It all started in good humour. I was at a party. The host, a dear friend who thinks of my writings as works of good humour and is always saying gratifying things about them, good-humouredly chose to introduce me to a guest as a Merry Andrew – an old-time colloquial expression for a humorist.
The “How do you do Mr. Andrew?” came as a bit of a jolt. As I turned to my friend with pleading eyes and intentions of making a request to rectify the mistake, I discovered to my considerable unease that he had to excuse himself away, the very same moment, to his wife beckoning urgently from a distance.
I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. Was I to set things right by giving him my real name? Or should I play the game and try proving to him that I was indeed what my friend chose to describe me as? I decided to go for the challenge.
Flashing a smile that was meant to beguile, I returned his courtesy, whereupon he felt encouraged to get more intimate. “I am here for the first time,” he said. “Do you come here often?”
“Yes,” I replied, “the place is like a secomd home to me.”
“Oh, you must know him very well then.” His reference was to my friend, the host.
“Well enough for him to take liberties with me, and my name,” I said.
He didn’t seem to catch my point. But a mention of my name stirred up further interest in him as he said, “Talking of your name, wouldn’t you say that your first name – Merry – is rather uncommon? Truth is, I myself never heard it before.”
“Neither had I until I was baptised. But my baptist friend perhaps thought it was the best name for me as it hints at my profession,” I said grinningly.
His amusement was there for anyone to see. “Well I will certainly say that it is a most appropriate name in-so-far-as it describes your nature. By the way, what is it that you do for a living?”
“I use my wits,” I replied.
“You certainly are a jolly man!”
“I have to be, to make a living. Besides I am of the opinion that in today’s tense times, one could do worse than being a little mirthful and frolicsome,” I said.
“How true! But I still haven’t got a hint about your profession.”
“That’s the trouble with my profession. It is rather an uncommon one, just like the euphemism it entitles people to bestow on me. But I think I have already given you a broad hint.”
His growing discomfiture became plain. “I am not sure I understand you completely. Besides I am serious about wanting to know your profession.”
“I know you are and I appreciate your interest. I, on my part, am trying to be as serious as would be in keeping with the requirements of my profession”, I said.
My friend made a reappearance at this stage with words of apology for having left us on our own. Noticing that we had already struck a conversation, he asked, “So what have you been doing?”
“I have been trying to live upto my two names, including the one just recently conferred by you,” I said. “Now, suppose you tell him that I am a humourist by profession – and also my real name, which, incidentally, means jewel of virtuous patience I was just now constrained to be trying to honour your latest gift of appellation to me!”