Troublesome names

All Srinivasans are not alike. So are Krishnamurthys or Ramamurthys. I do not mean their appearance, outlook on life, sense of humour or lack of it. But their spellings. Many of them are touchy about the way their names are spelt, if different from their chosen ones. Lest I should irritate them I spell check their names laboriously from a master list  before writing to them. 

One cousin of mine, Sreenivasan was indignant at the way his name was misspelt as Srinivasan in his marriage invitation.  He demanded the invitation be redone or else….the alternative he gave was disastrous. Krishnamurthi may sound alright to those who spell it that way but some  prefer it as Krishnamaurthy, Krishnamoorthi or Krishnamoorthy. So is Ramamurthi which has the variation of Ramamoorthy, Ramamoorthi , Ramamoorthy or even Ramamoorti, dictated by numerology.

In those halcyon days when friends and relatives communicated with each  other through letters, there was a mini-war of sorts between a Krishnamurthy and the person who had  married his wife’s elder sister. In spite of polite corrections, his brother-in-law was repeatedly addressing him in his letters as “Dear Krishnamurthi.” Cut to the quick, he refused to send his wife for a function in their house until he made amends and apologized. Not to be outdone, the other party shot out a letter no doubt  beginning it with ‘Dear Krishnamoorthi,..’ and reprimanding  him with a pun that ‘thy arrogance is childish’. Fortunately their pacifist father-in-law  arbitrated with a clever interpretation that ‘I’ denoted selfishness and can be empathically replaced by ‘thy’ and reconciled them, no doubt offering a two sovereign ring to both to buy domestic peace. The caste tag Iyer, no longer added to names in this generation, has also its variation Aiyar. An Iyengar can also be Aiyangar. I remember to have read that  Mani Shankar Aiyar was  once riled up when his name was printed as Mani Shankar Iyer. A docile Raghavan may turn like a worm if written as Ragavan omitting the ‘h’.

I will not let in  Shakespeare’s quotation ‘what is in a name?” expected to surface automatically in such middles for the simple reason even the bard’s name was spelt in his times in many ways; Shakespear, Shakespere and even Shakesphere in literary and non-literary contexts--though many students who have to slog at  Shakespeare,  may shiver like Macbeth seeing Banquo’s ghost and  present their own variation--Shakes-fear!

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