Friday, February 01, 2008

What's in a Name?

I got back from England, posted a couple of entries—and took off again. This time to Chicago for an Ament mini-reunion. Ernie got together with his brother and two sisters at Mary Ann’s house in Glen Ellyn. The door is always open and the welcome mat is always out. It was cold and dreary, so for the most part we stayed in and ate wonderful food and enjoyed the company of our nephews and our niece and their families who came to visit.

There was lots of spirited discussion, much of it about politics. Remember, I promised I wouldn’t discuss politics except in a theoretical way, but I feel a general comment is in order. Perhaps this point has been analyzed somewhere else and I missed it. I suspect someone or other will produce a dissertation in the near future with the title “Nomenclature of the Democratic candidates and its effect on the voting patterns of the uncommitted.” For the most part—and I know this is a generalization—people in normal conversations tend to refer to the candidates as “Hillary”, “Obama” and “John Edwards”. Well, until “John Edwards” dropped out. Is it demeaning to call a candidate by her first name? Were there campaign posters for "Harry " or "Franklin?"

When I got back from Chicago, I spent some time catching up with my favorite bloggers and with the news from England. Here the BBC reports on the South Carolina primary. After an introductory paragraph in which all three major candidates are identified by their first and last names, the playing field is leveled and they are subsequently referred to as Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards. This is no insult. In England a GP is “Dr. Smith”, while a surgeon is “Mr. Smith”. There is a reference to “Former President Bill Clinton”, but his wife has no more of a special title than my mother had.

But look what Mrs. Thatcher delivered.

3 comments:

Lucy said...

Hello, Brenda, thanks for visiting mine, and very nice to meet you, the first 'Brit in America' I've come across!
Funny, I looked at the photo of the little boy, Reece, and somehow he didn't look American, it was no surpries he was an English lad. I don't know why...

46er Family said...

Hi Beryl, I had the same thought about the first name business until I talked to a politico who said it was probably on purpose from Ms. Clinton's camp. Often, if a first name is more memorable or conveys intimacy, it is pushed forward. When Guiliani was running in NYC it was "Rudy". Also Hillary needs distance from her last name. I heard Barack used to be Barry but dropped it when he entered politics. It's fascinating what a name can convey.

Ann said...

I can't seem to let go of Hillary, but I do call her opponent "Barack," not "Obama." I guess I could switch to "Clinton," but it doesn't "feel" right.