It was Haley before Bill
In recent years a false 'folk etymology' has been circulating, to the effect that Halley's Comet was always pronounced Halley until the rock-n-roll band Bill Haley and His Comets came along. The popularity of the band caused Bill's name to transfer to the comet.
This doesn't make sense on the face of it. Why would Bill name his band after something that doesn't already
sound like his own name?
Here's audio proof that it didn't happen.A short segment
from the 2/21/39 broadcast of Info Please, with guest Moe Berg
, a highly-educated baseball player whose later life was even more interesting.
Transcription:Host Clifton Fadiman:
The next one comes from D. Murphy of Montreal, Canada. It's an astronomical question. I'm going to ask you to name the most familiar planet
, and star
(one by one) which have been visible to the present generation in the United States. Visible with the naked eye. The first would be, what planet? Mr Berg? Berg:
Well, I believe Venus is the brightest of all the planets.Fadiman:
Yes, what planet would be even more visible to us, do you think? Not in its entirety, just a section...Berg:
You mean Saturn?Fadiman:
No, the earth. That would be visible in part to all of us, I think....Fadiman:
What comet has been visible to the present generation? Mr Berg?Berg:
Well, Haley's comet in 1910... or Halley's comet ...Fadiman:
Well, you take your
choice. You're the guest.
[pause, no response]Fadiman:
Halley's comet. That's right.Fadiman:
And what satellite would be visible to the present generation? Mr Kieran?Kieran:
: And what star? The most familiar one? Mr Berg?Berg:
: Are you very popular with your teammates, Mr Berg? Just wondering.
= = = = =
Clearly both Berg and Fadiman understood that Haley was the common pronunciation but Halley was more correct.