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In the Words of Robert Zimmerman: Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Write

Name Game Bureau: It’s no secret that many celebrities change their names as a way to boost their careers. For example, Charles Nelson Reilly was originally Charles Manson Reilly, and Al Gore’s birth name was Bicentennial Man until his agent made him switch it to something less robotic.

Even Adam and Eve had their names legally changed after the “apple incident” to Siegfried and Roy.

Now comes word that Moby Dick was actually Mocha Dick. According to a new book, “The Name’s Familiar” (Pelican) by Laura Lee (which also sounds like a fake name), Herman Melville’s novel about a great white whale was inspired by a real whale named Mocha Dick, who was 110 feet long and sank seven ships before being killed in 1859.

Lee, a journalist and former radio announcer, also investigated other famous names. Some of her findings:

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* Jack and Jill, of nursery rhyme fame, were real. They reportedly lived in 15th century Kilmersdon, England, where Jack fell down a hill while fetching a pail of water. After he died of a “broken crown,” his girlfriend, Jill, died during childbirth.

* Leotards are named after Jules Leotard, a French trapeze artist in the 1860s who wore tight outfits.

* There are four Warner brothers and seven Ringling brothers.

* The real James Bond was a Philadelphia ornithologist who wrote a book titled “Birds of the West Indies.” Author Ian Fleming saw the volume and stole the name for his 007 character.

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* Taco Bell was named for founder Glen Bell.

* There is no Mr. Pringle behind Pringle’s potato chips. The product was named for Chicago’s Pringle Street, where the company’s plant was located.

* E.G. Booze was a Philadelphia distiller who sold Booze-brand whiskey in the 1700s, a name that later became synonymous with liquor.

* When Elizabeth Foster married Isaac Goose, she entertained his 10 children with old rhymes. One of her stepdaughters later married a printer who loved the verses and published them in 1719 as “Songs for the Nursery, or Mother Goose’s Melodies.”

Question of the Week: Will Clayton Moore, a.k.a. the Lone Ranger, be buried with his mask on?

Going Postal: In response to our list of potential candidates for Playboy’s “playmate of the millennium” (Pocahontas, Lady Godiva, Betty Rubble from “The Flintstones” or Richard Simmons) readers offered several other choices. Steven Afriat nominated J. Edgar Hoover (in a stunning sequined evening gown); Grace E. Hampton suggested Miss Piggy; and Kevin Conniff voted for Barbie, whose body parts are every bit as plastic as those of many of Playboy’s centerfolds.

In other mail, Off-Kilterite Earle Norris objected to a proposed compromise between those who say the millennium starts Jan. 1, 2000, and those who argue for 2001. The possible solution (as recommended by the Annals of Improbable Research) was to split the difference and go with July 1, 2000. Not so fast, said Norris: “The year 2000 is a leap year and therefore has 366 days. Half of that is 183, which makes the start of the millennium July 2, 2000.”

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: “Eight Children Found Dead in Spider’s Cocoon!” (Weekly World News)

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Charlotte’s web . . . of terror!

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Jennifer Lowe. E-mail Off-Kilter at roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


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