms may have originally been from a place near a valley.
Similarly, Large implies ‘a generous man’. But when you baptise someone as Johnny Large, you run the risk of making him the butt of all jokes. Former tennis ace Guy Forget faced the same problem. Most people assumed that he was a forgetful chap. What they didn’t know was he was French. And his name is to be pronounced as ‘Gi Forjay’. Wherein, ‘Forget’ draws its roots from the English word ‘forge’ and cues a blacksmith ancestry.
Sometimes, surnames mean exactly what they say. Gotobed is one example. A 13th century coinage, it was a dig at someone who retires early to bed, to do things other than sleeping. One wonders how Hollywood actress Hattie Gotobed is bravely carrying the legacy. She possibly has many men playfully teasing her, “Shall we, Gotobed?”
There are many Indian surnames with the potential to cause embarrassment to the bearer. Chutiya (‘fool’ in Hindi) is the most illustrious case in point. Many take it literally and laugh. The fact of the matter is that Chutiya is one of the oldest ethnic tribes in Assam. Originally, they were the ruling Sutiya clan. Sutiya actually stands for ‘glory’. Therefore, to taunt the Chutiyas is just not done. Gandoo, Tevadia, Lund and Tatti are some other surnames with their own mystic logic. They are seriously not funny. Kindly laugh not, even in jest.

Anantha Narayan

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