What’s in a name?

Around February of 2016, it became popular for the detractors of now-presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to refer to him as “Drumpf”, the name his ancestors brought to these shores from Germany. It started, I believe, with comedian John Oliver, and took off. A number of liberal friends (and I do consider myself somewhat left of center) proudly announced they were going to “make Donald Trump into Donald Drumpf. One praised a student for wearing a baseball cap with “Drumpf” on it.

I cringed.

It is the most ridiculous and childish thing, and completely unworthy of educated, thoughtful people. It has the finesse of bullies on an elementary school playground. One woman  used “Drumpf” on Facebook yesterday, and I called her on it. Her response was how ridiculous it is for the presumptive nominee to put his name on everything (okay, so why not ridicule the name he puts on everything, rather than one he does not use because it is not legally his? ) Ridiculing names is the province of very young children. And last I checked, children whose ages are not in double-digits do not vote in the United States.

Ridicule the man’s ego, his bombastic pronouncements. Take offense at his bigotry and the crude jokes he makes about women’s biological functions. Point out how his speeches make no sense. Vomit at how he made the largest single-day fall of the pound sterling about how he would personally benefit by people playing more golf at his resort in Scotland. (Really?  Food, fuel, and basic necessities are going to cost more, and you think people are going to play more golf?)

But ridiculing a person on a name s/he did not choose seems foolish. Trump is daily showing himself to be a xenophobic fool, on whom expensive education was  completely wasted. But the people who built the wealth which made such a waste possible chose to change the name.

Why would they do such a thing?

Well, this is the only similarity between Mr. Trump and me.

They did it to accommodate people who have a severe learning disability–the inability to learn or function (even marginally) in a language other than English. They did it to pass as Anglo in a country built by immigrants which has never fully embraced immigrants. Frederick Drumpf changed the family name to something these poor benighted Anglo-centric souls could pronounce and accept.

At least, Frederick Drumpf could make the choice.

I am not entirely sure what my ancestral name is, because when my father’s parents emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States, they were simply given a name at the point of entry. They didn’t choose it–it was given by some ignorant immigration official who couldn’t be bothered to even make a stab at transliterating their real name into the western alphabet. So, we ended up with a nice, Anglo-sounding name. An easy name for Americans to pronounce. Well, most of the time, as it still gets screwed up by semi-literate Anglophones. Some of whom are educated, responsible–but still only semi-literate, because they can’t function in a language other than English, and they can’t deal with a name slightly different than what they expect to see.

There is plenty to criticize with Donald Trump’s character, fitness for office, ignorance. There’s a boatload of raw material for late-night comedians to make sophisticated jokes.

But don’t criticize his grandfather for making a concession to the language-learning disabled.

 

 

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