“The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.”
That’s not the Dread Pirate Roberts debating with Vizzini about which chalice is poisoned. It is the opening line in one of entertainer Danny Kaye‘s most famous tongue twisters. Born in 1913, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, he was famous for them. In one Broadway performance, he sang the names of 54 Russian composers in 38 seconds and stopped the show. He was also famous for his comedic timing, his singing and dancing (White Christmas), and his generous work for UNICEF, the United Nations Childrens’ Fund.
There were many such immigrant sons and daughters who made Americans laugh or cry, who healed the sick, made our laws, built our railroads and bridges, dug our coal and silver, and made our beer, steel and microchips. Even among the high and mighty, we’ve had Dutch railroad barons and presidents (Vanderbilt and Roosevelt – "crows veldt" in the lingo from Arsenic and Old Lace), German oil barons (Rockefeller), Italian physicists and high-tech gurus (Fermi, Marconi), Scots steel magnates (Carnegie), and Jewish Nobel laureates (Bellow, Feynman, Friedman, Samuelson).
Like Marion Morrison and Archie Leach, Danny Kaye adopted a stage name because his real name – David Daniel Kaminsky – didn’t seem catchy enough for the American ear. Therein lies an irony and, for the Right, a problem. The National Review’s, The Corner, isn’t so sure furriners are a good thing, at least when they don’t cast off their origins and adopt invented ones, including giving us new names or easier ways to pronounce the old.
And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.
So writes Mark Krikorian , who seems as comfortable with his own immigrant past as Clarence Thomas is with his. I wonder what he would suggest Pocahontas change her name to? Salon’s Andrew Leonard responds with more self-awareness and humanity than the entire GOP seems capable of:
Personally, I feel that pronouncing someone’s name the way they would like it pronounced is a sign of courtesy and respect. One might also imagine that if Republicans want to have any chance of winning future elections in the Southwest, griping about pronunciation is probably not a smart strategy. Krikorian’s insecurity goes a long way to explaining the current desperate straits of the GOP.
In honor of Mr. Krikorian’s principled objection to the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor – that placing the stress on the last syllable of her surname is "unnatural" (i.e., unAmerican) and, by implication, so, too, is her nomination to the Supreme Court – I thought I would quickly run down observations Mr. Krikorian might make about the current sitting Justices:
Should be growing olives or making wine or church doctrine.
Should be making beer or ice cream.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Oy. A woman with the chutzpah to be doing and taking a man’s job. Should be making her mother-in-law nervous and her husband feel guilty.
OK. But should be a shipbuilder, cop or fireman.
Should be a dread pirate or singing in a Welsh choir.
Should be running numbers, "buttoning" rivals or making pizza.
Should be making shoes in Glasgow.
John Paul Stevens
OK, or a naval hero (or was that Jones?).
A doubting fellow. We kidnapped his ancestors and brought them here without papers, so we don’t really know what his name is. Should be a sharecropper, pullman porter, athlete or band leader.
Mr. Krikorian was it? Are you the billionaire green mailer or the character on MASH, who wore skirts to get a medical discharge? Never mind. We’ll just call you Kirk, James T. If this argument were all the GOP had, it would be plain sailing. They undoubtedly have more, but will today’s voters buy it or trash it?