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by Michael Franklin

My initials, MF, are not an embarrassment to me, but some people must be a bit bothered with theirs. They remain in constant use for us at all ages, at school written on the front of exercise books, shortened signatures on notes to colleagues at work, and much else.

How were some people thought of? Was Mark Twain considered vacant? Margaret Thatcher certainly was not. Were Galileo Galilei and Greta Garbo a bit horsey and Oscar Hammerstein perpetually surprised? Does clever Stephen Hawking tell everyone to be quiet? Are Lawrence Peter and Charles Dickens remembered as spinners, and Peter Ustinov as a bit smelly? Was Adolph Hitler vulnerable to revelations? Bill Clinton was certainly behind his times.

For some it was appropriate. Henry Morton Stanley was famous for floating about and going bang occasionally, Oscar Wilde offered some pain as well as amusement, George Orwell went, and Joe Pasternak was law abiding, as was Quentin Crisp. Margot Asquith was well educated, Edward Gibbon offered many examples, and Pete Seeger often had some more to say. Sir Isaac Newton would not have been thought wicked.

Let us be pleased if our initials do not create anxiety. Think how terrible it would be to have to march through your life with a names like Beatrice Ursula Morrison, Shiela Hillary Irving-Tallis, Francis Anthony Robert Thompson, or Mary Anne Davis. However, there is probably a Victoria Irene Pierce around somewhere who is delighted with hers.

If we think of Winston Churchill as that “potty” in Downing Street it is not inappropriate. He was, after all the wonderful provider of relief to all Brits when the Germans were constipating Europe. Contrasts to follow were Tony Blair - thought by many now to have been the worst disease ever to have passed through there, and Gordon Brown, who has yet to prove that he is a Great Briton!