Hello, I’m Dandy

The etymological, not entomological, origins of my school nickname.

Roy Manterfield (1959)
Roy Manterfield (1959)

At school, well at junior school, I was known as Dandy, which had a dual or ‘punning’ basis, coming both from my alleged dandyism and from watching, and being somewhat obsessed with, the Saturday matinee film series of Zorro at the local village cinema.

The theatre was the Lawn cinema in Birstall, just north of Leicester, run by Bert Pollard. According to the Leicester Mercury the cinema had been opened on Monday 5 October 1936. It was named after Lawn House, which had previously stood on the site in the centre of the village.

I loved the Saturday matinee; it was the entertainment highlight and treat of the week for quite a few years and my introduction to cinematic science fiction through Flash Gordon and to the wacky humour of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello & The Three Stooges.

'Pictures' by Roy Manterfield (April 1958)
'Pictures' by Roy Manterfield (April 1958)

I can’t remember exactly how much the matinee cost; it was quite cheap, somewhere around 4d or 6d, and my favourite sweetened, pink and white popcorn, sold in a greaseproof paper tube for about 3d.

The Lawn keep going for 34 years, finally closing in October 1970. After it’s demolition a supermarket was built on the site.

Anyway, I’m deviating; this minor historical tangent has little to do with my nickname, just happy memories of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

I was fascinated by Zorro’s spectacular fencing techniques, but my friends, instead of calling me Zorro, named me after Zorro’s unmasked screen character.

Zorro (Spanish for fox) was the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega; this was heard by young ears as ‘Dan de Yaygo’, which in turn became ‘Dandy Yaygo’, and, in the case of my nickname, was abbreviated to just ‘Dandy’.

The perception of me being a dandy, the secondary source of ‘Dandy’, arose through my mixed pronunciation from having an East Midland father and a south coast mother. Words such as grass with the short ‘a’ of the East Midlands and north would often emerge with the longer ‘ah’ of the south. Likewise I would sometimes pronounce words such as plant, dance, branch, demand with the long ‘ah’ sound (plahnt, dahnce, brahnch, demahnd).

Due to this intermittent southern, or posh, pronunciation my school friends erroneously perceived me as having an upper-class background. So ‘Dandy’ fit both the perception of who I was and my obsession with Zorro, whose alter ego, Don Diego de la Vega, was thought to be a bit of a dandy anyway.

In a slight revisiting of my school nickname I did take up fencing in the 1970s, starting at night school and then with the Nottingham YMCA Fencing Club for a few years, where I met my wife Sue.

YMCA Fencing Club (June 1979) - Me far left, Sue centre (between the moustaches)
YMCA Fencing Club (June 1979) - Me on the left of the photo, Sue in the centre (between the moustaches)