Review 2006

Graham from Off The Telly asks:
You might have covered this before, but, why Stuart *Ian* Burns - and not just Stuart Burns? And, if I can squeeze in another related to that, how do you feel about people who spell it "Stewart"?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me to write a character reference for her. After spending agonising hours trying to decide how best to describe her within the allotted three lines, I managed to jot something down, mostly adjectives. After spilling onto an imaginary fourth line underneath, it asked for the referee to enter their name. I wrote Stuart Ian Burns without hesitation.

I've been using my middle name for such a long time, that when it's missing, it doesn't look right. The envelope from the reference form is address to Mr. Stuart Burns and that seems like a different person. As to why I use it, the simple answer is that it's an affectation, a pretension the reason for which is lost in the mists of my mind and personal history. In other words I can't remember quite why or when it began.

Actually I can remember using it as a child. I have a memory of being very young and being asked for my name and address in primary school and saying all in one go 'Stuart Ian Burns. 89 Lovell Road. Speke. Liverpool. L-2-4 3-U-E?' Although my exercise books from the time all say Stuart Burns. But my GCSE certificates all include the Ian and that pattern is repeated through my A-Levels, it's on the cover of my BA dissertation too and that degree certificate. It obviously happened some time during secondary school for some unknown reason, particularly since it was the kind of school in which I was referred to by my surname right into the sixth form. Perhaps it was a reaction to that.

When pushed for an answer as to why the full name, I sometimes tell people it commemorates my father, which is surprisingly accepted more than you'd think. My Dad's full name is Ian Hugh Burns, and his middle name also commemorates his father. I've asked him why after a long line of Hughs he was suddenly christened something else and ?. He doesn't know. He said that he was going to be called something totally different but his father jumped in with Ian Hugh and it stuck.

I was originally going to be called Ian Stuart but Mum decided that it would mean I'd be little Ian to my Dad's big Ian and that wouldn't do so she switched them around. Mum says that Dad had planned ahead enough that if I'd been a girl I would be called Alison, but that Stuart came about at four in the morning the night after my birth when they were casting about for a Scottish sounding boys name because they at least wanted to continue that bit of heritage -- although my grandfather, the last of the Hughs was born in Kensington.

Stewart began use after a Breton knight settled in Scotland after the Norman Conquest. His descendents were the 'stewards' to the Kings of Scotland, and so the surname is a corruption of that. The really surprise in researching this answer is to find, having spent half of my life when asked to spell my name of saying that it's the Scottish spelling to be 'helpful', that 'Stuart' is in fact French, introduced by Queen Mary, who lived in France after her marriage to the Dauphin. So I'll have to say it's the French spelling from now onwards.

The good news on the Scottish heritage front comes with the rest of the name. Ian is the Scottish Gaelic version of John and the Burns are a clan (hence the night). Burns apparently means "someone who lived or worked by the burn" either a stream or small river which seems apt in Liverpool and we have our own night which our family always celebrate by eating haggis. The clan isn't apparently big enough to stand alone which is why we ended up mucking in with the Campbells. We wore their kilt design until a Frenchman designed one for us. Which sort of gives my full name a circular logic.

Sometimes using my full name gets me into trouble. I've been to events and the organizers have assumed that it's a weird double barreling, a male version of Sarah-Jane and printed that on a name badge. Online, middle names aren't allowed in this way so to actually have it appear on websites I have to put Stuart and Ian in the Christian name box during registration hoping that it keeps the space. Someone who is almost a household name always replies back with the full version on the odd occasion when we swap emails, and I'm sure he's making fun of me. And who could blame him?

But since I'm the only apparent Stuart Ian Burns using the internet if people want to find me all they need to is throw some speech marks around it, drop into Google and take a selection from the thirty-four thousand results, with my email address not too far behind. Which also means that tantalizingly all kinds of people I've met could be reading my blog and I wouldn't know it - although now and then it pops up the referrer logs.

Somehow whilst at university some very net savvy people didn't realise I was writing so much online which strikes me as odd because the first thing I did when I found out who I was on a course with was to google them (not that it helped with one or two names, being namesakes for well known antiques experts and oscar winning actresses). A few years ago I discovered that there was another Stuart Burns online who was a Doctor Who fan, so using my middle name helps to differentiate me from him on discussion boards and elsewhere. There have been some discussions I've had with him which basically look like someone talking to themselves. Which is wrong.

I've never really had a chance to see if I have any enmity against people who spell it Stewart because I've met so few Stuarts in life. There was a Stuart Brown on my university course, and I think I might have worked with another in a call centre somewhere along the line but both had spelt it my way. It is an oddity how often I'll get Christmas cards from people I broadly know who do spell it the 'odd' way but I don't hold it against them because it's just nice to be remembered whatever your name is.

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