A little while back, somebody quoted a line from T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to me. I was thinking what a marvelously prissy name “J. Alfred Prufrock” is, and then it struck me — how the heck did a name like “Alfred” slide to a place where it evokes images of skinny gentlemen (“But how his arms and legs are thin!”) with weak chins and pince nez?
To a guy like me, who spends a lot of weekends as a hobby reenactor, dressing up as a Viking and whacking (and being whacked) with blunt swords, the name Alfred has very different associations. Alfred (c. 849-899) is the only Anglo-Saxon king to whom we apply the descriptive “the Great.” A mighty and shrewd warrior, he prevented the subjugation of his country by the Danes (known to us reenactors as “our guys”), forcing them to accept Christian baptism and the partition of the country after whomping them at the Battle of Edington.
This was not a man who measured out his life in coffee spoons.
It’s odd, when you think about it, that names considered effeminate today are almost uniformly ones originally made famous by big, pugnacious men who as often as not had human blood caked under their fingernails.
Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) was a much tougher character than his portrayal in Braveheart would suggest. He changed sides more than once in the wars of Scottish independence, but always with the consistent purpose of furthering his own claim to the throne by any means necessary. Educated as a knight, he became a master guerrilla fighter, achieving the humiliation of England’s Edward II, and everlasting fame, at the Battle of Bannockburn.
His name is a Norman one, passed down from a fighting, mail-clad ancestor who sailed over the Channel in a longship with William the Conqueror.
But you have to purse your lips to say the name, so it’s considered sissy today.
Or (while we’re on the subject of pursing) take “Percy.”
The Percys also came over with the Conqueror, and they weren’t typists or dishwashers in the army. From the 14th century they were earls (later dukes) of Northumberland, and they kept the servants busy washing blood out of their surcoats as a result of their involvements in the Welsh wars and the Wars of the Roses. Shakespeare’s Harry Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1, was a Percy.
But the name includes the syllable, “purse,” and we all know what that means. (This is a sore spot with us Vikings, by the way. Our tunics have no pockets, so we wear purses [we prefer to call them pouches, thank you] on our belts, just as everybody did up to the late 18th century, when somebody had the bright idea of sewing his purse [all a pocket really is, after all, is a built-in purse] inside his pants.)
But this doesn’t help the Percys of this world. Their name says “purse,” so they’re branded as sissies. And since our degenerate laws discourage lopping the heads off people who insult you, there’s little they can do about it.
It’s the price of fame, I suppose. When you’re famous, people name their kids after you, and those kids don’t always live up to the appellations they’ve squatted on. Then the names go out of style, and the young folks associate them with funny-looking old people, and suddenly a name that once frightened strong men is a joke, or a Modernist poem.
And when the name requires you to make a kissing motion with your lips, or to think of ladies’ handbags, hope is pretty much lost.
I think there’s another reason as well, though.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?