Posted by Sharon Schendel on Mar 04, 2019
Richard Lederer spoke about his latest book: "The Joy of Names"...
... and demonstrated how "Wow" is both a written and verbal palindrome
We were delighted to have the original verbivore, Richard Lederer, as our featured speaker for the February 28, 2019 meeting.  Richard has authored over 50 books and his talk focused on his latest offering- The Joy of Names.  But first, Richard stopped to reflect on the word “Wow”, which he heard President Don Fipps say a few times. Richard pointed out that not only is “Wow” a palindrome, both written and spoken, but it’s an ambigram- a word that retains meaning even when viewed from varying perspectives. 
But back to names- Richard noted that names give us our identity. Infants as young as 5 months old respond to their name, and Dale Carniegie said that to any individual their names is the “sweetest sound… in any language”.  Humans are namers by nature, and names have evolved over the past century. For first names, John and Mary long held the top spot as most popular names, and while John holds on at 27th most popular, Mary has sunk to 126 (check out your own name’s popularity over the years at the Social Security website). Now parents frequently name their children so that their name makes them stand out, rather than fit in. 
Last names took on increasing importance as villages.  Last names often reflected geographical location (e.g., Woods), qualities (e.g., Stout), physical characteristics (Reed meant redhead), or occupation (e.g., Smith, Hooper, Chandler). Names can also be patronymic (e.g., Johnson, son of John). 
Richard ended with a bit on nicknames, particularly how Richard, William, Robert, and Sara come to be called Dick, Bill, Bob, and Sadie.  Some scholars believe that these nicknames, which all contain hard consonants, may simply have been easier and faster to pronounce.