An Alphabet of Stereotypes

So, I was having a conversation with myself today about names, and I came across the name Summer. Summer. It’s a great word and a lovely name, but how many ways can you really slice a Summer? There’s never been a Queen Summer or a President Summer or even a Grandma Summer. I thought about adding it to my list of potential daughters’ names, but it’s just too…Summer. There are very few places you can go with a Summer, and most of them involve being in a bikini.

Since everyone’s blogging about Scotland’s independence referendum today, I thought I’d do something different and present to you an alphabet of name stereotypes. These are not common names like John and Mary, and not timeless names like Michael, Katherine, and Elizabeth that have too much history to be placed in one category. Rather, these are names that are uncommon but not unusual, but at least for me they have a certain way about them. To be fair, I’ll just do one random name per letter, per gender, skipping Q and X for obvious reasons. Join me, y’all.

And welcome, first visitor from Kyrgyzstan! You were always my favorite Stan.

Disclaimer: This list is meant to be read in complete jest, so Jacquelyn, the coffee is fine.

If your name is Albert, don’t get any piercings. This will only work against you.

If your name is Brook, have a headshot on your faculty website.

If your name is Chuck, you probably spit a lot when you talk and collect things.

If your name is Dallas, you probably own a ten-gallon hat but have never had the opportunity to wear it.

If your name is Eddie, be my drinking buddy. But not Ed. He can go and sit in the back of the closet.

If your name is Fred, you have a lot to live up to. Same for the Wilmas, Mickeys, and Minnies of the world.

If your name is Gilbert, you probably watched Howdy Doody in its first run.

If your name is Harrison, you probably have your hair parted on the side. Oh, and don’t go to China to teach English.

If your name is Ira, don’t be surprised if in the near future you get mistaken for a girl.

If your name is Jacob, be cool about it. Don’t toss that name around willy-nilly. Taylor Lautner did a number for us; unfortunately it was a negative number. And be friendly. If you want to be a jerk (and if I am), be Jake.

If your name is Kevin, take a break and sit down.

If your name is Lorenzo, eat some graham crackers.

If your name is Mickey, you better be cuddly or else.

If your name is Nathan, I really enjoyed those hard, wooden chairs you made me.

If your name is Ozzy, get that bat out of your mouth, I do not want to buy candy from you, and pull your shorts above your butt crack.

If your name is Peter, my deepest sympathies for the inappropriate jokes you have encountered in your life.

If your name is Ray, chill out. You’re much too intense.

If your name is Scott, I never want to see you wearing anything but underwear.

If your name is Timothy, and you haven’t heard the song, your life is incomplete. Also, if you shorten to Timmy don’t expect anything for your birthday other than Tonka trucks.

If your name is Ulysses, be prepared to work hard because you will be called useless at least once a day.

If your name is Victor, don’t make me walk into your magic cabinet.

If your name is Wilbur, your mother’s favorite book was Charlotte’s Web.

If your name is Yorick, I knew him well.

If your name is Zzzzybrrqahh, please don’t eat my brain.

If your name is Alice, you will probably have a husband named Al and move to Alabama where you’ll sell ant farms.

If your name is Bella, avoid used bookstores.

If your name is Carol, you probably either sing in a folk rock band or own a large collection of fuzzy sweaters.

If your name is Donna, you’re an asset to the secretarial pool. Maybe you’ll be an executive assistant one day.

If your name is Edith, thanks for the peanut brittle.

If your name is Frances, you probably need to lighten up.

If your name is Georgia, watch where you’re swingin’ that hoop skirt.

If your name is Helen, I hope you like cats.

If your name is Isabella, you probably can’t read this because you were born sometime this decade.

If your name is Jacquelyn, I may or may not have spit in your coffee this morning.

If your name is Kimberley, congratulations, you’re the head of the cheerleading squad and the top of the pyramid.

If your name is Lola, you were a showgirl.

If your name is Marni, you really got the short end of the stick. That is not a real name. And don’t stomp your platforms at me.

If your name is Nancy, you have an unhealthy relationship with yarn.

If your name is Olga, I am putting all my hope in you at the next Olympics.

If your name is Penelope…yeah, no one’s cool enough to pull off Penelope.

If your name is Summer, you have damaged skin, hair, or both.

If your name is Tiffany, you are never going to give up the 80s, are you?

If your name is Ursula, you either rule a sea kingdom or are in fact a Kodiak bear.

If your name is Velvet, you have served prison time and have the tattoos to prove it.

If your name is Willow, you have either participated in or led a women’s retreat.

If your name is Yolanda, you thoroughly enjoy the conveniences of a convenience store.

If your name is Zona, my seventh-grade Bible teacher gave me permission to shoot your parents.


Et Binon So Volapuk

My trip to Florida actually resulted in me finishing in a book and getting halfway through another (we’ll see when that one gets picked back up again) but just as the bus pulled back up to the art museum in Madison, I completed reading A Handbook of Volapuk by Andrew Drummond.

This book was mentioned in a lecture I attended at the beginning of the semester on artificially created languages, one of which was Volapuk. In essence, languages like Volapuk were created in the nineteenth century for the purpose of simplifying and unifying language. Other than maaaaaaybe Esperanto, none of them really survived. Volapuk is an interesting case, because it was, for a time, a first language of many, and there still exists literature in and about it. Of course, as it’s an English-based language, it’s probably difficult for Russian or Japanese speakers to learn, but if you happen to know English, it makes sense to an extent.

The book is basically a story-within-a-story. At the beginning, a carriage crashes, carrying three men – two of whom are dead and one of whom is alive, but injured and speaking unintelligible words which turn out to be Volapuk – and a mysterious box. Inside the box are the contents of the story, which then proceeds under the narration of Mr. Justice. Justice is a church organ repairman who becomes wrapped up in the Edinburgh Society for the Propagation of a Universal Language after befriending Sir Thomas Urquhart. He assumes the position of protector of Volapuk and attempts to teach it, only to be met with resistance, so he dresses like a crazy superhero and gets a better response that way. Because that always helps. His main opponent is an Esperantist named Dr. Bosman. In order to sway him, Justice abducts him to an asylum, by disguising himself as a woman. For some reason, Justice spends the majority of the remainder of the crazy journey of the book dressed as a woman before picking up Bosman, and joining forces with him. At the end of the book, the three men are escaping from the authorities in a rickshaw tied to a hot air balloon, which drops them, thus ending their story.

What is most interesting about the book is not its characters nor plot, but its structure. In between Justice’s Don Quixote-esque quest, there are language lessons and exercises in Volapuk; the same lessons and exercises that Justice teaches his students. They start off simple, but grow more complex as the book goes on, and even give a few basics of Esperanto and Solresol. Sometimes, the language learning parts were more interesting than the story itself. I attempted to test myself along the way, but somewhere around the fourth or fifth lesson I got stumped and just decided to keep reading rather than attempt to learn. However, some words that are repeated throughout the book such as lol (rose) and tidel (teacher) began to set in where the lessons didn’t. Essentially, though, if you were to really absorb the entirety of the book, you would be able to speak Volapuk, or at least understand it better than 99% of the world, which is pretty good for three hundred pages.

The characters themselves were my least favorite part of the book. Justice started out as a likeable guy but transformed into a megalomaniac, and I didn’t get why he just wouldn’t leave Bosman the hell alone. There are so many characters in the book that appear only once, and just too many characters in general. The students Justice starts with are not even remotely in the picture by the end, and the composition of the group keeps shifting, dropping and adding people who really don’t have many distinguishing characteristics, except maybe the Solresol couple, who create a musical language, or the two Japanese men who seem to tag along with various characters, and pop in at random times. Sir Thomas Urquhart is a real person, and a linguist, but actually lived and died 300 years before the action of the book. In addition, towards the middle of the book, he apparently either dies or goes into a coma and isn’t mentioned until near the end, when he’s mentioned as having been alive, and there the whole time. Initially, I thought he’d died because Justice talked about things like sorting out his affairs, but looking back, even though they talk about burying him and sorting out his affairs, it’s actually never said whether he’s dead or in a coma. I guess I just assumed he was dead, because all mention of him ended, and then when he reappeared at the end out of nowhere, alive (and as the sole survivor of the rickshaw-hot-air-balloon crash) I was totally confused. Maybe he was actually just a muse, there in spirit but not in body? Okay, I think that got a little too supernatural than the situation merited.

It’s interesting enough. I give it vels out of bals.