Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Inappropriate surnames

The following poem, attributed to James Smith, was found in the book "Surnames of the United Kingdom: a concise etymological dictionary" (1912) in the Internet Archives.

SURNAMES

Men once were surnamed from their shape or estate,
   (You all may from History worm it);
There was Lewis the Bulky, and Henry the Great,
   John Laekland, and Peter the Hermit.
But now, when the door-plates of Misters and Dames
   Are read, each so constantly varies
From the owner's trade, figure, and calling, Surnames
   Seem given by the rule of contraries.

Mr. Box, though provoked, never doubles his fist,
   Mr. Burns, in his grate, has no fuel ;
Mr. Playfair won't catch me at hazard or whist,
   Mr. Coward was winged in a duel.
Mr. Wise is a dunce, Mr. King is a whig,
   Mr. Coffin's uncommonly sprightly,
And huge Mr. Little broke down in a gig,
   While driving fat Mrs. Golightly.

Mrs. Drinkwater's apt to indulge in a dram,
   Mrs. Angel's an absolute fury.
And meek Mr. Lyon let fierce Mr. Lamb
   Tweak his nose in the lobby of Drury.
At Bath, where the feeble go more than the stout,
   (A conduct well worthy ot Nero),
Over poor Mr. Lightfoot, confined with the gout,
   Mr. Heaviside danced a Bolero.

Miss Joy, wretched maid, when she chose Mr, Love,
   Found nothing but sorrow await her:
She now holds in wedlock, as true as a dove.
   That fondest of mates, Mr. Hayter.
Mr. Oldcastle dwells in a modern-built hut.
   Miss Sage is of madcaps the archest;
Of all the queer bachelors Cupid e'er cut.
   Old Mr. Younghusband's the starchest.

Mr. Child, in a passion, knock'd down Mr. Rock,
   Mr. Stone like an aspen-leaf shivers;
Miss Poole used to dance, but she stands Jike a stock
   Ever since she became Mrs. Rivers ;
Mr. Swift hobbles onward, no mortal knows how.
   He moves as though cords had entwin'd him;
Mr. Metcalfe ran off, upon meeting a cow,
   With pale Mr. "Turnbull behind him.

Mr. Barker's as mute as a fish in the sea,
   Mr. Miles never moves on a journey ;
Mr. Gotobed sits up till half-after three,
   Mr. Makepeace was bred an attorney.
Mr. Gardener can't tell a flower from a root,
   Mr. Wilde with timidity draws back,
Mr. Ryder performs all his journeys on foot,
   Mr. Foote all his journeys on horseback.

Mr. Penny, whose father was rolling in wealth,
   Kick'd down all his fortune his dad won,
Large Mr. Le Fever's the picture of health,
   Mr. Goodenough is but a bad one.
Mr. Cruickshank stept into three thousand a year,
   By shewing his leg to an heiress —
Now I hope you'll acknowledge I've made it quite clear
   That surnames ever go by contraries.

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