Cricketing Surnames, Very Proper Common Nouns

Article by Govindarajan Venkatesh 22/11/03

There are a handful of surnames which become common nouns when the first letter is changed from ‘Upper Case’ to ‘lower case’. In fact, when it comes to international cricket, one may use the term ‘groundful’.

Of all the men (alive and deceased) who have represented their respective countries in the international arena right from when the first ball was bowled in the very first Test Match held in Melbourne, there are over 270 players who have/had surnames which are ‘very common’ Proper Nouns!  Of these, the ‘Smith’s take the top spot with a cool 10%. These guys have represented Australia (Aus), England (Eng), New Zealand (NZ), South Africa (SA), West Indies (WI) and Zimbabwe (ZM). One could have a Smith’s Thirteen and a Smith’s Second String Thirteen!

If one looks for colours, there are many a ‘Brown’ 13 of them, with England accounting for 8 of them. The ‘Black’, ‘Gray’ and the ‘White’ are relatively fewer.

In the domain of zoology, there is ‘Lamb’, ornithology finds its place in ‘Bird’, ‘Bill’ and ‘Heron’; entomology is present as ‘Roach’; metallurgy as ‘Steel’; and geology as ‘Clay’ (the silicate mineral) and ‘Emery’ (Aluminium oxide mineral used as an abrasive).

The botanist takes interest in ‘Wood’, ‘Flower’, ‘Rose’, ‘Moss’, ‘Vine’, ‘Root’ and ‘Mold’ (fungus), while the gourmand will rivet his eyes on the ‘Rice’ and the ‘Bean’.

Among professions, ‘Cook’ and ‘Butcher’ lead the pack, with ‘Archer’, ‘Butler’, ‘Barber’, ‘Miller’, ‘Turner’, ‘Porter’, ‘Nurse’, ‘Ironmonger’, ‘Hunter’ and ‘Mason’ bringing up the rear. The churchgoers have a ‘Bishop’, ‘Priest’ and ‘Pope’. There is a ‘Friend’ who could be your ‘Guest’, and a ‘Guy’ who may have been a habituated ‘Walker’. The regalia is very much present as ‘King’ and ‘Prince’.

Then, there are the man-made objects – ‘Bell’, ‘Drum’, ‘Lock’, ‘Lever’, ‘Key’, ‘Cotter’ (the last one is the name given to a pin used for fastening and is familiar to engineers). One finds edifices like ‘Wall’, ‘Home’, ‘Banks’, ‘Hall’, ‘Booth’ and ‘Ford’; and landforms like ‘Mead’, ‘Dale’, ‘Cave’ and ‘Hill’. There is also a ‘Hole’ perhaps formed by a falling meteorite in the ‘Street’.

For the English teacher, there is a host of verbs and a plethora of adjectives. The set of verbs reads thus: ‘Love’, ‘Read’, ‘Park’, ‘Burn’, ‘Hunt’, ‘Sleep’, ‘Wade’, ‘Foster’, ‘Garner’, ‘Close’, ‘Parry’, ‘Trim’, ‘Buy’, ‘Fry’, ‘Hone’ etc. The adjectives of the positive degree are the opposites ‘Young’ and ‘Old’, ‘Crisp’, ‘Gaunt’, ‘Slight’, ‘Sharp’, ‘Slack’, ‘Small’, ‘Bland’, ‘Gay’ etc. The only one which is of a superlative degree is ‘Best’. There has not been a ‘Good’ or a ‘Better’, though a wicket keeper by the surname of Gould once played for England (His surname is spelt with a silent ‘L’).

The physiologist has ‘Hands’ and ‘Palm’ if ‘Butts’ and ‘Butt’ are kept out for obvious reasons! The astronomer has only the ‘Moon’ so far; maybe there is a ‘Jupiter’ or a ‘Mercury’ (someone in the lineage of Freddie Mercury perhaps) in the future.

India has been kept out wantonly, as the scope is limited to English surnames. If all surnames had been included, the Parsi ‘Engineer’, ‘Merchant’ and ‘Contractor’ would have been part of the list led by ‘Cook’ & ‘Butcher’. (Talking of ‘Cook’ and ‘Butcher’, a ‘Lamb’ in between would provide the missing link Sadly, we do not have a ‘Roast’, there is only a ‘Fry’).

There will be many more to come. Perhaps a ‘Book’, ‘Pen’ or a  ‘Car’ (different from the Carrs who have played international cricket). Before closing, a random selection of such surnames which one can associate with more than one cricket-playing country – Smith (Aus, Eng, WI, NZ, SA); Butcher (Eng, WI); Bill (SA, NZ); Wood (Aus, Eng); Cook (Aus, Eng, SA); White (Eng, WI, NZ); Brown( Aus, Eng, WI, SA, NZ, ZM); Young (Aus, Eng, NZ); Bell (NZ, SA); Woods (Aus, Eng); Ward (SA, NZ, Eng, Aus) and Gray (WI, NZ).

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