Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Names, names, names

Personal names are rather an interest of mine. I find them revealing. They tell me a lot about people's background. When I hear surnames like Kerkorian or Krikorian or Khachaturian I know, for instance, that the person is of Armenian origin. And a Hryniuk or a Gavrishchuk is of Ukrainian origin etc. The "ian" or the "uk" endings tell the story.

So it bugs me a little when people change their surnames. I think a Robert Zimmerman who calls himself Bob Dylan is perpetrating an imposture, for instance. Why pretend to be Welsh when you are an Ashkenazi American?

OK. I know that there are sometimes good reasons to change your name. I knew a guy of Greek origin once whose surname was Drakakis. He changed it to "Drake" on the grounds that his original name sounded like something you got on your shoe if you walked along the street without looking where you were going. Greeks in fact seem to the the keenest name changers. Spiro Agnostopoulos became Spiro Agnew before he became vice-president of the United States and Jennifer Aniston would be Jennifer Anastassakis except for a name change. I actually don't mind Greek surnames. "Haralambopoulos" sounds delightfully absurd (I wonder what it means?) and I had a thoroughly admirable friend years ago named Panayotis Kokkinidis. Can you get more Greek than that? He somehow seems to have ended up in Vietnam these days, of all places. They are lucky to have him.

Another interesting thing is what Christian names say about social class. American blacks, for instance often devise quite "creative" names for their children in an apparent effort to say something good about the progeny concerned. But it doesn't. Such names simply say "black" -- and, with all due apologies, that is NOT prestigious.

In British and Australian circles, the most authoritative arbiters of good taste are of course the Royal Family and, with names like Charles, Edward, Andrew, Anne, Margaret, Elizabeth, Harry and William, I think the message is clear -- that they prefer traditional names. In the circumstances I note with some satisfaction that an old friend of mine named his sons Tom and Bill -- and my son is Joe. There is a similar message about Christian names here, in an article from "The Times" of London.

I must admit, however, that my mother got a bit carried away. She named her sons John and Christopher, which is fine, but she named her daughters Jacqueline and Roxanne -- French names. But the Australian love of abbreviations defeated any grand ambitions. My late sister Jacqueline was always known in the family as "Jack" and the fine husband of my gorgeous sister Roxanne generally refers to her as "Rock"!


Calling Off the Boston Tea Party

by Burt Prelutsky

I'm sure that most of us have heard the inspiring story of the Boston Tea Party. At least when I was in school, they were still relating the tale of a handful of American patriots, including Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, who, weary of taxation without representation, dumped large amounts of English tea into Boston Harbor. Well, if I could include time travel among my many talents, I just might go back to 1773 and try to persuade them to reconsider.

"Boys," I'd say to them, "I understand your frustration. But you have no idea what this is going to lead to down the road. I know that King George is as crazy as a loon, but a couple of hundred years from now, your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren are going to have to answer to Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Compared to them, King George looks as wise as King Solomon and as congenial as Ben Franklin."

I mean, when you start adding up what it costs the typical taxpayer to keep councilmen, aldermen, mayors, assemblymen, state senators, governors, congressmen, U.S. senators and the president -- not to mention their legions of secretaries, assistants, consultants, pollsters and assorted mistresses -- clothed, housed, fed and pensioned, the colonists were getting off dirt cheap. I'd gladly pay a few extra cents for a cup of tea if it meant that these thousands of freeloaders would be forced to leave their cushy fiefdoms and go find honest work.

The bottom line is that taxation without representation is bad, but taxation with representation is worse.

Speaking of politicians, in a letter to the editor, a reader of the New York Times grumbled: "It's amazing that Andrew Cuomo, who owes his whole career to his dad, may not get the Senate seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who owes her whole career to her husband) because David Paterson (who owes his whole career to his dad) may give it to Caroline Kennedy (who owes her whole career to her dad). You would think a state as large as New York could find someone who deserves something on his or her own."

This merely points out how far America has come in recreating a monarchy of our own. But instead of our kings and queens relying on the European rule of progenitor to inherit their crowns, they have chosen to adopt the Hollywood version, better known as nepotism.

As I sit here, nobody is certain who is going to be the senator from Minnesota. That hasn't prevented Al Franken from claiming victory with a margin of 225 votes, in spite of the fact that in at least 25 precincts, there were more ballots than voters!

I am of course hoping that Norm Coleman manages to convince the court that it would be embarrassing, to say the least, to have an election decided by ballots miraculously turning up in car trunks and cellars cast by voters whose last known address was the cemetery. At the very least, Chicago would likely sue over copyright infringement.

On the other hand, there's that devilish little rascal lurking inside me that would like to imagine those other Democratic senators having to put up with the surly, ignorant, arrogant, ill-tempered, unfunny Sen. Franken for the next six years.




Michael Darby now has a new website here, covering all his many interests but with a stress on his affiliation with the Christian Democratic party, a minor Australian political party of distinctly conservative bent.

The Secular Saint: "Flying back to Los Angeles yesterday afternoon, I happened to look over at the news coverage my airplane seat-mate was watching, thus seeing it with the sound off. What was striking were the images being touted by NBC/MSNBC of the upcoming Obama inauguration. To see the screen (minus the sound) was to be bombarded with television shots that were obviously striving for "iconic" status. Coupled with the teasers I saw later last night, one would think that we are witnessing not just a presidential inauguration, but the canonization of a secular saint. The joyous faces of the anchors, the repeated invocation of the word "historic" -- coupled, of course, with the images referenced above -- reflect a quasi-religious ecstasy, and do nothing if not suggest that a magnificent event of unrivaled proportion is about to unfold before us. Just as secularists have global warming to stand in the place of a religion, they now also have Barack Obama to serve as their all-purpose object of adoration. Obviously, a lot of those on the left and in the media (same difference, for the most part) have taken seriously Obama's hype about this being the moment the "oceans began to fall. And the planet began to heal." [The disillusionment is going to be great fun to watch!]

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: