Oleo Olio

I never know where the next inspiration for a post will come from, especially my “Remember When” stories.  I am old enough, and was born in a small enough town, far enough off the beaten path, that I remember how things were, long before most of my readers were born.  I occasionally write about The Good Old Days, hopefully interesting and amusing a few good folk….

….So, the other day I wanted to put some margarine on a piece of toast.  I laid my left hand over the plastic tub, casually ran my thumb under the edge of the lid, and it popped right off.  We take packaging so much for granted, and have become so used to it.  Those lids can’t be taken off by grasping them firmly, and pulling straight.  The harder you grasp, the tighter they seal.  For as soft and fragile as they are, they would have had our ancestors of even a hundred years ago, looking for an axe or saw.

When the lid came off the first time, it was a two-handed, thumbs-working-in-opposite-directions move, because there was a sheet of plastic welded to the rim of the tub.  Squeeze bottles of salad dressing have plastic, heat-sealed over the lid, but even after you use a crowbar or flame thrower to remove that, you still have to twist off the cap.  Beneath that is yet another layer of plastic and cardboard that has to be removed.

When I was a lad….yeah, yeah, we know, grandpa – peanut butter came in too-easily-broken, glass jars.  You twisted off the cap, and dug into the peanut butter.  Actually, you probably got a knife and stirred it, because the non-homogenized stuff separated like milk, with the oil on top.  Nowadays, there’s another little cardboard and Mylar manhole cover under the cap – all these because some fool in Chicago wanted to get away with poisoning his wife with tainted Tylenol.  Back then, the boxes and bottles in the stores just opened up.  The cops caught him though.

Anyway, back to the margarine!  You thought you could distract me, eh??  Margarine was developed in the 1800s, in the midst of the Industrial Revolution.  Some years ago, when the elimination of CFCs was the cause du jour, I saw a woman on television who declaimed that, “If we could develop margarine, as a safe alternative to butter, we can develop a safe alternative to CFCs.”  The only problem with that is that it’s not true.  It wasn’t developed as a safe anything!

The first “margarine” was beef tallow, mixed with something like Worcestershire Sauce, horrible to eat, but it provided sufficient calories to prevent mine, mill and factory workers from fainting from hunger.  It gave the industrial barons the maximum labor for the minimum cost, sweethearts those guys.  History also has shown that the saturated fats in early margarine were as dangerous to health as butter, so the busy-body bitch was wrong, twice.

Here in Canada, the Milk Marketing Board, which was one small step less powerful than the American NRA, almost strangled margarine in its infancy.  They got a law passed that said margarine could not be marketed if it looked like butter, in every Province except Quebec, where they march to the tune of their own beret-wearing, red-wine-soaked piper.

They tried to market Marg in colors ranging from Kool-Aid orange, to cranberry red, but mostly just white.  I remember, as a kid, getting pound blocks of fish-belly-white stuff in cardboard boxes, indistinguishable from lard, except there was included a small paper envelope.  You tore the envelope open, sprinkled the colored powder on the block and stirred like hell in a bowl, till you got the familiar yellow.

Blue Bonnet came out with a plastic bag, similar to bagged milk.  On the inside of one of the flat sides was a little plastic ampule of liquid colorant.  You pinched it to burst it internally, then kneaded and mixed, kneaded and mixed, till it turned that golden buttery yellow.

I don’t know why we didn’t just eat the damned stuff white.  I guess this is where the self-psychology kicks in again.  I know I probably lose more calories and weight from body-heat loss in the summer than the winter.  In the winter, when it’s snowy and blowy outside, I wear underwear, socks, flannel track-pants, heavy tee-shirt and slippers – and the furnace has the house at 73 F.  In the summer, when it’s bright and sunny, I wear underwear, maybe socks, perhaps shorts, possibly a threadbare shirt, and slippers only if I have to go outside or down to the concrete basement floor – and the A/C has the house to 72 F.

In the mid-80s, the consuming public finally pried Milk’s thumbs off Margarine’s throat, and at last we could buy it in yellow.  The little frogs in Quebec had been making it like that for years, and they wanted to market it to the rest of Canada.

Initially, one pound tubs were not worth their while.  It was shipped in plastic bulk containers, like glass or metal baking dishes, 8 X 12 X 2 – five-pound trays, or 9 X 13 X3 – ten-pounders, with tight-fitting, snap-down flat lids.  (Sizes in inches for the metric crowd.  Americans, feel free to ignore the inevitable, and the rest of the world.)  Spatula or spoon it out into a serving dish.  Once empty and washed, they were handy nesting storage containers.  Years later, the wife and I still use them to protect those lovely Christmas cookies.

Soon, other Canadian, and American suppliers provided the easily-opened one-pound tubs, and I could have toast and margarine and peanut butter at the flick of a thumb.  And I will burn off those calories, because I’m sitting here typing this, wearing only a smile.

Fruit Salad

Not to be confused with White Lady In The Hood’s poke salad, this is just an excuse for another little serving of a bit of this and a bit of that, with some humor dressing.

If KayJai goes back to Chatham, Ontario to visit friends and family, she’s going to find that she’s got some new neighbors.  A Fundamentalist Jewish sect from near Montreal, has been ordered to surrender 14 children, from two months to 16 years of age, to Child Welfare Services, on charges of neglect and abuse.  Instead of doing so, 200 of them moved 500 miles west, into a new province.

The newspaper article does not say how many families are involved, but 14 children were from only two families.  Even more so than our local Mennonites and Amish, they wish to do things the modest, old-fashioned way, a claim validated by photos, black clothing, hats, ankle-length skirts on girls, clunky shoes, adult females swathed in black blanket-like wraps, covering half their faces.

Most of the members speak only Yiddish and/or Hebrew. Despite this, and their declared dedication to a simple life, they have an English-language website.

The son has a young male temp at his shop who is white.  Not an albino, but the guys agree that he looks like he lives in his mom’s basement and eats chalk.  He is as white as the Elf, Legolas, from the Lord of the Rings movies.  If you built a child’s toy blocks replica of him, it would be a Lego Legolas.  If you broke the bottom off the figure, it would be a legless Lego Legolas.

The son insists that, if you read and inflect the following eight words correctly, they form a coherent sentence.  Anybody want to try? Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo; buffalo buffalo buffalo.  Translation provided upon request.

The local Traffic Department seems to have been working overtime to further F**k things up.  There are two spots, one a mile to my east, another, a mile to my west, where small subdivision streets come out to meet the main thoroughfares.  In both cases, they do so at a tee intersection, and at the top of a hill.

The Works Department has installed a (partial) set of lights at each.  The main road faces the lights, but there are none on the side streets.  With reduced sightlines, it is surprising enough to have someone make a right turn in front of oncoming vehicles, but panic can ensue when lines of traffic are rushing up the hill, with a green light and the right-of-way – never faster than the 40MPH limit of course – and have some asshat little jackrabbit driver perform a perfectly legal, but highly unsafe, left turn, in front of four lanes of traffic.

Many bus stops were located just before intersections.  Apparently there has been much complaint about drivers not being able to make right turns on green lights, so, with agreement from the Transit Department, many of the stops have been moved to the other side of the intersections.  Now, the buses go through the lights, and immediately stop – and traffic backs up behind them, right across the intersections, despite regulations about not entering unless you are sure you can clear.

Even after the lights turn red, and there is no following traffic, the sheep refuse to pull out and pass the bus, and just sit there and wait for it to proceed.  Thanx Traffic Department, I see how this new system is so much better.

A local city councillor has chosen a strange hobbyhorse to ride.  He was quoted in the paper recently, railing against the proliferation of used clothing donation bins around the city.  I agree with most of his rants.  They are everywhere, beside corner stores, in mall parking lots, sometimes two and three, side by side.

They’re often overflowing.  There are often boxes of wet books and magazines, broken toys, even old black and white TVs, beside them.  This guy wants to licence and restrict them.  (Doesn’t every politician?)  He wants to get the names and addresses of all these charities, so that they can be notified and held responsible for cleaning up the mess.

I’m with him through most of that – right until he gets to the word “charity.”  Just because the word “donation” appears on these bins, doesn’t make them the property of any charity, except for the odd Salvation Army one.

Almost all are owned and placed by commercial companies.  They take the used clothing that you throw in.  They sort it out, and anything worth reselling is shipped to a third-world country.  When your raw material is free, even sorting, shipping and sale at pennies on the dollar means you can turn a tidy profit.

The next time you see some kid on television after the tsunami in Malaysia, or typhoon in Bangladesh, wearing an AC/DC concert tee, just like you used to own, it doesn’t mean he’s got the same shitty taste in music you do.  That’s your old shirt!  The unsalable balance is ripped to pieces, and winds up at places like my son’s plant, in fifty-pound bales of rags, again, turning a further profit.

If you’ve been putting clothing in these boxes, thinking it goes to underprivileged kids, or homeless people, you may want to think again.  Then again, maybe not.  We occasionally donate used clothing and other household goods to either Muscular Dystrophy, or Juvenile Diabetes.  They call us and tell us when they’ll be in the neighborhood with a truck for pick-up.

Okay, the meds are kicking in.  You may want to take some now – or a three-martini lunch.  I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas, and we look forward to New Years.

It’s Not Christmas

Not yet it isn’t!  It’s only December the 23rd.  Christmas is the 25th, and it’s only one day, not an entire season.  It’s the “Holiday Season” and Christmas is only part of it.  The rest of it is the Festival of Conspicuous Consumption and Display.  The day after Christmas is Boxing Day, and it’s a holiday.  The day of New Years Eve is a holiday, and New Years Day is a holiday.  Many of us get the work-days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve off as holidays.

The Muslims just finished celebrating Ramadan, although the entire month was more Holy Days, than time-off-work holidays.  A whole month??!  Now that’s a Season!  I wished all the Muslims a Happy Ramadan – all except the ones who want to blow up my bridges, buildings and airplanes.

The beanie-wearing Jews just took eight day of holidays to celebrate Chanukah Hanukah….you spell it….and play with their toy tops.  Eight days is a short season, but still, a Holiday Season.

The Wiccans and Pagans, and even the Free Thinkers will have celebrated the Winter Solstice on the 21st.  Of course, that was a Saturday, and a holiday for most of us, but still, a Holiday, in the Season.

Beginning on Boxing Day, December 26th, many of the Negroes – Blacks – Coloreds – African-Americans/Canadians – or whatever politically-correct label they’re sticking on themselves these days, will be starting a weeklong celebration of the holiday, Kwanzaa.

Many Germanic peoples are celebrating the Yule Holiday, a week-long festival with Christmas inside it, but still largely patterned on old Pagan beliefs.

The Eastern Orthodox Christians wait twelve days after December 25th before they get around to celebrating Christmas, stretching the Holiday Season.  They think that Roman Catholics and all the Protestant sects are wrong.  Gee!  Who have I heard sing that song before?

Hindus just finished celebrating Diwali.  Those in India washed their feet in the filthy, polluted Ganges River.  Any who have immigrated to North America, have to make do with New Jersey.

Many Japanese join in a year-end, Shinto celebration.  In fact cultures and religions all around the world, and all across North America get together for a Holiday Season which stretches from the beginning of November to the middle of January.

Christians, with their little one-day observance are inclusively welcomed to join in.  Christ may be Your reason for the season, but a lot of others have their reasons too.  It hasn’t always been Christmas, and it’s never been only Christmas.  While Christmas has been around for two thousand years, the Jews have been observing Chanukah for twenty-three hundred years, and the Wiccans have welcomed the Winter Solstice for over five thousand.  Christmas is the new kid on the block.

Christians around the world are invited to play nice, and join in the Holiday Season, share and share alike, with open hearts and open minds, but not steal, monopolize and impose.  God doesn’t like selfish, nasty kids.

Thus endeth the reading of the annual Anti-my-way-or-the-highway rant.  Please open your hymn books to page 47, and we will all sing hymn number 666.

JESUS SAVES

Jesus puts his money in the Bank of Montreal.
Jesus puts his money in the Bank of Montreal.
Jesus puts his money in the Bank of Montreal.
Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!

Jesus is the lifeguard at the local swimming pool.
Jesus is the lifeguard at the local swimming pool.
Jesus is the lifeguard at the local swimming pool.
Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!  Jesus saves!

And on that note, an F-flat minor, we look forward to something a little less confrontational, and a little more educational and/or amusing.

P. S.

Much of Southern Ontario has just been hit with the worst ice storm since 1998.  There are still about a quarter of a million people without power.  Here at Casa Archon, we got power back just in time to publish this post, after almost exactly six hours of cold and dark.  We’re back to making the last of the Christmas cookies, and enjoying coffee, hot chocolate, warm food and warm fingers and toes.  LadyRyl, living a couple of miles closer to city center, was only without power for five minutes, since the grid which supplies her also supplies a major hospital.

While we still had daylight, I dug out the wife’s stash of candles for a little light and warmth.  We plugged a new 9-volt battery into a transistor radio the wife has owned for over 50 years, and listened to an all-news talk-radio station with its own generator.  Kudos to the utilities guys who are still out there freezing their assets.  Some folks may not get power for 36 to 48 hours.

Excelsior

Unreasonable Expectations

There’s no sharp “point” to this post.  It’s just another gentle Remember When story about my growing up, although it does have a quiet comment at the end about how we sometimes dig our own trench to experience tunnel vision.

My little 1800-resident home town swelled to about 15,000 in July and August, with the influx of tourists.  They came in two basic types, the one- or two-week temporary vacationers, and the more affluent cottage-owners where mom and the kids came up as soon as school was out, and dad visited on weekends.

I don’t remember any townie–vs.-tourist rivalries, and my little circle got along with both batches well.  Perhaps it was because of the lack of size of the upper crust, but even the well-to-do group often associated with the commoners.

I was friends for years with mother and kids of the family who still run a large Kitchener wrecking yard.  I hung around with son and daughter of a couple who owned a well-known car customising/detailing shop in Oshawa.  Both these families were a bit unusual, in that they had hauled a small trailer to town, and permanently placed it in the tourist camp.

Our group was sometimes joined for bowling, or a bush party, by the daughter of the C.E.O. of a large Kitchener firm where, seven years later, the wife got her first job as a receptionist.  The summer I worked at the convenience store, I also had a two-month romance with the daughter of a minor scion of the family whose name graces a fourteen storey office building in downtown Uptown Waterloo, five floors of which constitute the City Hall, and where her uncle sat as Mayor.  Her “summer cottage” was probably worth five times what our year-round home was.

I/we also made many temporary, one-time friendships with kids from the cabin-renting crowd.  These folks paid good money to live in little wooden buildings that chickens would have rejected, just to be near tons of warm white sand and cool blue water.  Unlike the others who were around for two months each summer, these evanescent visitors were only with us for a week, or perhaps two.

And so I met Danny.  A first time visitor, he had not been in town an hour when I ran into him early Saturday afternoon on the main street, looking lost.  Probably to get him out from underfoot while his parents unpacked, he had been told to walk the four blocks to the retail area, to familiarize himself with the stores.  By the end of the day he was part of our pack.

He was thrilled.  You can only hit the beach so much.  He had envisioned two lonely weeks stuck with only his parents, but we included him in everything we did.  We got him rental skates and took him roller-skating.  We took him down to the river harbor to swim, and I taught him to dive off the fishing boats.  Despite the age limit of 18, I got him into the pool-room and taught him several games.  Where he was from, pool-rooms were dark, dirty and dangerous.  We took in a couple of movies.  All in all, the entire group spent more time and energy on him than we ever did with any other tourist.  He was a nice kid.

Sadly, all vacations must come to an end.  Two Saturdays later, he walked uptown while his parents packed, to say thanks, and good-bye.  The leaving was lonely enough but, as he got ready to walk away, I sensed something else, and asked what was bothering him.

He said, “Somebody told me that there was an Indian Reservation just outside town.”  “Yeah, so?”  “Well, in my entire two weeks here, I never saw an Indian.”  I was stunned!  “You’ve played pool with Donny Kewgeesik, and his older brother Ronny.  You roller-skated with Nathan Akiwenzie.  You swam and dived with Frank Shobadeez.  John Petoniquot took you fishing in his boat, and you took his sister Laura to a movie.”

Now it was his turn to be stunned.  “They’re Indians?”  “Of course!  Did you expect the Indians to ride into town on horses, wearing feather headdresses, and war paint, shaking spears?”  The empty expression on his face told me that that was exactly what he had been expecting.  In the entire two weeks, hardly anyone had used last names.  These “ordinary people” he had met didn’t meet his expectations of what Indians looked and acted like.

We said our last goodbyes, and I never saw him again.  I often wondered how much effort it was for him to re-integrate his understanding of what and who Indians are.  It’s occurrences like this that taught me early, not to judge a book by somebody else’s cover.

Book Review #4

After writing reviews on the first three of Lee Child’s, Jack Reacher books, all I can say is, this is how they should have been written.

Back, just about the time that the phase, “Jumping the shark” was created, but before I became aware of it, I noticed something similar about television programs. (And Art, and many other things)  After a couple of very successful seasons of Mork and Mindy, even the Mix-Master mind of Robin Williams had to rest, and they brought in Jonathan Winters to save the series.  Whenever a program becomes so cartoonish that they have to add characters, it’s on its last legs.

I liked the series Bones when it first came out, but it’s become so soap-opera-ish that I don’t hold much hope for it next season.  Already cartoonish, a couple of years ago, I found out about these books when they brought in a character called The Locator, and then tried to split a cartoon off from a cartoon and gave it its own series.  I was surprised it lasted one short season.

Even between the pilot and the first episode, they got rid of the intelligent, good-looking, smart-mouthed, British, female bartender and replaced her with some tween Roma Gypsy naïf, and her soap-opera-supplied male cousin.  The books are SO different.

The Author – Richard Greener

The Book – The Knowland Retribution

The Review

To begin with, unlike the TV show, the protagonist was not struck by lightning, and able to find any object in the world.  He is intelligent, methodical, and a student of psychology and the human condition, which allows him to locate any person, many of whom don’t want to be found.

I thought I knew why there were only two books in the series when the central character, already wealthy enough from a number of discreet, high-society cases to live in the Bahamas, receives $31.1 million.  He gives away $30 million of it, and I still don’t know why Greener only wrote two Locator stories.

The book is not About the Locator.  He only appears in about a third of it. The primary third is about an Atlanta real-estate lawyer who loses his wife, his daughter and his only two grandchildren to e-coli contaminated meat.  He eventually sets out to kill those who made conscious decisions to put commerce above food safety.

The second main part of the story is about a steel-trap-mind newspaperwoman, who wants her own column, but is relegated to writing obituaries for the New York Times.  It is her noticing and connecting violent executive deaths all over the eastern United States, which reveals the plot, and its probable planner.

Walter, The Locator, appears in the first couple of development chapters.  He pops back in briefly a couple of times to help direct the paper lady, and shows up again at the denouement finale.  Other than brief mentions of how he honed his Locator ability, very little of it is shown.  He just shows up, and the wanted person is there, all very anti-climactic.

Technically-speaking, there were few typos, or incorrect word usages….until we got to the last chapter.  Suddenly Walter spots a Chevrolet Camero, not Camaro.  The General Motors website says that they search for, or make up names for Chevrolet products which begin with C, for alliterative value, like the Chevy Cruze.

They were initially going to use the Camero spelling.  The GM website says that, in Spanish, the word means a large single bed, a contradiction in terms.  A translation site gives it as a ¾ bed.  Camaro is a made-up name, but means “companion” in middle French, and in modern Spanish, the adjective value is “shrimp-like”, while the noun means “loose bowels”, diarrhoea.  Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a shit.

Possibly in a rush to get the book published, the last chapter suddenly has the woman reporter speak of having someone bare (bear) with me, an invitation to a party I wouldn’t want to miss.  Walter names a character who’s (whose) calling is suspect.

Some action is taken at the whimsy of the perpetrator, and assistance is rendered complements of an FBI supervisor.  These last two seem almost like Lee Child’s British construction.  While not exactly incorrect, most American writers would speak of, at the whim of, or whims of.  Whimsy has such a light-hearted flair to it, not correlating to the death and destruction of the story to that point.  Complements and compliments are forever being mixed up, but in this specific spot, compliments is the more correct.

The book has solid character development, good plot progression, and engrossing narration.  All in all, so much more satisfying than the cotton-candy prose I so often paddle around in the shallow end of.  It was quite enjoyable, and I look forward to the next, but sadly, last.

Laugh, And The World Laughs With You

Snore, and you sleep alone.

A Pilot Joke

A priest dies and is waiting in line at the Pearly Gates.
Ahead of him is a guy dressed in sunglasses and leather jacket. Saint Peter asks him “Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to the Kingdom of Heaven?”  The guy replies, “I’m Captain Knight, retired Air Canada Pilot from Toronto. “
Saint Peter consults his list. He smiles and says to the pilot, “Take this silken robe and golden staff and enter the Kingdom. “
Next up is the priest. He stands erect and booms out, “I am Father Joe, pastor of Saint Mary’s in Winnipeg for the last 43 years.” Saint Peter consults his list. He says to the priest, “Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter the Kingdom. “
“Wait a minute,” says the good father, “that pilot gets a silken robe and golden staff while I get only cotton and wood. How can this be? “
“Up here … We go by results,” says Saint Peter, “when you preached, people slept; when he flew, people prayed.”

***

An Airplane Joke

A Frenchman and an Italian were seated next to a Scotsman on an overseas flight. After a few cocktails, the men began discussing their home lives.

“Last night I made love to my wife four times,” the Frenchman bragged, “and this morning she made me delicious crepes and she told me how much she adored me. “

“Ah, last night I made love to my wife six times,” the Italian responded, “and this morning she made me a wonderful omelet and told me she could never love another man. “

When the Scotsman remained silent, the Frenchman smugly asked, “And how many times did you make love to your wife last night?” “Once,” he replied. “Only once?” the Italian arrogantly snorted. “And what did she say to you this morning? “

“Don’t stop!”

***

A Flight Attendant Joke

It was mealtime on a small airline and the stewardess asked the passenger if he would like dinner.
“What are my choices?” he asked.
She replied, “Yes or No.”

***

A wife, arriving home from a shopping trip, was horrified to find her husband in bed with a lovely young woman. Just as the wife was about to storm out of the house, her husband stopped her with these words:
Before you leave, I want you to hear how this all came about.
Driving along the highway, I saw this young woman looking tired and bedraggled, so I brought her home and made her a meal from the roast beef you had forgotten in refrigerator. She had only some worn sandals on her feet, so I gave her a pair of good shoes you had discarded because they had gone out of style. She was cold so I gave her a sweater I bought you for your birthday that you never wore because the color did not suit you. Her pants were worn out so I gave her a pair of yours that were perfectly good but too small for you now.
Then when she was about to leave the house she paused and asked, “Is there anything else your wife doesn’t use any more?”

***

Two guys are walking down the street when a mugger approaches them and demands their money.
They both grudgingly pull out their wallets and begin taking out their cash.
Just then one guy turns to the other and hands him a bill.
“Here’s that $20 I owe you,” he says.

***

Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering.

Finally fed up, God said, “THAT’S IT! I have had enough and I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, I will judge who does the better job.”

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away.
They moused.
They faxed.
They e-mailed
They e-mailed with attachments
They downloaded.
They did spreadsheets.
They wrote reports.
They created labels and cards.
They created charts and graphs.
They did some genealogy reports.
They did every job known to man.

Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster than hell! Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured and, of course, the power went off!

Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed!

Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted. Satan searching frantically, screaming……. “It’s gone! It’s ALL GONE! “I lost everything when the power went out!

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work. Satan observed this and became irate. “Wait!” he screamed…. “That’s not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don’t have any?”

God just shrugged and said, “Jesus Saves.”

 

Okay, it’s official, sports fans.  Winter has arrived at my place.  I’ve brushed and shoveled a bit of snow a couple of times earlier, but yesterday, the first snowplow went past my house.  No joke!    😦

 

 

 

Oh Yeah? Name One!

I’ve done a post about meanings of family names, and son-/daughter-of names.  This is just a collection of odd/interesting names that can be encountered in North America.  I was talking about this sort of thing with “Long”, my ethnic-Chinese, Thai-born co-worker.  Asian names have strong bonds to family.  Clan name is given first, and member name follows.  This is often reversed here on this side of the planet, but family name is always family name, entirely separate from personal names.

Long had a problem coping with a supervisor being named Todd Craig, when I explained that either Todd, or Craig, could be a surname, or a given name.  He as easily could have been Craig Todd.  I recently met Carson Arthur, whose name rests in the same pile.  Arthur Carson is actually more likely.

Names like these often happen when mothers wish to memorialize their surnames, by handing them to their sons (usually), as given names.  An old James Garner movie had him as a financial wheeler-dealer/gambler named Cash McCall.  Everyone assumed that the money-man had been given a money nickname, until he revealed that his mother’s maiden name was Cash.  The famous Western-writer, Zane Grey was born to a woman of the Zane clan who founded Zanesville, Ohio.

The son works with a man named Bradley Joe.  He’s on Facebook, but you can’t find him.  “Did you mean Joe Bradley?”  He also works with Marc Terry.  A man named Tom Nobody was roughed up by police in 2010’s Toronto G20 summit.  I suspect his name has been translated from another language.  Perhaps his distant ancestor was Odysseus, who told the Cyclops that “Nobody had blinded him.”

Side note: After more than three years, the officer charged, was given a 45 day jail sentence.  I’ll believe he’ll serve it when I see it.  Ten minutes after the case closed, he was out on bail.

Another man with police problems is John Vroom.  That sounds like a name he picked out for himself when he was eight, but is simply an uncommon variant of an Anglo-Saxon name which now includes Frum, From, Frome, and the owner of a local printing shop, Froome.

I worked, for a while, with Gerry, Bert, and Wally – all women.  Gerry had shortened the archaic Geraldine, Bert had done the same with Roberta, after being named for her dad, Bob, and Wally was a German immigrant named Waltrout.

Hyphenated names came into being in the Middle Ages, when one self-important minor aristocratic family married into another.  Smith married Jones, and became Smith-Jones.  What is overbearingly humorous, is when the compound name becomes Smith-Smith.  It is possible to be born into a hyphenated name but they usually occur nowadays when a certain type of woman gets married.

These gals are usually well educated, and have well-paying careers of their own.  Their families often have money and power.  Sociologically, they are often doers, running this charity or chairing that board.   I had seen a photo in the local paper of nine women, involved with Feed The Aardvarks, or some silly such.  Seven of the nine had hyphenated names.

With my usual humorous social acceptance, I told the young lad I was working with, that they’d got their hyphenated names because they wanted to show that they were powerful, modern women, who could take care of themselves, yet weren’t such ugly, nasty bitches that they couldn’t get a man.  He plaintively protested that his wife had taken a hyphenated name when they married.  Intrigued, I asked him why.

The answer was that, she had written her University paper under her maiden name, and wanted to maintain it, in case anyone wished to contact her later.  Not being one of my favorite co-workers, I told him that there were two problems with that.  Nobody cared in the first place, and nobody cared now.  She took E.C.E., Early Childhood Education.  She was a baby-sitter at a day-care facility.  You don’t need two names to do that.  Nobody’s going to follow up to get your opinion on disposable diapers.

Another male co-worker had been adopted as a baby, taken away from a pair of druggie-drunks, and given his adoptive parents name.  When he turned 21, he managed to locate his birth-father, who had significantly turned his life around.  He loved and respected his foster-parents, but wanted to get to know his bio-dad.  They remembered only the loser from 21 years ago, and raised an outrageous, continuing fuss.  He became so disenchanted, that, when he married, instead of his wife taking his (adoptive) name, he took hers.

We gave our daughter a single, hyphenated first name.  Since we had an extra one lying around, we gave our son three first names, partly to honor my maternal grandfather.  She only uses the first half.  In fact she’s adopted an archaic diminutive.  Son never presents the third name because it’s not needed, and just confuses clerks.  It’s the clan name which, like the above, can be used as a first name.

The most extreme I’ve seen so far is a woman in the paper, with a hyphenated first….and last, name.  She’s Marie-Elizabeth Richards-Collinson.  She has to order checks as big as Publisher’s Clearing House, to have room enough to sign.

Charles Dickens’ works are inhabited by a plethora of strangely-named people.  Fortunately few of these names seem to have crossed the Atlantic, and have mostly died out in England.  The English still have strange, multiple-lettered names which they can spell – but not pronounce.  James Bond once pretended to be a Mr. Saint John-Smith, which he insisted was pronounced sin-jin-smythe.  Featherstonehaugh becomes either festun-haw, or fanshaw.  Pemberton shrinks in the wash to become pembun, and Chumondeley is pronounced Chumly.

Out at the edge of town, near a plant nursery I sometimes take the wife to, is a mailbox with the name Hawthornthwaite on it.  Some day I’m going to work up the nerve to leave the wife spending money on gardening supplies, and walk up and ask just how they pronounce it.

I’ve still got some strange names lying around.  Any of you guys got some weird ones you want to trade?