Is it mere coincidence that so many people have names befitting their
occupations or personalities?
The name of the man who’s in charge of a process at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory to produce rare fissionable plutonium-238 is Bob Wham. (My daughter Lisa works at Oak Ridge.)
A now-retired lady at my local small-city airport—whose job as Terminal
Manager in part was to smooth relations between general aviation pilots and commercial
airline personnel and maintenance folk and security people and fixed base
operators and the airport board and the public—is named Kathy Sunshine. I’ve never seen her without a smile. Everybody likes her.
The heiress to the Wrigley fortune is named Helen Rich. (She owns Medallion Media and bought my first
three suspense novels, for which I thank her.
She’s not only quite wealthy, but also is a nice lady.)
There are many more examples of names associated with occupations and/or
personalities all around us. Seemingly
almost too many to be mere coincidence.
A list of aptronyms—and inaptronyms:
land of the absurd
It pains me to say that the National Science Foundation (NSF), an
organization for which I normally have profound respect, recently granted
$125,000 to Dr. Monica Biemat, a social psychologist with the University of
Kansas, to study stereotyping, sexism, and racism perpetrated by the everyday
injudicious use of certain adjectives by folks like you and me.
This was not about all those blatantly offensive and inflammatory
adjectives we’ve come to associate with bigots and supremacists and religious
zealots and all those other groups knee-deep in hatred.
No, this is about adjectives that are far more subtle and thus, at least
in Dr. Biemat’s view, more insidious.
Devilish adjectives like “good.”
This is word-for-word from the grant proposal: “The proposed research predicts that
stereotypes activate different standards of judgements for members of different
groups . . . . For example, in a masculine work domain where women are
stereotyped as less competent, ‘good’ for a woman may mean something
objectively less good than ‘good’ for a man.”
In Volume 45 of Advances in
Experimental Social Psychology, Dr.
Biemat wrote, “Because of shifting standards, a female chief of staff may be
described as highly competent, a hit from a female softball player may generate
more enthusiasm than the same hit from a male, and a black student may achieve
more praise than a white student for an identical transcript.”
She also suggested men should think
twice about using words such as “aggressive” when describing a woman.
For this kind of revelatory research, the good Dr. Biemat was granted
$125,000. She told the Washington Free Beacon she will apply
for additional funding for her extended project in 2016.
Perhaps to study the evil use of adjectives such as “nice,” or “tall,”
Since this is America in the 2000s, she’ll probably get the money. After all, back in 2006, the NSF granted her
$505,000 in taxpayer funding, not for a trip to the moon, but for a trip to
Warsaw to interact with something called the European Social Cognitive Network
(ESCON), whose avowed goals are as nebulous as their name.
I’d like to apply for a modest NSF grant, say ten million dollars, to
create mandatory corneal implants that would give every implantee a view of
everybody else on the planet as the same inoffensive shade of beige and always
of an ideal age to be determined by Congress, say 31 years, perhaps. Further, my research would aim to clothe
everyone from birth to death in mandatory attire that will absolutely conceal
gender and sexual persuasion.
Thus simultaneously wiping out every last vestige of sexism, ageism,
homophobia, misogyny, misandry, and racism forever, and we could retire all
those hateful words.
Then maybe we could stop psychoanalyzing the use of innocent adjectives
and go back to spending taxpayer funds on curing diseases, eliminating hunger
and despair, and insuring ever more luxurious lifestyles for our leaders. (I, for one, think it’s high time we provide
a larger customized jet or two for transporting our President and the Chief’s
family, friends, campaign supporters, publicists, speech writers, spin doctors,
selected media celebrities, servants—Michelle has some 20 personal attendants
at six-figure salaries—and pets to
bi-monthly vacation spots.)
This from a recent New Yorker
magazine: “Social scientists find that
leaving a dysfunctional urban neighborhood can transform a family’s
Could this mean that if a family were to move from the drug- and
blood-filled streets of Baltimore to, say, sleepy Mount Airy, North Carolina,
their prospects for living a healthier, happier life might improve?
Wow. What a revelation. I mean, who would have ever thought?
They’re words or phrases that read the same backwards and forwards, like
wow, huh, kayak, tenet, radar, level, racecar, boob, avid diva, air an aria,
Tahitti hat, and Wassamassaw (a SC town).
Some names are palindromes, like Eve, Elle, Hannah, Mom, Dad, and Madam.
Making them up in phrases or whole sentences is a hobby that goes back
to ancient Greece, and it can be fun. A
well-known one is, “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.” It’s amazing that people can keep coming up
with so many of them. They’ve been
involved in witchcraft and religious ritual.
Back in the 50s there was a palindrome board game, and there’s even a 15-year-old
magazine called The Palindromist,
edited by Mark Saltveit, which traces the history of the pastime and includes interesting
puzzlers, like calculator words, wherein you turn a calculator upside down and
the numbers spell out words. (Maybe a
neat code device for a spy novel?) There
are also newspaper, magazine, and live competitions, some with cash prizes.
If you’d like to try palindroming, here’s a long list of clever ones to
get you thinking in both directions:
Myself, I don’t write palindromes.
I write sagas.
with squirrels (Part 2)
You may remember
that I recently single-handedly saved a squirrel that had fallen down my unused
chimney due to his own reckless frivolity and abject clumsiness. (See last week’s post.)
Today I got a
call from a lawyer with the ASLU (American Squirrel Liberties Union), who
threatened to sue me over possessing an unsafe chimney upon my premises.
She claimed her client is suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Squirrel Disorder)
after being trapped within the confines of my chimney void space for "the
better part of a week," and will require lengthy treatment from either a
squirrel whisperer or a Democrat. (This is a gross exaggeration; the
squirrel was actually confined for less than three days, and I gave him half of
a peanut butter sandwich absolutely FREE. Also, there's no telling how
many of my valuable pecans the little thief and his cohorts have stolen this fall.
What about that?)
And when I left
my home to go get coffee this morning, 14 squirrels and two chipmunks, all
naked as the day they were born, were staging a protest in my driveway,
chattering loudly enough to wake the neighbors and carrying small signs that
said, "Justice for ALL Rodents!" and "Nuts to Bowie!" and
Channel 12 reported that "dozens of cuddly little woodland creatures
gathered at the shadowed and forbidding riverside abode of a reclusive man rumored
to be related to Shrek the Ogre in order to seek justice for what the
authorities are alleging may have been felony squirrel abuse going back
years." So much for their slogan, "Getting the Facts Rite."
Anyway, if I
fail to have my chimney bulldozed within ten days, and do not fertilize my
pecan trees, and do not sign a full confession, and refuse to pay for
relocating "at least 1,700 squirrel refugees" from Central Park to
the Croatan National Forest, I will be faced with legal action that could carry
penalties "up to the fullest extent of the law."
All for merely
trying to be a Good Squirrel-maritan.
Okay, I made this post up.
Hey, I’m a storyteller. It’s what
I do. The part about saving the squirrel
is true, though.