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Last year, according to the UK Deed Poll Service, an estimated 58,000 people changed their name – an increase of 4,000 on the previous year. A decade ago, only 5,000 people changed their names. (Daily Mail Feb 2012)
Whenever there’s an election, I scan the list of candidates. Those standing for the main parties tend to be called Beacham, Hammond, Davidson or Taylor – names derived from places, ancestors, forebears’ trades.
When I stumble over a name that’s awkward, agricultural, eccentric, unusual or distorted, or that looks misspelled, I nearly always find that its owner is standing for a minority party. They haven’t got round to prettifying it, changing it, or returning its spelling to a more regular form.
If your name’s Ballance, it’ll constantly be changed to Balance by spellcheck. And how many times over a lifetime will you have to say “No, not Rodgers – Odgers”?
But it would be a dull world without people called Drinkall, Spickernell, Sables, Nettleship, Cullip, Jestico, Badrick, Bage, Blench, Fanthom, Gunstock, Hookem, Lightwing, Mallender, Rippeth, Shonk, Turtill, Varnsverry, Wildgust or Wrench. Maybe you voted for them.
It would be a shame to lose them all. But why be Mudd or Smellie when you can be Maude or Smiley? (Of course “smoothing” your name, like smoothing your accent, means “bringing it upmarket”.)
You can just announce publicly "I, Cedric Grubb, wish to be known as Charles Grosvenor" – as long as you don’t use your new name to defraud anybody. But if you want to make the change permanent, here’s how: www.deedpoll.org.uk.
More here, and links to the rest.