David Bruce: Names Anecdotes

• While writing her children’s book, The 18th Emergency, Betsy Byars wanted a good, original name for the bully — she felt that she had used the name “Bubba” too often for the bullies in her books, although she had known a real bully named Bubba when she was a child. She thought hard and came up with the name “Marv Hammerman,” which she liked because of its hardness. Because she thought the name was original — after all, she had just thought it up — she wrote in the book, “There had been only one Hammerman, just as there had been only one Hitler.” One day, she received a telephone call, and the caller told her that he was Marv Hammerman. At first, she thought that the caller was joking, but he was really named that. What’s more, he was a teacher who had read her book to his class, and his young students were delighted to hear that there were twoterrible Marv Hammermans.

• Stan Freberg’s ancestry is Swedish, but despite not being named Johnson, he comes by his name honestly. When his grandfather, Paul Johnson, came to America, the immigration official told him, “What? Not another Johnson? Do you know how many thousands of Swedes I’ve logged in here with the name of Johnson? Forget it! What don’t you change it to something else?” Mr. Johnson thought about what name he wanted the immigration official to put down in writing, and because his mother’s name had been Elna Friberg, he spelled her last name for the official, who pronounced it Fry-berg. Mr. Johnson explained that in Swedish the iwas pronounced e, as in Free-burg. The official said, “OK, Freberg,” wrote down the name, and the newly named Paul Freberg began life in his new country.

• Eleanora Fagan was born on April 7, 1915, in Baltimore, Maryland. Later, her mother, Sadie Fagan, married her father, Clarence Holiday, and Eleanora Fagan became Eleanora Holiday. As a youngster, she admired film star Billie Dove, and so she began calling herself Billie Holiday. As a young woman, she started singing and waiting tables at clubs where the other women would pick up their tips with their thighs. Billie declined to do that, and the other women taunted, “Look at her — she thinks she’s a lady.” Billie then became known as “Lady.” After Billie become a well-known jazz singer, saxophonist Lester Young shortened her last name, using only its last syllable, and so Eleanora Fagan, aka Billie Holiday, became known as “Lady Day.”

• Children’s book author Tomie dePaola has an oddly spelled first name. At first, it was spelled the normal way, but little Tommy was a talented child who was sure to grow up to be famous, so a famous cousin of his mother — Irish tenor Morton Downey — gave him the new, unusual spelling. According to Mr. Downey, “He’s got to have an unusual spelling for his first name so people will remember it.” Everyone respected the new spelling for his name, except for his teachers at school, who made him spell it “Tommy,” because that was the “correct” spelling.

• Very early in her career, American painter Mary Cassatt wanted to get one of her paintings in the prestigious Salon exhibition in Paris. She felt that the judges selecting which paintings would be hung in the exhibition favored foreign artists, so she submitted a painting that was signed only with her first and middle names — “Mary Stevenson” — because she knew that her middle name sounded more foreign than “Cassatt.” The idea worked. Her painting was selected to be hung in the exhibition.

• Stanley Kirk Burrell is better known as rapper M.C. Hammer. “M.C.” is a slang way of saying “Rapper,” and “Hammer” is a nickname he was given when he became the Oakland Athletics batboy after Charley Finley, the owner of the Athletics, saw young Stanley singing and dancing in the Athletics parking lot. Stanley resembled home run hitter Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, and so he was called Little Hammer.

• When Luciano Pavarotti decided to make a movie, he met with the movie’s producer to discuss the name his character should have. The meeting was held in Giorgio Fini’s restaurant, and the food that day was cooked especially well — so well, in fact, that Mr. Pavarotti decided to name his character — with Mr. Fini’s permission — Giorgio Fini. The movie was titled Yes, Giorgio.

• Jazz singer Anita O’Day was named Anita Belle Colton when she was born. She took the name O’Day because in pig Latin it means “dough,” and she hoped to make a lot of dough as a professional walkathon contestant. (During the Depression, people tried to make money winning marathon walks, where they walked for days in front of an audience with only occasional 15-minute breaks.)

• Babe Ruth was terrible at remembering names, and he was sometimes terrible at remembering faces. Miles Thomas had been a Yankees pitcher for three or four years, but one day someone decided to have some fun and introduced Mr. Thomas to Babe as a new Yankee pitcher. Babe told Mr. Thomas, “Nice to see you, kid. Welcome to the Yankees.”

• Many people wonder where actor/writer Quentin Tarantino got the name for his hit movie Reservoir Dogs. It comes from the days he spent as a video store clerk when people often asked for Louis Malle’s Au Revoir les Enfants. Mr. Tarantino had difficulty pronouncing the title, so he ended up calling it Reservoir Dogs.

• When Nat Cole was a young entertainer, he needed work. To get one job, he was forced to wear a gold paper crown and call himself “King” Cole. As soon as he could, he got rid of the crown, but forever after, he was known as Nat King Cole.

• Michelle Kwan’s father, Danny, is a fan of music by the Beatles. In fact, he liked the Beatles’ song “Michelle” so much that he named his second daughter after it.

• Dorothy Parker once owned a black French poodle she named Cliché because at the time black French poodles were very popular in her neighborhood.

• One of the people participating in the CB radio fad of the 1970s was First Lady Betty Ford. She used the CB handle “First Mama.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Voltaire, CANDIDE: Chapter 25 – Candide and Martin Pay a Visit to Seignor Pococurante, a Noble Venetian

Chapter 25 – Candide and Martin Pay a Visit to Seignor Pococurante, a Noble Venetian

Candide and his friend Martin went in a gondola on the Brenta, and arrived at the palace of the noble Pococurante. The gardens were laid out in elegant taste, and adorned with fine marble statues; his palace was built after the most approved rules of architecture. The master of the house, who was a man of affairs, and very rich, received our two travelers with great politeness, but without much ceremony, which somewhat disconcerted Candide, but was not at all displeasing to Martin. 

As soon as they were seated, two very pretty girls, neatly dressed, brought in chocolate, which was extremely well prepared. Candide could not help praising their beauty and graceful carriage. 

“The creatures are all right,” said the senator; “I amuse myself with them sometimes, for I am heartily tired of the women of the town, their coquetry, their jealousy, their quarrels, their humors, their meannesses, their pride, and their folly; I am weary of making sonnets, or of paying for sonnets to be made on them; but after all, these two girls begin to grow very indifferent to me.” 

After having refreshed himself, Candide walked into a large gallery, where he was struck with the sight of a fine collection of paintings. 

“Pray,” said Candide, “by what master are the two first of these?” 

“They are by Raphael,” answered the senator. “I gave a great deal of money for them seven years ago, purely out of curiosity, as they were said to be the finest pieces in Italy; but I cannot say they please me: the coloring is dark and heavy; the figures do not swell nor come out enough; and the drapery is bad. In short, notwithstanding the encomiums lavished upon them, they are not, in my opinion, a true representation of nature. I approve of no paintings save those wherein I think I behold nature itself; and there are few, if any, of that kind to be met with. I have what is called a fine collection, but I take no manner of delight in it.” 

While dinner was being prepared Pococurante ordered a concert. Candide praised the music to the skies. 

“This noise,” said the noble Venetian, “may amuse one for a little time, but if it were to last above half an hour, it would grow tiresome to everybody, though perhaps no one would care to own it. Music has become the art of executing what is difficult; now, whatever is difficult cannot be long pleasing. 

“I believe I might take more pleasure in an opera, if they had not made such a monster of that species of dramatic entertainment as perfectly shocks me; and I am amazed how people can bear to see wretched tragedies set to music; where the scenes are contrived for no other purpose than to lug in, as it were by the ears, three or four ridiculous songs, to give a favorite actress an opportunity of exhibiting her pipe. Let who will die away in raptures at the trills of a eunuch quavering the majestic part of Caesar or Cato, and strutting in a foolish manner upon the stage, but for my part I have long ago renounced these paltry entertainments, which constitute the glory of modern Italy, and are so dearly purchased by crowned heads.” 

Candide opposed these sentiments; but he did it in a discreet manner; as for Martin, he was entirely of the old senator’s opinion. 

Dinner being served they sat down to table, and, after a hearty repast, returned to the library. Candide, observing Homer richly bound, commended the noble Venetian’s taste. 

“This,” said he, “is a book that was once the delight of the great Pangloss, the best philosopher in Germany.” 

“Homer is no favorite of mine,” answered Pococurante, coolly, “I was made to believe once that I took a pleasure in reading him; but his continual repetitions of battles have all such a resemblance with each other; his gods that are forever in haste and bustle, without ever doing anything; his Helen, who is the cause of the war, and yet hardly acts in the whole performance; his Troy, that holds out so long, without being taken: in short, all these things together make the poem very insipid to me. I have asked some learned men, whether they are not in reality as much tired as myself with reading this poet: those who spoke ingenuously, assured me that he had made them fall asleep, and yet that they could not well avoid giving him a place in their libraries; but that it was merely as they would do an antique, or those rusty medals which are kept only for curiosity, and are of no manner of use in commerce.” 

“But your excellency does not surely form the same opinion of Virgil?” said Candide. 

“Why, I grant,” replied Pococurante, “that the second, third, fourth, and sixth books of his Aeneid, are excellent; but as for his pious Aeneas, his strong Cloanthus, his friendly Achates, his boy Ascanius, his silly king Latinus, his ill-bred Amata, his insipid Lavinia, and some other characters much in the same strain, I think there cannot in nature be anything more flat and disagreeable. I must confess I prefer Tasso far beyond him; nay, even that sleepy taleteller Ariosto.” 

“May I take the liberty to ask if you do not experience great pleasure from reading Horace?” said Candide. 

“There are maxims in this writer,” replied Pococurante, “whence a man of the world may reap some benefit; and the short measure of the verse makes them more easily to be retained in the memory. But I see nothing extraordinary in his journey to Brundusium, and his account of his bad dinner; nor in his dirty, low quarrel between one Rupillius, whose words, as he expresses it, were full of poisonous filth; and another, whose language was dipped in vinegar. His indelicate verses against old women and witches have frequently given me great offense: nor can I discover the great merit of his telling his friend Maecenas, that if he will but rank him in the class of lyric poets, his lofty head shall touch the stars. Ignorant readers are apt to judge a writer by his reputation. For my part, I read only to please myself. I like nothing but what makes for my purpose.” 

Candide, who had been brought up with a notion of never making use of his own judgment, was astonished at what he heard; but Martin found there was a good deal of reason in the senator’s remarks. 

“Oh! here is a Tully,” said Candide; “this great man I fancy you are never tired of reading?” 

“Indeed I never read him at all,” replied Pococurante. “What is it to me whether he pleads for Rabirius or Cluentius? I try causes enough myself. I had once some liking for his philosophical works; but when I found he doubted everything, I thought I knew as much as himself, and had no need of a guide to learn ignorance.” 

“Ha!” cried Martin, “here are fourscore volumes of the memoirs of the Academy of Sciences; perhaps there may be something curious and valuable in this collection.” 

“Yes,” answered Pococurante, “so there might if any one of these compilers of this rubbish had only invented the art of pin-making; but all these volumes are filled with mere chimerical systems, without one single article conductive to real utility.” 

“I see a prodigious number of plays,” said Candide, “in Italian, Spanish, and French.” 

“Yes,” replied the Venetian, “there are I think three thousand, and not three dozen of them good for anything. As to those huge volumes of divinity, and those enormous collections of sermons, they are not all together worth one single page in Seneca; and I fancy you will readily believe that neither myself, nor anyone else, ever looks into them.” 

Martin, perceiving some shelves filled with English books, said to the senator, “I fancy that a republican must be highly delighted with those books, which are most of them written with a noble spirit of freedom.” 

“It is noble to write as we think,” said Pococurante; “it is the privilege of humanity. Throughout Italy we write only what we do not think; and the present inhabitants of the country of the Caesars and Antonines dare not acquire a single idea without the permission of a Dominican father. I should be enamored of the spirit of the English nation, did it not utterly frustrate the good effects it would produce by passion and the spirit of party.” 

Candide, seeing a Milton, asked the senator if he did not think that author a great man. 

“Who?” said Pococurante sharply; “that barbarian who writes a tedious commentary in ten books of rumbling verse, on the first chapter of Genesis? that slovenly imitator of the Greeks, who disfigures the creation, by making the Messiah take a pair of compasses from Heaven’s armory to plan the world; whereas Moses represented the Diety as producing the whole universe by his fiat? Can I think you have any esteem for a writer who has spoiled Tasso’s Hell and the Devil; who transforms Lucifer sometimes into a toad, and at others into a pygmy; who makes him say the same thing over again a hundred times; who metamorphoses him into a school-divine; and who, by an absurdly serious imitation of Ariosto’s comic invention of firearms, represents the devils and angels cannonading each other in Heaven? Neither I nor any other Italian can possibly take pleasure in such melancholy reveries; but the marriage of Sin and Death, and snakes issuing from the womb of the former, are enough to make any person sick that is not lost to all sense of delicacy. This obscene, whimsical, and disagreeable poem met with the neglect it deserved at its first publication; and I only treat the author now as he was treated in his own country by his contemporaries.” 

Candide was sensibly grieved at this speech, as he had a great respect for Homer, and was fond of Milton. 

“Alas!” said he softly to Martin, “I am afraid this man holds our German poets in great contempt.” 

“There would be no such great harm in that,” said Martin. 

“O what a surprising man!” said Candide, still to himself; “what a prodigious genius is this Pococurante! nothing can please him.” 

After finishing their survey of the library, they went down into the garden, when Candide commended the several beauties that offered themselves to his view. 

“I know nothing upon earth laid out in such bad taste,” said Pococurante; “everything about it is childish and trifling; but I shall have another laid out tomorrow upon a nobler plan.” 

As soon as our two travelers had taken leave of His Excellency, Candide said to Martin, “Well, I hope you will own that this man is the happiest of all mortals, for he is above everything he possesses.” 

“But do not you see,” answered Martin, “that he likewise dislikes everything he possesses? It was an observation of Plato, long since, that those are not the best stomachs that reject, without distinction, all sorts of aliments.” 

“True,” said Candide, “but still there must certainly be a pleasure in criticising everything, and in perceiving faults where others think they see beauties.” 

“That is,” replied Martin, “there is a pleasure in having no pleasure.” 

“Well, well,” said Candide, “I find that I shall be the only happy man at last, when I am blessed with the sight of my dear Cunegund.” 

“It is good to hope,” said Martin. 

In the meanwhile, days and weeks passed away, and no news of Cacambo. Candide was so overwhelmed with grief, that he did not reflect on the behavior of Pacquette and Friar Giroflee, who never stayed to return him thanks for the presents he had so generously made them.


Source: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Candide