I'm looking after a budgie for a friend who's on holiday.
He's blue and a boy (the budgie, not the friend): an exquisite, courteous and charming bird.
photo by Amos T Fairchild
What's the bird's name?
Ah, well, that's rather a problem.
He has always, I understand, been called Billy. Billy the Blue Budgie. What could be wrong with that?
I mean, he even has a bill.
Is the problem that in Canada billy means a truncheon? Or that in Australia and New Zealand it can mean a campfire kettle (boil the billy means to make a cup of tea)? Or that a billycock in Britain used to be a bowler hat? Or that Billy the Kid was an outlaw?
Nope. The trouble is that my friend has gone to see relatives in Dublin, and admitting to having a budgie called Billy in Dublin is apparently tantamount to celebrating the 1690 victory over the Irish Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne of the British King William III.
Yes, it was a long time ago, but unfortunately the battle has acquired a lot of baggage over the years.
So: what can be done about Billy the Budgie?
My friend is an honest man who doesn't want to tell lies, so the poor budgie has been hastily renamed Bertie.
I must say that Bertie/Billy seems perfectly happy.
Though I'm not sure just how much of the politics he really understands.
Word Not To Use Today: billy. The truncheon word comes from a pet form of William, the cooking-vessel is short for the Scottish billypot, a billycock hat is named after William Coke, who wore the first one, and William itself means desire-helmet.
Which is rather neat as far as the hat goes, isn't it.