There were once two brothers. Twins actually. Bill was older by about a minute and Tom rushed out to be with him and from that moment on they were like brothers. Which is a silly thing to say because they were, in reality, brothers indeed, as well as in action.
Now most identical twins – did I mention they were identical. If not then I will mention it now – most identical twins are hard to pick. Mothers can pick them. At parties and places where people are taking photographs for posterity or to put on Instagram, someone will ask the mother, “Mirrela dear! Which one is Bill and which one is Tom?” And Mirrela would point at one – rather haphazardly – and say, “That’s Bill and you can work out the other one for yourself.” Only Bill and Tom knew if Mirrela had told the truth, but she always smiled sweetly because it was a little joke that she and the two boys played on the rest of the world.
Let’s concentrate for a moment on Bill. I’ll get to Tom later. For quite a while Bill was very content to be called “Bill”. But then it was time to go to Kindergarten and on the first day when they came back Bill was a little out of sorts.
“What’s the matter, Dear?” asked Mirrela, who was Bill’s mother if you’ve already forgotten.
“Why am I just Bill? All the other children have different names.”
“That’s because we liked Bill for a name because it is easy to remember, and when you have two babies all at the same time things are quite complicated enough.” Mirrela was quite given to explanations that really didn’t explain much.
“Well!” said young Bill, “There are children at kindie with names like Amarillus and Pandora and Rasheed and Haruki. But I’m just Bill.”
“And me too!” said Tom. “I’m just Tom and I have a new friend called Kytaro.”
“Alright!” said Mirrela. “I knew this day would come (sotto voce). Bill is short for William and Tom is short for Thomas and at the time we were a bit short for time so we just used your short names but if you want we will now call you William and Thomas. If you wish.”
“What will we do with our short name if we want to use our full name?” asked Thomas, taking the lead for the first time – I think.
“You can use them for other things,” replied that cleverest of all mothers.
“How?” said in unison.
“Look it up in the dictionary.”
“What does that mean?” I don’t remember who said that.
“I’ll give you a clue,” Said Mirella. “Go to a book about water birds and see if anyone is using your name, William. And Thomas go to a book about animals in Africa and see who is using your name.”
“The long name or the short name?”
“Whatever!” replied the cunningest of all mothers.
So the two little precocious boys rushed into their well equipped library and poured over books until William cried with delight, “Found it!”
Thomas ran to see what his elder, by a minute, brother had found and there it was.
“Ducks have been using my name since time in memorials. And Platypuses too, as well.”
And there certainly were photographs of a duck and the duck’s mouth was called Bill and the platypus’s mouth was called duckbill, and William was happy. At least for a while. But they had less success with Thomas. Thomas was on the verge of tears when the two boys became aware that there was a certain mother hovering like a dragonfly over their little pool of energy.
“Look up Hippos,” the dragonfly whispered and went back to the kitchen.
But that didn’t help at all. Not for a while. At least not until Thomas looked carefully.
“Ah ha!. I found it but the hippo uses my long name and spells it wrong,” he said with a certain lack of grammatical correctness.
“Uh?” quizzicalled William.
“A hippo is ‘posed to be called a hippo pot tamus. But it should be spelled c’reccly’. It should be spelled HIPPOPOTHOMAS.”
And the two boys went to kindergarten tomorrow quite content and the mother of great wisdom sat back and waited for the next problem her two boys would throw at her. Which would come and I will let you know if it is worth my while.