The Corner


Classic Lines, Tricky Names

Ray Stevens at the 53rd Annual CMA Awards in Nashville, Tenn., November 13, 2019 (Charles Pulliam / Reuters)

I begin today’s Impromptus with classical music: Should orchestras take down the screen? The screen that separates an auditioner from his auditors in “blind auditions”? I say no, others say yes. I also discuss Trader Joe’s, the English language — a number of issues.

Let me linger over one here.

Yesterday, Yascha Mounk (the academic and journalist) tweeted, “In the long run, it is very hard to shame people into supporting your politics. You’ve got to hear them out and win them over.” In Impromptus, I jot the following:

I’ve been thinking about Bill Buckley lately — more than I usually do. He was very good at persuasion. Very good at it. I should know, as one of his (countless) persuadees. I hope that we will never give up persuasion. Never give up trying to persuade.

Enjoyable as ownin’, drinkin’ (tears), and dunkin’ may be.

Recently, I was in the office for the first time in a long time. There was some mail, by which I mean, honest-to-goodness U.S. postal mail. One letter came in response to a piece I had at the beginning of the year: “Waxing Lyrical: In appreciation of some weird and wonderful lines.”

Our correspondent gave me one from Ray Stevens, the country singer: “Get your tongue outta my mouth, ’cause I’m kissin’ you goodbye.”

That may just take the cake.

Another responded to a more recent piece of mine: “‘Scandalize My Name’: On the use and abuse of ‘Karen,’ etc.” I wrote about a kid whose last name was “Glasscock” and who acquired an excellent nickname: “Crystal Pistol.”

Well, the letter in question was from a Mrs. Glasscock, who had a special appreciation for the piece. She married into her last name and has two sons. She told me several wonderful stories, having to do with her career as a registered nurse: She worked with a urologist named Dr. Cockburn; with a general practitioner named Richard Dick; etc.

Years ago — mainly with her two boys in mind, I think — she cut out a poem published in the “Dear Abby” column. The poem is by Edgar A. Guest, and it has a number of versions, but it is generally called “Your Name” and starts like this:

You got it from your father, ’twas the best he had to give.
And right gladly he bestowed it — it is yours the while you live.
You may lose the watch he gave you, and another you may claim.
But remember, when you’re tempted, to be careful of his name.

Thanks to all.


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