After All, Torpey, What's in a Name?
An Irishman named T-O-R-P-E-Y
Daily Newspaper, Norwalk, Connecticut, Area
This column was written as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Oct. 21, 1995. While I was busy writing occasional columns the Executive Editor, John P. Reilly, who is now Editor Emeritus, put together this entertaining piece detailing how my name was often mangled by public relations types. I reproduce it here with his permission -- and for your entertainment.
My View -- By John P. Reilly (That's R-E-I-L-L-Y), Executive Editor, The Hour, Norwalk, Connecticut
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
That well-worn line from William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" might work when you're talking about flowers. When the subject is a person's name, such a cavalier attitude is not acceptable, even in this melting pot of a nation which includes an ever-growing range of names assembled from all over the world.
My own experience as a callow youth from New England is marked by my first encounter with Master Sgt. George Maxwell, of Claxton, Ga. As I tumbled off the bus in 1951 with a bunch of other draftees, I was startled by the sergeant's inability to pronounce my last name. "Ruheely ... Really ... Raylee."
"That's 'Reilly,' sergeant," I offered with some trepidation. It was later in my army career that I learned that below the Mason-Dixon line there were a lot of Riley's, but few Reilly's. Hence, the sergeant's difficulty.
Hour Editor Victimized
None of us like to have his or her name mispronounced or misspelled. I know of few people, however, who have been victimized as much as Bill Torpey, one of The Hour's editors.
Now "Torpey" is a pretty straight-on name, easy to pronounce, with the possible exception that it might be "Tarpey" in the local Gaelic clubs and ale houses.
As an editor, Bill's name has wound up on many mailing lists of public relations operatives and institutions, all trying to get a little ink in the local press to impress their clients and bosses.
You'd think they'd want to make an extra effort to get the guy's name right, for Pete's sake. He has over the years assembled a list of the various ways his name has been massacred in the name of public relations. He is quick to point out that this is only a partial list.
'Purpie,' 'Porpie,' 'Porpey'
The only one that comes close is "Tarpey," maybe that's from the people at Aer Lingus. I'm hard put to select a favorite, though "Purpie" and "Porpie" (and its variant "Porpey") are among my favorites. All of the rest at least managed to get the first letter right.
They go from Tourpey" to "Torrey" to "Thorpes" to "Tompey" and so on. One letterwriter came close with "Tropey" which may be just accidental dyzlexia of the typewriter, a disease from which I suffer. (Bridgeport always comes out "Bridgeprot" in my copy for some reason.
More Bizarre Misspellings
There are others in the running, among them "Torply" and "Torpui." The latter is the most bizarre on the list. Rounding out this astounding collection of misspellings are "Torpuy" and "Torpay." For some reason, that last one just seems as if it should be pronounced "TorPAY," with the accent on the last syllable. Gives it a French sound, doesn't it?
There is one small bit of consolation for "Mr. Tropey," at least all of the correspondents got the "William" or "Bill" part of it right. (A former news staff member used to take delight in rearranging the letters on a desk nameplate Bill had, coming up with such delights as "T. B. Lilyrope." So far, the PR demons haven't latched on to that one.
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More by this Author
Quick! If you were going to write a newspaper column today, what would you write about? My guess is that you have at least one subject at your fingertips. Personally, I have too many ideas!
How long would you like to live? How much would you sacrifice if you could live an extra day, an extra month, an extra year, an extra decade or even an extra quarter century -- or longer?
Yonkers, N.Y., was a bustling community in the '30s and '40s when I grew up. It was once "The City of Gracious Living." Recently it was referred to in the New York Times as "Beirut-on-the-Hudson."