Monday, May 14, 2012

Another Slight Against the Drews and Andrews of the World

Hello. You may be new here. If so, you should know that my name is Drew.

It’s actually not Andrew, as my parents had no intention of ever calling me anything other than Drew, so they just named me that. Wise of them, I say. Still, I tend to get lumped in with the Andrews, and people occasionally try to call me Andy — not a lot, but probably more often than you get called Andy, so long as your name isn’t Drew or Andrew. I’m not sure where my parents got the idea for my name, but I at least know that it wasn’t Drew Barrymore, because E.T. didn’t come out until a week after I was born, and I doubt my mom and dad would have had any reason to know about her before that. It’s a decent name, overall, even if it rhymes with too many problematic words (poo perhaps foremost among them), can be substituted too easily into love songs in a mocking manner (“I’m Saving All My Love for Drew,” “Nothing Compares to Drew,” etc.) and makes for unfortunate associations with Nancy Drew (no comment). I’d actually thought I’d heard every possible way someone could make fun of my name until just recently, when I found a new one.

It’s my word of the week.
merryandrew (meh-ree-AN-droo) — verb: to play like a clown.
It’s seldom-used, sure, but if the OED says it’s a thing, I’ll believe it. It’s ever-so-slightly less rare than the noun merry andrew, a clown, but when I say that do understand that next to nobody ever uses this word, and the handful of weirdos who do use the noun. I just like that the noun spawned a verb, hence my pick for the week. Merriam-Webster weirdly defines the word as “a person who clowns publicly,” and I have to wonder: Is a person who clowns privately actually a clown? Or are they merely awkward and clumsy and perhaps fond of wearing bright colors?

public clown or private sinister weirdo? you decide.

Of course, I wondered why Andrew would get attached to being a dumbass instead of any other person’s name. Etymonline claims that no one’s ever figured that out. Wikipedia suggests that it could have been Andrew Borde, the man with sisyphean task of being Henry VIII’s doctor. Borde frequently addressed crowds of people, imparting medical knowledge in an entertaining way, and those who imitated his style were called merry andrews — and rightly so, because how could you compete with a guy who has intimate knowledge of the king of England’s digestive tract? And while there does seem to be some history of merry Andrew referring to the guy who assisted those old-timey quack physicians who staged shows to sell bogus medicine, but that doesn’t prove a connection between merryandrew and Andrew Borde, who, given the level of health that Henry VIII’s appearance projects, probably wasn’t that merry.

In closing, I’ll tell you one more bit that I’m placing at the end of the post just because I couldn’t figure out where else to fit it in: Obscure and little-understood though the term may be, merry andrew is nonetheless used in the Meg Ryan romcom Kate & Leopold and the cartoon Ed, Edd and Eddy, and that, friends, is the only time these two works will ever be mentioned in the same breath.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

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