The strange case of Hardus Viljoen

The South African cricketer had a good Test debut, hitting his first ball for a four and then taking a wicket (of the opposing captain AN Cook) off his first ball. He ended up with a relatively modest return, as you can see from the scorecard:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/800465.html

Apparently he is only the second achieve this double on debut. The first was M Henderson of New Zealand, in his county’s first ever Test:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/62572.html

That match is more remembered for MJC Allom’s hat-trick (and 4 in 5) on debut. And Henderson never played in a Test again.

Coming back to Hardus Viljoen, he may well avoid Henderson’s fate and play in more Tests. But there is something odd about him.

Those who compile cricketing records like everything to be black and white, with every run scored and ball bowled being accounted for. But what if even a person’s name is uncertain? That happens often enough in parts of South Asia where a person may have a given name, a middle name, a surname and perhaps several other names. Now we have a mystery from South Africa.

Starting with this Wikipedia article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardus_Viljoen

His name is listed as Gerhardus C Viljoen, with Hardus apparently being a contraction or nickname. But what does the C stand for?

The Wikipedia article has links to two of the major databases:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/current/player/375126.html

which gives his full name as GC Viljoen

and:

http://www.cricketarchive.com/Archive/Players/373/373892/373892.html

which states that “GC is his name, not his initials”

Of course, there are a number of people who have initials which do not mean anything-including an US president, no less.

This is the relevant bit about Harry S Truman’s middle name:

“Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Missouri, the oldest child of John Anderson Truman (1851–1914) and Martha Ellen Young Truman (1852–1947). His parents chose the name Harry after his mother’s brother, Harrison “Harry” Young (1846–1916). They chose “S” as his middle initial to please both of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. The “S” did not stand for anything, a common practice among the Scots-Irish.

This is perhaps the most famous picture of President Truman, after the 1948 elections:

 

Here are a few more people who have initials which do not stand for anything:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/26920/quick-10-people-fake-middle-initials

Even the fans of MAD magazine would not know Alfred E. Neuman’s middle name.

 

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Onwards to the T20 Cricket World Championship

With the qualifying tournament over (uniquely with both the finals and the third-place match washed out) we know which teams will participate in the  T20 World Championship (NOT World Cup) to be held in India in March/April 2016. The 10 Test nations will be joined by Scotland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Oman.

As in 2014, the first round will be played by 8 teams (Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and the 6 qualifiers) and the two top teams will join the other 8. There are two groups of 5, and the top 4 teams qualify for the semi-finals.

The winners of the first round need not be taken for granted; in 2014 Zimbabwe did not qualify but the Netherlands did.

A point of interest was this player:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/772407.html

He does not play for the Netherlands as one would expect. His team does not have official T20 status so his matches do not qualify as T20Is. However, he would be the only international cricketer with quadruple repeated initials. He does have a counterpart from first-class cricket:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/10681.html

While in Test cricket there are triple repeated initials in

WW Wade: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/47855.html

WW Whysall: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/22420.html

and

HHH Johnson: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/52200.html

The last player seems to have been unfortunate in playing only three Tests after taking ten wickets on his debut.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICC_World_Twenty20

The “Singh is King” cricket XI

Whenever cricket fans are bored, they start creating ideal XIs. This gets boring after a while, so more variations are considered such as left-handed and right-handed XIs, names starting with S and so on.

So here we have a “Singh is King” XI which should be better than the Kings XI. The criteria here is that a player should have played in at least one Test (though I am being liberal and taking ODI performance into consideration) and should have Singh as a surname or middle name. In suggested batting order:

1) Navjot Singh Sidhu

2) Chetan Pratap Singh Chauhan

3) Hanumant Singh

4) A.G. Kripal Singh

5) Yuvraj Singh

6) Yajurvindra Singh

7) Mahendra Singh Dhoni

8) Robin Singh

9) Harbhajan Singh

10) L. Amar Singh

11) Bishen Singh Bedi

Reserves: Balwinder Singh Sandhu, R.P. Singh, Gursharan Singh, Maninder Singh, and finally Mudhsuden Singh Panesar.

One may say that the middle order is a bit weak but Nos 7 and 8 should provide enough backup while No 9 has two test centuries. One might argue that Robin Singh is not a good enough bowler for Tests, so he could be replaced by Sandhu or RP though this would weaken the batting.

Although Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji are sometimes spelt as Singh (like their Saurashtran relative Yajurvindra), cricket literature almost invariably uses the former variant.

Not everyone here wears a turban, but it would be prudent not to make Santa-Banta jokes nearby. One could possibly construct another list consisting of turbaned players alone, though one may not be able to find all eleven who were Test players.

This team should  generally beat Zimbabwe or Bangladesh (or Sri Lanka or New Zealand on an off day).

Tail piece: the movie title “Singh is Kinng” is said to have been taken from the back of a truck.

Acronyms true and false

We take many acronyms and their explanation for granted. A good example is VT, the prefix for civil aircraft registered in India. Many times we may have heard in quizzes that this stands for Viceroy’s Territory. This is untrue, as we will see below. It is a kind of reverse engineering to find something which fits the initials.

As my friend Ash Nallawalla pointed out….”India has several sequential prefixes as part of a global assignment. VU is used for radio callsigns, for example in amateur radio; VT for aircraft etc. If you check the global allocations, you will see that the main British dominions and colonies were in the Vx series. Australia uses VK and VL for radio (possibly more), VH for aircraft etc. It is just reverse translation by people who need to remind themselves of our British colonization every day.”

Another famous one is “Military Headquarters Of War” for Mhow which many people consider to be true. This phrase seems to be too clumsy to be true and apparently was created by someone as an afterthought. This is what Wikipedia says:

“There is total lack of unanimity on how Mhow got its name. One possible source of the name might be the Mahua (Madhuca longifolia) tree, which grows in profusion in the forests around Mhow.

Some articles in popular literature state that MHOW stands for Military Headquarters Of War. However, this is a backronym, and there is no proof to support the theory that the name of the village comes from the acronym. The village near Mhow was called Mhow Gaon in the pre-British era, when English was not used in India. The Cantonment which came up in 1818 came to be known as Mhow Cantt after the name of this village. Sir John Malcolm spelt the name of this town as MOW in his writings. The 1918 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica also mentions ‘MAU’. However, the Cantonment was referred to by British officers as Mhow at least as early as the end of 1823 (letter from Lt Edward Squibb to his father in London).”

A lesser known backronym from the Army is the one for Babina near Jhansi: “British Army Base In Native Asia” and sometimes……Northern Asia”. This also sounds as contrived as the one above, as the phrase “Native Asia” does not seem to be used anywhere else. And Northern Asia would be Siberia where Britain never had a hold.

The airline and railway companies have many examples of this sort;

Queer And Nasty Types As Stewards

Better On A Camel (and in the mid-60s, Bend Over Again Christine)-google for Christine Keeler if you didn’t get it.

Pan Demonium Scareways

Good Airline Run Under Dutch Administration (i.e. Garuda of Indonesia)

and the jokes about the FA asking “do you want TWA tea or TWA coffee”.

From the British railways we have:

London & Nearly Everywhere Railway, a fair description of the London and North Eastern Railway during its heydays.

There are a number of nasty ones connected with the Indian Railways:

Bribes Never Refused – BNR, predecessor of the SER before the 2002 reorganization.

Great Improvement Possible – GIPR, predecessor of most of CR as it was pre – 2002

Sambar Idli Railway – SIR, most of the present SR

Mails Slowly Moving – M & SMR, now part of SR, SWR and SCR

and the nastiest would be:

Beastly, Bad and Cannot Improve – BB & CIR (predecessor of the WR  as it was pre – 2002).

This article may be useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backronym

UK election trivia-2

In my schooldays a common insult was “Balls to you”. It is unclear whether this is pure Indian English or of British origin.

In later years I taught high school mathematics for some years. Many of the examples for probability in 11th/12th grade involved bags containing black,white and red balls. More about different kinds of balls here:

A major point of interest in the UK elections was the defeat of many stalwarts of the Labour and Lib-Dem party. One of them was former minister Ed Balls:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Balls

Anyway he is young enough and is likely to be a major figure in any Labour government in the distant future. But is the UK ready for a PM with the surname Balls? Probably Germany in the 1930s was not ready for a Fuhrer with the surname Schicklgruber either although it could be argued that this was Adolf Hitler’s actual surname. He was lucky as “Heil Hitler” sounds much snappier than “Heil Schicklgruber”. More on Hitler’s family name here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alois_Hitler

However, the fact is that the UK did have a Prime Minister whose surname was originally Ball. More about John Major’s ancestry here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Major-Ball

and a shorter one here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/348932.stm

While on this topic, Bill Clinton’s surname came from his stepfather. His actual father was named Blythe, as we see from this extract:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, Arkansas. His father, William Jefferson Blythe, Jr. (1918–1946), was a traveling salesman who died in an automobile accident three months before Bill was born. His mother, Virginia Dell (née Cassidy; 1923–1994), traveled to New Orleans to study nursing soon after he was born. She left Bill in Hope with her parents Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, who owned and ran a small grocery store. At a time when the Southern United States was segregated racially, Bill’s grandparents sold goods on credit to people of all races. In 1950, Bill’s mother returned from nursing school and married Roger Clinton, Sr., who owned an automobile dealership in Hot Springs, Arkansas, with his brother and Earl T. Ricks. The family moved to Hot Springs in 1950.

Bill Clinton’s boyhood home in Hope, Arkansas

Although he immediately assumed use of his stepfather’s surname, it was not until Billy (as he was known then) turned fifteen that he formally adopted the surname Clinton as a gesture toward his stepfather.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Would he have had such an easy run in public life as Bill Blythe rather than Bill Clinton? Or would Hillary Blythe have a better shot at the White House than Hillary Clinton? After all, Clinton is a more “recognizable” American surname than Blythe.

Cricket fans may wonder if he had any connection with this prominent Test player of the 1900s:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/9134.html

Colin Blythe’s 15-wicket haul was one of the best match bowling figures of that period. He was one of several prominent cricketers who were killed in the Great War.

More on station names

Today we  return to this topic with this list of trivia compiled by Jim Fergusson, who has studied timetables of many countries. His site is

http://www.railwaystationlists.co.uk/

It will be of particular interest to those who study  the railways of South Asia (other than India). He has painstakingly put together lists of every station which has ever existed in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and several other countries (but not India, probably because it is too complex). This is particularly useful for those interested in the railways of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka because they have not published timetables for public use for a few decades. Railfans in these countries do not seem to know why this is so. However, his station lists are a little out of date as they do not include lines built in recent years, such as the East-West link over the Bangabandhu bridge which has made through running possible between the two systems in Bangladesh for the first time. This was completed around 2002. He does include the northern lines in Sri Lanka as they appeared in the timetables prior to the civil war. A sizable part of the main lines to Jaffna and Talaimannar were disused from 1983 and they have been restored only in recent months, though they might be fully restored only by the end of 2015.

Pakistan has been a little more regular in publishing timetables although the system itself seems to be shrinking rapidly due to various reasons, mainly the shortage of locomotives. Of course, the timetables show the long-closed lines through the Khyber Pass to Landi Kotal and even the short-lived extension to Landi Khana which saw service only from 1926 to 1932, besides various narrow gauge lines which all closed in the early 1990s.

Many more peculiar names from around the world can be seen here:

Trivia

There is a Silly station in Belgium. The nearest we have in India is Silli, near Ranchi.

Silli

If someone tells you to go to Hell, there is this station in Norway you can go to. It is served by several trains a day from the larger city of Trondheim, 31 km away.

Hell1

Another view of the station is:

Hell2

As you would know, God is not likely to be here. This is Norwegian for “cargo handling”.

If you come by car, you would see this sign:

Hell road

Naturally, tourists are keen to have their pictures taken here. The only hellish things here are the prices, as Norway is one of the most expensive countries in Europe.

If you are familiar with the Devil, you would expect to find number 666 here. However, for that you have to move to the US and travel by  Amtrak service 666 which runs from Harrisburg to New York on Saturdays and Sundays:

Devil-USA

The Indian train  numbering system has been rationalized over the past few years. Since late 2010 every timetabled train, ranging from the humblest 2-coach DMU to the prestigious Rajdhani Expresses has 5 digit numbers. Most of the express trains have had 4 digits from the early 1990s, though slow passenger trains had various numbers including alphanumeric (e.g. 1 DUK) or 3-digit. Much to the delight of devil worshippers, there was indeed a 666 passenger between Udagamandalam (Ooty) and Coonoor which has been duly captured on film:

Train666

This train now has a 5-digit number. But Satanists need not lose heart, since there is still a diesel loco with the number 6666. It is probably still running in the Ahmedabad area (see below for it running with its Sabarmati markings) though it was based at Mhow in central India some years ago.

Devil

Finally, if you were wondering about the rude name alluded to by Mr Fergusson, you can check the maps for the roads between Linz (Austria) and Passau (Germany) where you will come across the village of Pucking.

We return to short names in the next instalment.

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