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Sri Lankan cricketer Ranjith Amunugama probably seldom signs autograph books or souvenir bats with his full name. It's Amunugama Rajapakse Rajakaruna Abeykoon Panditha Wasalamudiyanse Ralahamilage Ranjith Krishantha Bandara Amunugama. So he boasts 11 initials - an appropriate number for a member of a cricket XI, but a headache for scorekeepers and newspapers.

In the preface to the 2004 edition of the cricketers' bible, the Wisden Almanack, editor Matthew Engel writes, "With ten initials [11 counting the surname] he has now established a commanding lead over his nearest rival, A. K. T. D. G. L. A. S. de Silva (I won't spell it out, if you don't mind: I'm getting tired) and the leading international player W. P. U. J. C. Vaas.

"This is an area where England used to fancy it could hold its own with any other cricketing country, but such stars of yesteryear as J. W. H. T. Douglas, M. E. J. C. Norman and R. I. H. B. Dyer have long been eclipsed by these ex-colonial upstarts. Only the Essex newcomer A. G. A. M. McCoubrey carries on the tradition - and he's Irish."

The full name of a Fijian batsman, Ilikena Lasarusa Bula, usually referred to as I. L. Bula, has been recorded as I. L. Talebulamainavaleniveivakabulaimainakulalakebalau (48 letters). He played in first-class matches from 1947 to 1954, and achieved the highest score in Fijian cricket - 246.

We searched the internet for the reason why so many Sri Lankans (not only cricketers) have such long names. The answer seems to lie in an article written by Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema in the Colombo (Sri Lanka) Sunday Leader:

Many parents seek to name their children with uncommon names. While some tend to use simple but beautiful names, others tend to use long names, considered by some as tongue twisters. Surprisingly, since of late, many Sri Lankan parents have resorted to giving their children Indian names.

However, many Asian countries give prominence to nakshastra rulings when naming babies - planetary positions along with the date of birth play an important role in finally determining what the baby will be called.

Once an astrologer comes out with several letters, the parents are left with the task of finding names beginning with those letters, which are in some cases unimaginable. This could be the root cause of incomprehensible names.

The complete article makes entertaining reading. You can find it by clicking HERE.



Jack Tre represented an entirely sensible and admirable concision of one of the longest names in the British Army, that of The Hon. John Frederick Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis (1878-1915), GOC 20th Brigade, 7th Division, who was killed by a German sniper while touring the trenches on 24 October 1915.

Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis did not have the longest surname in the British Army, however. That honour fell to the extraordinarily named Léone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudati-filius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache, a Captain in the Leicestershire Regiment, who died on 20 February 1917.
- First World War Nicknames




Story first posted August 2004

Copyright © 2004

Eric Shackle

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