Bryonopsis – It’s all about Me.

Now, the gardening pedants out there will now that I have grossly misused the term “Bryonopsis”, as it actually means “to look like Bryony”, but I like to think of it as an elision between Bryony and synopsis, thus making it a Bryony based summary.

My name has been both a blessing and a curse to me; as a slightly lisp-y child who struggled to define her r’s, it made the whole questioning process of “and what’s your name?” slightly traumatic. Watching a small child slowly turning red as she attempted to get her tongue and teeth around Bryony, which inevitably turned into “Bwwynee”, must have caused my primary school teachers some pain and/or amusement. Once I established how to say my name, it started to provide much fun, albeit mostly for my classmates, as the time to take the register could double as the supply teachers stumbled over my name. Through the variety of mispronunciations, all sorts of nicknames would appear and whilst some disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared, others have followed me around ever since. Thankfully, Cheese Wood was only mentioned once (apparently Bryony sounds like Brie and mahogany), but Brindaloo, BVY, Silly B, Bry ‘n why, and many others have become pretty standard for me over the years.

Not only can the pronunciation be a real difficulty, the spelling can cause havoc; Brianny, Byrony, Brionee and Briony are common mistakes. Now I know that some parents misguidedly call their children Briony and I just don’t understand why. The Latin is Bryonia. I do not see a B-R-I there and it’s not as though Briony looks pretty. Bryony with the two ys looks a lot more balanced and correct. Now, don’t even get me started on Byrony, which I have also been endlessly by the way. When it is pronounced Bryony, why on God’s earth do you think it should be spelt Byrony? For goodness sake! (Yes, I am aware that I am riddled with issues…)

The name Bryony may not be a Roman Goddess or Pagan warrior, but it still has very important and regal roots. Bryony is a small but poisonous weed. It looks enchanting and pretty with little, curly tendrils springing away from the delicate, cream petals, but in actual fact, it is fatal if ingested. So, this little weed is a temptress, she entices everyone and then in a dreamy trance, people take some of her succulent berries, not realizing that she’s now cackling in delight at the trick she has played on them. Well, that’s a nice thing to be named after, isn’t it? Especially when you discover that the Welsh are particularly fond of calling it the Devil’s Turnip, which sounds like a euphemism for Mephistopheles’ manhood. Why thanks Ma!

One thing that I have learnt from various scout outings, Tesco shifts and late nights down the pub, is that a name like Bryony works quite well in certain songs; Brindaloo was a firm favourite during the 98 World Cup and after the release of Mark Ronson’s album a few years back, the Tesco tills would be ringing with the sound of Bryony, sung to the tune of Valerie. Nowadays, there aren’t too many hit songs that would fit Bryony into the chorus. Can you imagine Usher or Chipmunk singing about Bryony? No, neither can I.

According to all the usual dubious name definition websites, if you meet a Bryony, you’d be in for big win if you bet against her being British. Nearly 90% of all Bryonys can be found in the UK and apparently, we have been around since the 1700s although I am yet to find any evidence of this. In fact, there were more Myrtles around than Bryonys. I sincerely hope that this is a wrong that has since been corrected.

To be honest, there are very few Bryonys to be found anywhere, although all of them I can find have been honourable and upstanding members of the community. The Navy have named two of their great vessels HMS Bryony; the first fought valiantly in the First World War, taking up the disguise of a regular merchant vessel to infiltrate enemy waters. The second HMS Bryony was hit during an air raid and sunk in 1940, before she had even left the builder’s yard. They decided that the old bird was worth salvaging and they rebuilt her. As a result of her damage, she was the only boat of her class to have a long fo’c’sle with specialist minesweeping equipment on. She went on to attempt to deliver supplies to the forces in Russia in what would become a series of notable attacks; German U Boats and Luftwaffes tracked the convoy and sent waves of attacks through the journey. Thirteen merchant vessels were lost, but the brave and valient Bryony sailed on to Russia. After the war she was sold to the Norwegian army who used the war veteran until 1980 as a weather ship.

Bryonys are rarely seen in the big wide world, but like our brave and noble navy ships they are always high achievers. Perhaps one of the best examples is Bryony Shaw, who took home a Sailing bronze medal for Team GB from Beijing. We always try our damned hardest, even if we aren’t quite good enough, we really do try. Think of Bryonys as the Top Gear team, if you will. We have ambition, but we don’t always hit the mark. Another infamous Bryony is Bryony Gordon, a 3am girl, who worryingly only got that dubious position through bare-faced nepotism. As a collective gang of Bryonys, we have disowned Bryony Gordon from our gang.   Another excitingly ambitious Bryony is the internet sensation, Paperlilies who has conquered myspace, the blogosphere and youtube with her ambitious plans to create a zombie movie.

We’ve also got a playwright, Bryony Lavery who was most famously behind Frozen, a play about kidnap, rape and serial murders. We’re a cheery bunch, which is reinforced by the fictional Briony Tallis in Atonement. Now, I bought the book on the basis that the main character shared my name, even if it was spelt incorrectly! I am only on page 61, so I’m not really in any place to judge, but even at this early stage, she seems like a total psycho. Briony is an introverted 13 year old who is obsessed with writing and her own imagination, but she is definitely a bystander on life; she watches everything happening around her and distorts it for her own mind. But still, I mustn’t judge her. Not until I’ve got a few hundred pages further down the line anyway.

As I write this, I have come to realise that there are actually many different types of Bryony and we aren’t any more successful or special than the Sarahs, Johns or Davids of the world, but I like to think my name is a part of me that makes me special. I like my name and the questions that inevitably come with it. I don’t understand people who want to change their name, after all, it isn’t going to change them as a person is it? What about me? I wouldn’t change my name for the world, not even my middle name Edithlred.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Clare
    May 29, 2010 @ 14:15:57

    I feel you name related pain – the spelling of my simple 5 letter name has caused me much anguish over the years.

    Quite obviously Clare does not need an I stuck in the middle (claire – yuk!)

    I spent 8 years working for Iceland Frozen Foods whose computer could not be altered to call me Clare!!!


    • sillybry
      May 29, 2010 @ 14:20:22

      Isn’t it annoying?! I don’t think the I has any place in the middle of Bryony either. Briony just looks silly.
      I have never quite managed to live down someone being asked to put out a call on the tannoy for me at Tesco – they misunderstood the person on the phone and put a call out for “Brian E” to return to checkouts. I was called Brian E for a very long time after that!!


  2. Michael SteelWolf
    Jun 04, 2010 @ 16:32:11

    The first time I heard the name was in the movie Atonement.

    Moving on, don’t get me started on “Micheal.” The people who actually name their kids that bring disgrace to the name.


    • sillybry
      Jun 04, 2010 @ 17:19:04

      I’m still not very far into Atonement – I’m nearing the end of part 1, which is when, I’m told all the action happens. But I’m already getting the impression that Briony is a bit of a cow!

      Micheal? That’s not right. It’s like Jonothan.


  3. Bryony
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 17:43:33

    I have been a Bryony for 59 years and love my name and the spelling. My parents found it in a book by Michael Burt called ‘The Case of the Fast Young Lady’ and the heroins name was Bryony Hurst. People still miss-spell and miss-pronounce it but over the years you do grow used to it.


    • sillybry
      Jul 01, 2010 @ 18:58:56

      Hi Bryony!
      I still find it strange if I hear someone saying Bryony and they aren’t talking to me. I guess we don’t find enough of them to get used to it.
      I love it too and I’m no sure whether most people feel that excited by their name, but I really like mine. Although reading Atonement upset me a little – the Briony in that is quite unpleasant. All I can think is that it must have been the misspelling that made her so!


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