Let me just say that it is sort of cool when your last name is actually a word that means something. It’s not so impressive with first names, because your parents may have anointed you with a moniker that is a noun, verb or adjective like, say, Spring, Messiah, Chastity, Bear, Crash, Harmony, Heaven or (and this is no joke) Earwacker. Some of those names might be setting the bar a little high, but they are legit.
Last names have generational roots, so you can celebrate your legacy as a Carpenter, Custer, Hooker, Piper or Wise. This gives you all kinds of options if you are starting a business, such as Custer’s Last Fruit & Vegetable Stand, Wise Guys Consulting, Carpenter Carpentry, Pied Piper Pest Control or Hookers R Us— all of which are legitimate business names.
Sometimes your name can be a distraction that does little to elevate your reputation or advance your career. There actually was a Moe Lester, and even his obituary in 2008 was probably not taken seriously. Why Moe and not Morris? Why not a middle initial at the very least? We might assume Mr. Lester was born at a time and place when the word molester didn’t seem all that threatening.
I borrowed part of my name in days of yore when, working a summer job on the way to a college degree, I embarked on a short-lived business with my younger brother doing odd jobs that required more sweat than skill. That didn’t stop me from calling it Skill Unlimited, which later came in handy when I started writing a weekly newspaper column (well over two thousand of them between two newspapers) and now this blog. It also allows detractors to observe, “You should call it Limited Skill.”
Names Can Pay Off in Politics
I’m thinking that, on the heels of the Joe Biden resurgence, the former VP is succeeding despite a missed opportunity to weaponize his name as a marketing tool. Bide means to wait or tarry. There are bided, bides and biding. But no biden. So Biden came up a letter too long to mean anything by itself, except to that Tweeting dispenser of nicknames, the President of the United States, who apparently translates it as “sleepy,” as in Sleepy Joe.
Now Trump is another matter, because it may be used as a verb, noun or adjective. In certain card games, you can take a trick with trump. You can trump an adversary, getting the best of him or her by playing a trump card. Among the suspected origins of trump is the word triumph. Then again, you can trump up a story to falsely accuse or discredit someone else— something he does routinely and with impunity. As a word the name is a plus for both Trump admirers and Trump detractors.
“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked. It is, like the rose, a word. Following are some random words to contemplate:
Compendious— As a synonym for brief or concise, it is way too long and vowel-laden. Example: “To put it compendiously, I would say the best answer to that interrogatory is, ‘Huh?’”
Eon— Meanwhile, a synonym for a long, long time —an immeasurable length of time—is one of the shortest nouns around. Astronomers class up the word a bit to aeon, which is just one of a handful of four-letter words with three different vowels— or at least those acceptable in a game of Scrabble. Don’t wipe out your vowels to spell this. It is only worth four points.
Concussion— It is no accident that the meaning of this word is derived from “shake together.” It is a jarring jolt, of course, and supposedly the lowest level of traumatic brain injury. However, multiple concussions can be debilitating and life-shortening. I include this remembering a kid at a football game referring to the place where they sell refreshments as the “concussion stand.” Meanwhile, concussions were more likely being served up on the nearby playing field. And what do you order at the concussion stand? Why, a shake, naturally.
Crotchety— This has nothing to do with crotches, which is fortunate, but with irrational, eccentric and often perverse opinions. This adjective often refers to obstinate old guys, usually with crotches, who shouldn’t be allowed to Tweet.
Dingy— This is not a little boat. That’s a dinghy. Nor does it mean covered with dents or dings. Pronounce the “g” like a hard ‘j” and it’s something drab or dirty, possibly a room or apartment. Meanwhile, stay clear of dinged-up, dingy dinghies.
Skid— We all know that skid is not the past tense of ski. That would be skied. The two words are related, but it’s more than slipping or sliding. Skids, usually beams or logs, have been utilized for centuries to more readily “skid” a heavy object across terrain. The ski, which means “stick of wood,” came along later to move another kind of load across snow-covered landscapes.
Naughty— How did naught, which means nothing, or something that doesn’t exist, become part of naughty? For aught I know, we should have sought to be taught that naughty ought not be fraught with naught. Now that’s a lot of naught. Is it not?
* Thanks for all you who read this blog. It’s on its way to a wider readership than it has ever enjoyed on a newspaper opinion page.