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Names to Know

Krzysztof Penderecki at his home in Krakow, Poland, in 2014 (Jakub Ociepa / Agencja Gazeta via Reuters)

“Krzysztof Penderecki” is a mouthful — for the non-Polish mouth, that is. Forget that first name, that bundle of consonants, that Polish “Christopher.” How about the last name? Seems pretty straightforward, right? But it’s a bit of a curveball: because it’s pronounced “Pender-ET-ski.”

At the end of my piece today, I say that an inability to pronounce the man’s name may hinder his reputation. But he’s done all right so far. Penderecki is one of the most important composers of modern times, a composer who has penetrated the consciousness of the world, to a degree. He died earlier this year. My piece is a sketch and appreciation of him: here.

Many years ago, Roger Kimball made a point about Walter Bagehot, the British writer of the 19th century: His reputation would be greater if people could pronounce his name with confidence. If they could discuss him, recommend him, ask for him in libraries and bookstores — all with confidence. That name is “BADGE-it,” rhyming with “gadget.”

I say the same of Leonardo Sciascia, the 20th-century Italian writer. (“SHAH-shah,” rhyming with “bah bah,” as in “black sheep.”)

Do you care for a little mail? This relates to a post of mine published on Tuesday:

Jay,

Your words on the N-word made me think, which is always a risk I take when I read you. In this case, I thought back to the mid 1950s, when my mother took my older brother and me aside to educate us about that word. Back then, it was the only word I had heard up to my fifth year to describe dark-skinned people. My mom forbade us to use that word, and insisted that we enforce the ban when it came to our five younger siblings.

Ordinary swearing would get you an oral rinse of Dial or Palmolive soap. That word got you the Fels-Naphtha entrée with a side of peppercorns.

I pause to consult Wikipedia, re Fels-Naphtha: “an American brand of laundry soap used for pre-treating clothing stains and as a home remedy for poison ivy and other skin irritants.”

Whoa (and woe).

“While I’m at it,” our reader continues,

I am also recalling that I lived in Detroit in 1967, Los Angeles in 1992, and Seattle in 1999. In none of these places did the quality of life improve following the riots, and for minorities it became unquestionably worse. I still carry a scar from the Detroit experience, and moved out of Southern California after the effects of the 1992 riots became obvious.

I now live in North Carolina, in the heart of the Old South, and prefer the climate, both weather and racial, to that of any of the other places I have lived in. I am pushing 70 (the only exercise I get these days!), and despite what I see on television, my lived experience is that race relations are infinitely better than they were 63 years ago, when my mother had that chat with us.

Yes, we can always do more and better, but I will defend my generation’s record on that front passionately.

In a column on Tuesday, I wrote of Horace Clarke, the onetime Yankee, who just died at 82. In the 1970 season, he broke up three potential no-hitters in the ninth inning — with singles off those unfortunate pitchers. And he did it all within a month, too. One of the most astounding facts in baseball, I think — a sport replete with such facts.

A reader writes,

Horace Clarke’s breaking up of three no-hitters reminds me of the one no-hitter I’ve witnessed. On June 23, 1971, Rick Wise of the Phillies no-hit the Reds in Cincinnati. It was quite a game. Wise hit two homers and would have had a perfect game if he hadn’t walked Dave Concepción in the sixth inning. The last batter he faced was the batter that any pitcher would have least liked to face: Pete Rose. After Wise got him out, the crowd’s cheers and applause for Wise were overwhelming. Although he was the visiting pitcher, he had definitely earned the ovation.

Finally, a name — another name. Regular readers know that I write fairly often about names. One reader, Jeff Funke, tells me,

I’ve had my share of fun with a last name pronounced “funky.” Just one example: I’m in IT, and whenever someone says a program is “acting funky,” I’ll say, “You mean it’s working perfectly?”

Something else that’s fun: There was a meeting at which I was not present. My director said, “We’ve got to get Funke down here.” He wanted me included in the meeting. But the people there understood him to say, “We’ve got to get creative, we’ve got to think outside the box.”

Love it. Thank you all.

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