What’s in a Name?

     Which of these is a real name?
     a) Lafcadio Sneath
     b) Elbert B. Hoofnagle
     c) Arpad Snath
     d) Pussy de Fouqueau
     The answer is d), if you can believe John Train’s “Remarkable Names of Real People.”
     Train was a member of the original Paris Review crowd, who lived off the exchange rate between World War 1.0 and World War 1.1, also known as II.
     Train was the magazine’s first managing editor. He called himself a “so-called managing editor,” and after doing that for not very long he came back to the States, where he founded a money management firm and made a jillion dollars.
     But Train’s real contribution to civilization was that he collected names.
     Apparently, that’s pretty much all he did in Paris, and I commend him for it. I collect names myself.
     I would list some for you, but I won’t, because it’s not polite.
     It’s not fair to make fun of people for their names.
     I have some facts about this.
     When I was a lad in Cincinnati, back in the 1950s, back when the Cincinnati Reds baseball team sucked, the Reds’ TV sponsor was Kahn’s Weiners.
     The hot dog company’s slogan was: “Kahn’s: The Weiner the World Awaited!”
     They broadcast that slogan every inning or so during all of the Reds’ home games.
     I don’t think TV bothered to cover away games back then.
     I was a child of 5 when this started. It continued until I was 10, and we moved to Chicago, where I was privileged to root for – the Chicago Cubs.
     When I was a child – mere clay in the hands of cruel child gods – I went to school every day, where our common pastime, during lunch, recess and gym, was baseball.
     Do you understand what I am saying?
     That during the hour or so every day that was most important to me, and to all of the children – lunch, recess and P.E. – I had to listen to my classmates shout, “Hey, Kahn’s Weiners!”
     “Hey, Kahn, show us your weiner!”
     This went on from the day I entered kindergarten until my family – thank God for small favors – moved to Chicago as I entered the 5th grade, to be tormented for other things.
     I won’t lie to you – I think some names are funny.
     Groucho’s Rufus T. Firefly and Dr. Quackenbush.
     W.C. Fields’ Egbert Sousè (“accent grave over the e”) and Larson E. Whipsnade.
     Click and Clack’s Russian chauffeurs Pikup and Dropov and their Indian weather forecaster Luckow Davindow.
     I wish I could give you my list of funny names here, but I just can’t.
     There’s an element of cruelty in humor, and there’s far more cruelty than we need going around today.
     A lot of humor, cruel or not, depends on the sounds of the words. Dave Barry knows just when to drop in the word “wolverine.”
     P.G. Wodehouse could drop in “like quills upon the fretful porpentine” at the precise place to make it ridiculous, though the phrase is horrifying in Hamlet.
     So, there’s this guy in Omaha named … no. I just can’t.
     Kahn’s is still the official weiner of the Cincinnati Reds.
     The official hot dog, I mean. The official hot dog.

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