The Corner

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Appellation Spring


I must protest the mocking of “Scooter” by Derb, who sounds awfully like the culturally unassimilated Muslim of US political cognomenclature. I’m not normally one of the “celebrate diversity” wallahs but the vibrancy of American political monikers is truly inspiring to a foreigner. At the NRI summit, I rubbed shoulders with a “Newt” and a “Jeb” and a “Mitt” – all in the same room, in the same weekend! Do you know how long I’d have to wait at the Palace of Westminster for a single “Mitt”? And I’m just confining it to the pasty Anglo end of things: once you toss in “Cruz Bustamante”, it’s game, set and match. Britain’s next Prime Minister is a man called “Gordon Brown”. Canada’s new Prime Minister is “Stephen Harper”. The colossus of the antipodes is “John Howard”. That crazy gal from New Zealand is “Helen Clark”.

In Britannic politics, the only interesting names come when you’re raised to the peerage: the British Labour minister “Ted Short” swapped his two blunt proletarian monosyllables for the exotic handle “Lord Glenamara”. I was in the Mount Royal Club in Montreal the other day and admiring the portrait of the man who founded the Canadian Pacific Railway and ran Manitoba and whatnot: “Donald Smith” traded in his handle and became the first “Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal”. That is one serious appellatory upgrade.

How did America diverge from the mother country? Was the Mayflower packed with Scooter Aldens and Mitt Standishes fleeing sniggering from Derb’s forebears? Or was it 1776? The Newts joined the revolution and the Johns and Stephens scrammed north and signed up with the Ontario Liberal Party?

And why do you have to be Hispanic to get away with a name like “Bill Richardson”?