Monday, March 19, 2012


On the day I was born, my Dad went out to buy me my first toy. He chose a cuddly elephant; a simple design for infants with two big ears, a trunk, two feet and a rattle. The staff at the hospital were dismissive of this gift, informing my parents that babies were not interested in soft toys for many months.


Dad was later to say that this elephant was the most successful gift he had ever bought anyone. It became my constant companion and when I was old enough, I named it:


(Friends party to a recent discussion in which I attempted to name my iPod shuffle 'iPod shuffle' will now realise my inspired christenings began at an early age. Just be glad my cat isn't named 'cat').

As the months went by, concern started to grow that the loss of Jumbo might mean irreversible psychological damage. For my parents, that was, since it seemed likely I would scream for the next 20 years in such an eventuality. Since Jumbo came everywhere with me and had an adventurous spirit with a love of water, insanity was looming on the horizon.

In an effort to protect against the inevitable, Dad went out and purchased a second toy elephant. This one looked exactly the same as Jumbo, but its rattle had a different tone. I named this one:

Jumbo 2

Jumbo 2 was a popular addition but suffered from one very obvious flaw: She wasn't Jumbo 1.

In a desperate second attempt, a third elephant was purchased. This one sounded just like Jumbo 1 but was a different colour, having orange ears and a white coat rather than white ears and a yellow coat. Clearly, he too was also not Jumbo 1.

Oddly, while the second two Jumbos had clearly defined genders, Jumbo 1's gender remained ambiguous. Possibly this is deeply significant. Could these two Jumbos never replace THE Jumbo because of Jumbo 1's unique transsexual life perspective? Did Jumbo 1 feel constrained by the psychological pressures surrounding children's toys? Or perhaps the neutral colour of its original box left it without a feeling of identity that only intensified as I grasped my own. DID JUMBO 1 JUST WANT TO BE FREE?

... that would explain the number of times Jumbo 1 got lost.

Dinner guests at our house would often have to be introduced to the three Jumbos. I would stand by the door to our sitting room and hold up the first elephant.

"This is Jumbo 1."

There'd be the customary murmur of what I deemed was approval, but on later reflection was probably sympathy: This poor mundane child. She would probably grow up to became a physicist. Oblivious to this remorse, I would then proceed to hold up the second elephant.

"This is Jumbo 2."

A polite laugh would eminent from my audience. I would then hold up the third elephant.

"This is..."

"Jumbo 3." They would always chorus.


".... New Jumbo," I would say, astounded at the stupidity of the people before me. What sort of completely ridiculous name would 'Jumbo 3' be? Good grief. These people were supposed to be adults.

Nobody understood my genius. UNTIL NOW.

May I point you all to:

iPad 1, iPad 2 and the NEW IPAD.

When it was launched, Dad sent me an email asking if I'd secretly been appointed Head of Naming at Apple. I replied that my bank account suggested I had not.


  1. Now I understand your blog's name. :D

    So what happened to Jumbo 1, Jumbo 2 and New Jumbo?

    PS: We should never let you loose at the Large Hadron Collider. I shudder to think what you'd name new particles. ^^

    1. In its earliest incarnation, it used to be my name (.blogspot) so really, this is an improvement!

      Jumbo 1 is still by my bed at my parent's house. It is not the soft toy it was, having lost all its fur and the trunk is just a thin sliver of material. BUT I LOVE IT! Time was kinder to Jumbo 2 and Jumbo 3 and I think they were donated to a charity shop as I got older.

      Psh, particle physicists don't know anything. Astrophysicists on the other hand are much more sensible. The real name of the Andromeda Galaxy (our nearest galactic neighbour)? M31. You see why I like this field.

    2. ARGH NOOOOOOOO. Even I called New Jumbo 'Jumbo 3'! Age has ruined my genius. Sadness.

    3. New Jumbo is now suffering from an identity crisis and post-traumatic stress disorder.

      Aaah. I did a writer's non-linear thinking thing. Particles = neutrinos that don't travel faster than light after all = Einstein = outer space! I've just remember this phrase (I think it was written by Isaac Asimov): "out there beyond the frontier guards, where the stars are scattered thinly, and the cold of space creeps in ... "

      Where wos I? So particles = space. QED. No?

      Particle physicists don't fare much better. Quark is cute, but up, down, top, bottom? That's the best they can do? Hmph.

  2. My blog reading list has been misbehaving so I only catch up on Kat at intervals. I'm so glad the transfer went well and you're both safely home. Hmm, Tallis - have you read the Madeleine L'Engle books? (Possibly responsible for both my offspring becoming astrophysicists.) She has a detective called Canon Tallis. And Tamasin had a blue bunny called - Blue Bunny. Am I seeing a trend here? Must find out what the next generation are naming their toys. There may be a PhD thesis here.

    1. I read "A Wrinkle in Time" by L'Engle, but I don't think I read any of her other ones. Tallis' name came from 'Atonement' by Ian McEwan. I actually didn't like the book, but I did like the family name of the main character!

      I'm sure calling toys Jumbo & Blue Bunny gives them a strong sense of identity. Who doesn't want that?

  3. My first pet, when I was 9 was a blue budgie whom I called `Pony Riser`, true story. It was most obviously in reference to NOT GETTING A PONY.
    We obviously are the kinds of friends who will compliment each other's differences. You can go do astro physics stuffs and I will name things.