I smiled every time Elena Dementieva’s name came up in this year’s Wimbledon reports. One newspaper referred to the lady’s “mental hang-ups.” What do they expect, with a name like Dementieva?
You can get a lot of smiles from Russian names. The late Bernard Levin got a whole column out of a meeting of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, poking fun at names like Trapeznikov (from a family of circus performers?) and Kulakov (how did he escape from Siberia?) I have a friend named Semikhatov, which, given that the “kh” is just a hard “h” sound, suggests that he goes around with his headgear askew. And then of course there is everyone’s favorite Chairman of the U.S.S.R. State Planning Committee.