Letter to the Editor: Name pronunciation analyzed

Published 1:54 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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To the editor:

Thank you to Brian Pitts for putting together that long life story of Grimes Parker (March 15). Two bits in that piece gave me a fun puzzle to poke around with.

The nickname Bimmy. Pronounced “buy me.” And – “no one knows exactly how he got the nickname.” What follows is a plausible speculation, based entirely on analyzing language.

Nobody would look at the spelling of Bimmy and come up with that pronunciation. They’d rhyme it with Jimmy (James) and Timmy (Timothy). However they are said out loud, all of these names have undergone changes to accommodate a common diminutive suffix.

Merriam-Webster explains that the grammar of a diminutive includes “the state or quality of being familiarly known [and] lovable.”

Analogues for the pronounced name would be limey (slang for British sailor) and timey as in old-timey. So the pronunciation-based spelling would be Bimey not Bimmy. But the Bimey spelling produces a word not that far off from the British interjection “blimey,” which conceals a profanity of sorts.

Now, onwards to part two, which is much shorter. Bimmy [Bimey] looks like a diminutive for Grimes. But, nobody would use Grimey unless they wanted to be mean and maybe get a poke back in the nose.

So, can’t use a G. Try out all the other letters and most of those are not too good either. But B works, just like it does for the substituting in Bobby (Robert) and Billy (William).

I had an uncle who I never knew except by nickname. I only learned his first two names when I did family research. His nickname appears on his gravestone. But that puzzle resists reverse engineering, so I’ll always have to wonder where his alias came from.

Joseph Jones,     Vancouver BC Canada