One of my favourite Victorian stories concerns a Wakefield publican who had the humble name of Joshua Bug – some articles actually spelt his surname as Bugg – but, irrespective of how his name was spelt, his story is a lesson to us all!
JOSHUA BUGG CHANGES HIS NAME
I recently created a video about Joshua Bug (or Bugg) which you can watch below.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Joshua is a classic example of the old adage that you should be careful what you wish for lest your wish is granted – but in a manner that you weren’t expecting.
Josh was, as far as can be told, was your average humble citizen of Victorian Britain, just an ordinary publican. However, he considered it an unfortunate happening that he had been saddled with the surname of Bug.
No doubt his childhood was blighted by the other children calling him all manner of names – and, having reached maturity he was unable to shake of the trauma of his childhood, when adults also began mocking his surname.
JOSHUA THE BED BUG
You can almost hear the sniggers of those he was introduced to.
And as a publican – who may well have offered hospitality in the form of bed and breakfast – the fact that the things that people found most mirth in comparing him to were bed bugs.
A CHANGE OF NAME
However, old Joshua Bug was not one to accept and live with his unfortunate surname, and so, in 1862, he decided to take direct action and opted to change his name by deed poll.
THE DUKES OF NORFOLK
Now, had he changed his name to Smith, Jones, Robinson, or Ripper – his decision might not have attracted much notice.
But the Wakefield publican had had enough of ordinary names; and thus he made the bold decision to change his name to the grand sounding Norfolk Howard.
Who could not be impressed by such a name?
After all, the Howard family, Dukes of Norfolk, were one of the oldest aristocratic families in the country, so some of their grandeur he felt might rub off on him, and his customers would be suitably impressed.
So, in June, 1862, Joshua Bug became Norfolk Howard.
IT DIDN’T GO ACCORDING TO PLAN
Unfortunately for the Yorkshire publican, his change of name attracted derision in the newspapers who saw it as nothing short of pretentiousness – and it wasn’t long before the country as a whole had taken notice of his name change.
Very soon his new name had passed into common parlance and Norfolk Howard became the slang term for – yes, you’ve guessed it a bed bug.
Whenever a Victorian household found an infestation of the nasty little critters in their beds, they would refer to them as Norfolk Howards, and thus the poor old publican never managed to escape the unfortunate associations that his original name had generated.
So yes indeed. If you are considering a change of name to something much grander, please take care – for, when it comes to a name – be very, very careful what you wish for or what you choose.