What’s in a name?

Why ‘Nicely Strongoak’? What’s that name all about? I get asked this a lot. I thought I had better sit down and explain it properly.

You have a funny relationship with your name don’t you? Well, I do anyway.

Nicely Strongoak and the young Terry

Love it or loathe it, you’re stuck with your name. Unless you do what a few people I’ve known have done and actually change it. (Hi Paige!) But frankly, I find that a bit weird. (Sorry Paige). I’m talking about first names of course, I mean doesn’t everybody change their surname at some point? (I’ve had three).

Your first name, the label that you grew up with. The name with which you were praised or admonished and which, hopefully, one day was whispered lovingly into your ear. The name that was shouted across parks at sunset to bring you home – or is that the dog?

The name that helps define you, whether you love it or loathe.

I hate my name. Terry that is. I know it’s Terence on the birth certificate but nobody ever called me that. It was always Terry.

Terry is the name of somebody who works on a fruit and veg stall at the local market. Terrys got to play second division football but rarely made it to the top of their profession. Terrys were your mates that played darts down the Red Lion on a Wednesday evening. Terrys were the bodyguards but never the one being guarded.

Terry was shorthand for a cockney likely lad. Terry was a name picked by lazy scriptwriters when they when didn’t want to develop a character.

OK – I did work on a fruit and veg stall and I did play darts down the Red Lion – but I couldn’t guard a kindergarten. I wasn’t that sort of Terry. I was surely a Karl, a Maxwell or maybe even a Sebastian!

I wore silver Lurex lady’s evening gloves, silk bomber jackets and over-the knee black suede platform stiletto boots for heaven’s sake! (It was that time).

Terrys didn’t do any of that! But of course they did. It wasn’t all about Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Enos – it was mostly Terrys doing the lurex glove wearing.

I was interesting! Terrys weren’t interesting!

So, eventually, I became Dr Tel. Well, Tel is an acceptable contraction of Terence and I was called Tel a lot as a child. I was even called Telstar for a while – how I wish that had stuck!

And, by now, I was a doctor and so Dr Tel seemed acceptable and anyway my best mate used it first. So that counts, as far as nickname creation goes.

And Dr Tel I did become and thus was I called, by students and comedy chums too. Dr Tel was interesting and he was fun, and even occasionally a little dark. He didn’t wear Lurex gloves anymore but there were a lot of dark suits and very narrow ties. Yes, Dr Tel was everything I had always aspired to be. Dr Tel was, indeed, the real me. But, you know what? Terry still hung around.

Terry who played darts and once worked on a fruit and veg stall, bless his cheery heart, was still there in the background ready to put on his slippers of an evening and talk bollocks down the local later.

And, guess what happened? I was suddenly rather glad to see him. He wasn’t too bad a bloke. After all, if as Gary Oldman said about his mate Bowie: ‘He’s Dave from Brixton and I’m Gary from New Cross’, why couldn’t I be Terry from Stevenage?

After all, if it hadn’t of been for Terry we wouldn’t have had these three marvellous songs:

The original ‘Terry’, from Twinkle
An American Terry, from the Boss
Fave ‘Terry’, from the much-missed Kirsty

Enjoy them and here’s to Terrys everywhere! Good on us! As for ‘Nicely’ – next time I promise.

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Author and scriptwriter, Terry Newman

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