Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I'll Take a Vowel for Global Domination!
I was listening to Kai Ryssdal on the radio yesterday...not your normal, everyday name...and started pondering the preponderance of one-syllable names among those in prominent positions. It would seem that lopping off a few letters is a great way to thrust one's self to the head of the crowd. Fourteen of our U.S. presidents have been one-syllable guys--with six Jameses, three Johns, and three Georges claiming the bulk of that territory. Sixteen others had monikers with a diminutive option, such as Abe, Bill, Ben, etc. Amazing.
So what's the appeal of a one-syllable name? Does that short, sharp bark represent quick thinking? Immediate action? Do we need an easy out for those whose names roll constantly off our tongues? Does short on syllables mean long on dependability? Romance novel protaganists invariably have short names: Luke, Lance, Chase, Chad, Blaine, Brock, etc. Are one-syllable suitors sexier?
I read that, historically, parents have given their sons one syllable names because that was indeed believed to be a precursor to power and success. Daughters, on the other hand, were given voluptuous, multi-syllabic names because they sound more feminine and flowing. Apparently, we're still following that tradition,because, aside from Cher (who began life as Cherilyn), two- and three-syllable names are the norm for gals in both the entertainment and political spotlight. Of course, Oprah has "O" Magazine; I'm wondering...will she have to fight for her vowel once Obama takes up residence on Pennsylvania Avenue and needs a power-packing, headline-grabbing single syllable name? We'll see.