Friday, January 05, 2007

What's in a name?

I have recently learned that my name means a bad word in French.

Which one? you might well ask.

Well, as it turns out, all of them.

That's right, apparently very nearly any rude, profane or vulgar expression in French will involve some form of my name. I'll say this for the French: they're certainly efficient.

The mystery goes deeper, though. You see, my people are French, we come (so I have discovered) from eastern France, near Strasbourg and Colmar. I can hardly imagine the story behind a family whose name is synonymous with a vulgar verb. Culturally, it may reflect the French insouciance in the face of contradiction: Oh, there's Jean-Jacques @#&%! Who cares that his name is a rude expression? Or perhaps it is a case of French stubbornness: So my name is Jean-Jacques @#&%! So what?

Which leads me to my sentiment about it, a great chance to use the expression: Je m'en fou!

I also happen to know that my surname, in Dutch, means 'error' or 'mistake'. It is common, when you get 'the blue screen of death' or other serious computer error to call it a 'fout'. Where does it all stop, I ask you? (I can only imagine that in Italian, my name is synonymous with a discredited politician or other animal excrement.)

To help shed some light on this, I asked a friend, who is Dutch, what he thought of it. He confirmed that 1) it does mean 'error' or 'mistake' in Dutch, and 2) it is an uncommon name in Dutch, but 3) 'Voet' -- pronounced the same -- is a common surname in Dutch, and it means 'foot'. No it's not exactly 'Windsor' or 'Saxe-Coburg', but it's better than 'mistake', or @#&%!. The only problem is, to my knowledge, I have no roots in Holland. But this does seem suggestive, and I may follow it up as a lead sometime.

In the meantime, I am wondering just what to do in the off chance that I am called to serve a church in France -- or, more practically, what name to give the hotel in Nice that we are going to next month. Currently, I am considering the following two possible aliases:

Roger Brightman

Slim Bootleg

I briefly considered Colonel Sanders as an alias, but rejected it because I would invariably have to spell out 'Colonel' to people.

Perhaps, in the end, this is why my people immigrated from France to America. Given an ignominious name, they sought for nothing more than to settle down to a quiet life of farming in Indiana. No doubt they bought property situated between the farms of Richard Cephalous and Randy Wanker.

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Blogger PdB said...

Seen any stray comments from me lately? Seems my rss feed reader hasn't made the switch to 2007 yet, so up till now, I've been reading your January 2006 entries unless I've actually visited your page.
Oops! :D

Monday, January 08, 2007 2:10:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...


That's funny! How would we mess things up if we didn't have computers to do it for us? :-) I have noticed a 'paucity of pdb' recently, but thought you may have been busy or something. Hope you and your family had a great Christmas season!

-Slim Bootleg

Monday, January 08, 2007 9:28:00 AM  

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