The Beatles are responsible for a lot, of course. Producing some incredible and innovative music, and inspiring other musicians. They’re also responsible for causing people to misspell the word beetle (as in the insect). As a spelling nerd from a young age, I was long aware that the band’s name was spelled differently from the animal. I never really thought about why though. I suppose I assumed that The Beatles could do whatever they wanted, and that if they wanted to spell their name differently, that was fine. Or maybe that’s how they thought the word beetle was spelled, and who was I to correct them?
It was only a few years ago when for some reason I thought about the spelling again one day, and straight away realised that the name was a pun, a deliberate play on the word beat. Which makes sense simply in musical terms, but more specifically in reference to the beat music genre, or Merseybeat (after the River Mersey, which passes through Liverpool, the heart of the scene), the rock/pop genre which emerged in Britain in the early 1960s, and quickly came to dominate popular music. The band’s name was also a tribute to The Crickets, the 1950s American rock n’ roll band featuring Buddy Holly.
It seems strange to think that the name of the most famous and best-loved band in the world is both a pun and a reference to a band from not long before their time. But it goes to show that success can transcend simple wordplay. The fact that most people don’t consider the word a pun, or even similar to the word beetle shows just how transcendent the band truly were.