After All, Torpey, What's in a Name?

An Irishman named T-O-R-P-E-Y

William F. Torpey at The Hour news desk
William F. Torpey at The Hour news desk

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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Comments 26 comments

Jackilyn profile image

Jackilyn 8 years ago

thankyou for sharing this . it was fun reading it.


radgirl profile image

radgirl 8 years ago from Somewhere in outer space

I really enjoyed this article. Thank you.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for visiting, Jackilyn and radgirl. John Reilly is a great writer and a great editor as well.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

My wife's maiden name was Tucker Tilley which, as you might imagine, led to a fair amount of confusion and teasing. We took care to give our children names that were easy to say, spell and which were not likely to lead to teasing or outlandish nicknames.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

A wise move, Ralph. Kids will always make fun of name if given a chance. When I was a kid my friends often referred to me as "Torpedo." That during WW II, and fortunately it wasn't anything derogatory -- in fact I kind of liked it. Other kids weren't so fortunate.


MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 8 years ago from Sydney

Great hub

I never really got called by nickname

what a pity, I might have turned out differently


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

How about starting now, Mr. MaGoo?


John P. Reilly 8 years ago

God, that guy Reilly can write!---old editor(JPR)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for the comments MrMarmalade and Ralph. John, I'm getting caught up on Connecticut politics now, thanks to your columns. And thanks for allowing me to run your old column.


Mark Knowles profile image

Mark Knowles 8 years ago

Congratulations Mr Trophy - another excellent hub.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks Mr. Knows. I appreciate your comment.


Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 8 years ago from Chennai

This is Kentucky Friedsmith, who laughed so much reading this article. Thanks, MrTarpaulin.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I'm glad you like the piece, Mr. Bakedsmith.


Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 8 years ago from Chennai

LOL! i love my new nyms!


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

How did i miss this article! anywayz..Keep em coming William!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for visiting, compu-smart. There's more on the way. I appreciate your encouragement.


Beth Elena Torpey Revels 7 years ago

Thank you John Reilly for the sympathetic piece, you can be sure that the younger generation (myself included) has gone through it's share of name variations. When I tell people my maiden name and here the "huh" response I just spell it and say, "it's Irish". People usually just nod after that!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Like father, like daughter, Beth. As a young boy my best friend's father, an Irish cop named Grady, always called me TARpey in his Irish brogue.


Moulik Mistry profile image

Moulik Mistry 6 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

There is something in a name - a rose is not a rose until and unless you establish the name of rose...


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

A rose will always be a rose, Moulik Mistry. Even if you call it a tulip it will still look like a rose, and its petals will be just as beautiful. Thanks for commenting.


RunAbstract profile image

RunAbstract 6 years ago from USA

Great fun!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, RunAbstract. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece written by John P. Reilly, who is still Editor Emeritus of The Hour newspaper in Norwalk, Connecticut.


ralwus 6 years ago

I have had some people in the past pronounce my last name, Camel. LOL People around Youngstown pronounce it that way, close to Campbell, Ohio.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

No matter how simple a name may be, ralwus, you can bet somebody will mess it up!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Hi William - Just want to tell you how much I enjoyed this. I love your style!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 2 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, vocalcoach -- and John Reilly thanks you as well, I'm sure.

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