Jeffrey Osborne? The embarrassment of getting a name wrong

George Osborne and Jeffrey Osborne
Image caption George Gideon Oliver Osborne and Jeffrey Osborne

Barack Obama repeatedly called George Osborne "Jeffrey", it's reported. Newcastle United's new director of football Joe Kinnear was much mocked after he got the names of several players wrong. It's been a week of name muddles.

George Osborne is the youngest man to take up the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1886.

Jeffrey Osborne is an R&B singer and songwriter who belted out On The Wings Of Love in 1982. He also drums.

So it's rather unfortunate that the president of the United States should, reportedly, mix up the two at an important meeting. But it is an embarrassing scenario we've all been in. Not usually in the setting of the a major international summit, but in offices and parties and family dinners.

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Media captionMash-up: Radio 4's World At One has mixed Jeffrey Osborne's 'On The Wings of Love' with George Osborne's Mansion House speech

By far the worst scenario comes when calling a girlfriend or boyfriend by the name of a previous inamorata (or inamorato).

It's a classic source of mirth in sitcoms. Trigger in Only Fools and Horses referring to Rodney as Dave being just one of many examples. People in multiple sibling families are used to being called by the names of any other member of the family of the same sex. Or perhaps the name of the family pet.

And some names just sound a bit like other names. The journalist who announced "astronaut Neil Young, first man to walk on moon, dies at age 82" probably wished they could burn out, or at least fade away, after making the gaffe.

Earlier this week, Joe Kinnear earned the derision of Newcastle fans and sports journalists as he reeled off a list of incorrect names in a radio interview with Talksport.

Image caption A photo that is a Question of Sport question in and of itself

Striker Shola Ameobi became "Amamobi", winger Hatem Ben Arfa became both "Afra" and "Afri" but the club's star midfielder Yohan Cabaye got the worst of it as he was referred to as "Yohan Kebabs".

Kinnear has form. In 2009, during his previous stint at Newcastle, he referred to player Charles N'Zogbia as "insomnia". It was widely interpreted as a conscious jibe, although in light of this week's car-crash interview, it's harder to be sure.

The football players' union chief Gordon Taylor wasn't happy at the "insomnia" error.

"This is at best disrespectful and at worst deeply offensive, especially as insomnia is as difficult to pronounce as N'Zogbia," he noted at the time.

There was one man who could get away with getting a name wrong. That man was Sir Bobby Robson.

Again as Newcastle manager, he was reputed to repeatedly refer to mercurial French free kick specialist Laurent Robert as "Lauren Bacall" in training.

But his reputation as one of the true gentlemen of sport, loved everywhere from Porto to Eindhoven, prevented all but the gentlest of ribbing over his occasional bouts of momentary confusion.

While with England, legend has it, Sir Bobby greeted his captain, Bryan Robson, as "Bobby".

"I'm Bryan," the midfielder replied gently. "You're Bobby."

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