What’s in a Name?

     “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
     By any other name would smell as sweet.”
     Shakespeare was wrong about that one.
     There’s something priceless about a good name – unless you’re a lawyer specializing in intellectual property, in which case there is a price.
     Walt Disney and his odious successors would not have had a succession of cowardly, sniveling U.S. Congresses doing their bidding, shredding and rewriting copyright law, had Mickey Mouse been named Mickey the Little Rat.
     Steve Jobs and the Beatles would not have spent millions of dollars litigating rights to the word Apple – a little-known fruit which either the Beatles or Jobs invented, I forget which – unless that word were worth more than pippin.
     Though I rather like pippin.
     The World Series has a majesty to it that “U.S. Professional Baseball Championship” lacks. Without the swagger conferred by that magnificent moniker, I doubt that Major League Baseball could have so easily and thoroughly placed Congress in its big fat pockets – not only scooping up the antitrust exemption, but winning the special immigration legislation it needs each time a billionaire owner sees a Cuban or Dominican ballplayer he likes.
     It’s such a shame about that horrible shortage U.S.-born baseball players.
     Her name is the only thing wrong with Katie Couric. She’s a good newscaster. But pay close attention: Neither Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather nor Peter Jennings was named Katie.
     I know something about this because I’m a Bob. There has never been a President Bob and there never will be. There’s never been a King Bob either. There’s been a few King Roberts, but you never hear about them.
     There are very few Bobs who have accomplished anything serious. Try to think of one – not a Robert, a Bob. Robert Jordan, the hero of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” never would have blown up that bridge if he were called Bob. He would have taken a picture of it and then tripped on a plank.
     You never hear of Bob Mozart, or Bob Shakespeare or Bob Einstein. Because they all sold hats.
     There is nothing wrong with Bobs. But we’re not presidential material. We’re Bobs.
     There’s magic in a good name. Just down the road from me, in Brattleboro, Vermont, the biggest event of the year owes its success to its name: The Strolling of the Heifers.
     Jane saw it all happen because the Strolling of the Heifers was started by Orly Munzing, the wife of Jane’s late law partner. Nine years ago Orly thought Brattleboro needed something jazzy, and something to help farmers.
     “What if we got a bunch of cows to walk down Main Street?” Orly said.
     Jane said she remembers the day. “We were laughing at her,” Jane said.
     But Orly decided to do it, and not only has it become one of Vermont’s major tourist events – after leaf-peeping and skiing – it’s raised thousands of dollars for farmers, sponsored a micro-loan program, brought artists and musicians to town, dances, feasts – this year more than 200 sponsors contributed. It brought more than 40,000 people to town last weekend – 4 times as many as live in Brattleboro.
     Jane says it’s because Orly has worked her butt off, and because the parade is so cute it’s almost illegal: little kids leading baby cows down Main Street.
     I agree that the parade is awful. It’s good, I mean. It’s really good.
     But I think the event is such a hit because of the name. I heard National Public Radio call it “the world famous Strolling of the Heifers.”
     Vermont Farm Festival wouldn’t do it. The Southern Vermont … anything wouldn’t do it. But I, personally, would drive a long way to see something called the Strolling of the Heifers.
     Though I don’t drive the 2 miles to town because there’s so much traffic.
     And if you don’t agree yet that there can be magic in a name, remember the time Ford Motor Co. asked the poet Marianne Moore to come up with a name for a new car? Moore made dozens of suggestions, every one of them top-notch, including the Utopian Turtletop, the Resilient Bullet, the Andante con Moto, the Pastelogram and the Mongoose Civique.
     But no, Ford thought they knew better than a poet. They named it the Edsel.

%d bloggers like this: