The meme that’s going round the blogs asks how many people in the US have your name. The answer, for me personally, is fairly obvious – very few if you just take my first name, but bucketloads if you just take my surname.
Yes, I’m a Jones, and so I probably should have had some coherent thoughts on the surname-based record-breaking that went on in Cardiff Bay about a fortnight ago now. The problem is, I find it very difficult to get excited about it. It wasn’t as big as the original (abandoned) grandiose scheme, after all. And as this stat-filled Guardian article pointed out, it means very little really: the record of 1,224 Joneses in a single location at a single time is probably easily beaten every time Wales play a rugby match in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. And yes, Grace Jones did visit Wales for the first time as a result, but I know that nothing can beat Slave to the Rhythm done by an orchestra of ukuleles.
So instead, I go to my favourite dictionary, well aware that knowing what ‘my favourite dictionary’ is already makes me the most exciting Jones in history. What Joneses has it highlighted, I wonder? The answer’s mildly reassuring. The Jimmy of Jonestown is mercifully absent. The Vinny of thuggery is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we have a golfer (Bobby), an architect (Inigo), an admiral (John Paul), a geneticist (Steve), a singer (Tom), and most wonderfully of all, a phonetician (Daniel).
I overlook John and Tom not actually being born with my surname, and I reassure myself that since the Tomster rescued Earth from Martian invasion a while back, he should probably be an honorary Jones after all. I glance at the reference to ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ on the next page, assured that very few other surnames can even come close. And then, I read this:
Jones (verb, no obj.) (jones on/for) have a fixation on; be addicted to: Palmer was jonesing for some coke again.
— origin 1960s: Said to come from Jones Alley, in Manhattan, associated with drug addicts.
Gloss over the original connotation, which seems to have softened by now anyway. Just look at the part of speech. To jones is a verb. This may be old news to every Jones in America, but it was very new news for me. I can conjugate my surname. My world just changed. I knew I’d been jonesing for something for a while, but I’d no idea that this is what I’d jonesed for. Do you jones as much as I do?
So there you are – 1,224 Joneses in Cardiff Bay? Impressive, yes, but not as impressive as their surnames being a proper noun, a common noun and a verb all at the same time. Such versatility is the sort of thing us Joneses are known for, of course. World-beating versatility, you might say.
As long as you don’t mention Vinny, of course. And I’m jonesing for you not to mention Jimmy.