Yesterday we looked at antonomasia, a kind of name-dropping to add a bit of colour to your writing, and I listed some of the most common examples and their uses: Solomon, Jezebel, Lothario and so on. All those names will be in the dictionary with an explanation, first of who they are, and second of what it means when you call someone their name. But there is a whole raft of other unofficial examples that you can use – in fact, as long as you know your audience, and you have a healthy supply of modifiers (would–be, budding, etc.) to append to them, the amount is virtually limitless…
A young musician with lots of talent could be described as a budding Mozart. A girl bawling a song on Pop Idol is a wannabe Diana Ross, but if that nasty man on the panel takes a liking to her (people say he’s the new Simon Cowell) she could be the next Britney Spears. Just when your football team thinks they’ve found England’s answer to Lionel Messi, he turns out to be little more than a second-rate Wayne Rooney. Writers suffer the same anxieties – you wanted to be a British Haruki Murakami, but you ended up a bargain basement Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you’re lucky though, you might be hailed as a modern day Henry James.
You’ll be getting the hang of it now – enough for the examples that come in twos, like when you say you want to be Bonnie to your boyfriend’s Clyde (he sounds like bad news) or – if you want to keep things platonic – Elaine to his Jerry. To borrow from Seinfeld again, is Piers Morgan a Bizzaro-world Larry King? Or do you think of him as more of a twenty first century David Frost? Politics provides more examples – that up and coming senator from the south was a would-be JFK, until that scandal, which made him more of a cut price Bill Clinton.
As ever, alongside wit and originality (available from my online store), a keen sense of your audience should guide the names you’re dropping. Maybe not everyone who reads this will be familiar with Lionel Messi, while others will be busy looking up Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Wikipedia. If you’re writing in an exam, remember your examiner doesn’t have access to Wikipedia – and he probably doesn’t watch Pop Idol.
Describe a talent contest, but one with very little talent on show.