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Peleg Doddleding Affianced


On Monday, "Cyber Monday" in the consumer-crazed U.S., I was reading an article on Slate over lunch about hiring conditions in the current economy. It was an interesting article, but it appears to have been removed. Libelous, no doubt. The subject was names - more specifically, the prevalence of prejudicial hiring tendencies by U.S. businesses - in a recession, the job market is a buyers' not a sellers' market.

The author's research of the U.S. companies suggested that the less anglicized or less traditional someone's name is, the less luck they're having at getting an interview, let alone being hired. If true, this is either a sad indication of social regression, or a commentary on how unready many people are at step 1 of parenting - naming that small wiggling creature in your arms. In the U.S., there has been a trend away from names that mean something, to names that are purely phonetic. If Johnny Cash named his son Sue nowadays, I doubt anyone would notice. They might assume his parents were lawyers.

I have a particular personal appreciation for this subject area, having a name that is fairly uncommon on this continent. I wasn't always keen on my name as a child or as a student. Both children and adults abbreviated it or mangled it out of ignorance and malice. I was always still writing my name on my paper and filling in bubbles on computer scan sheets when the rest of the class was already on question number three. It did, however, give me great self confidence to realize how many so-called learn-ed adults could not pronounce a simple dipthong.

In later life my name has proven itself to be a worthy companion. Anyone who knows me can easily find me. I can identify friend or foe over the telephone in a single syllable - nay - in the pause before a syllable is uttered. I even found a Very Patient Spouse exactly two dozen years ago, who made no bones about trading her Chinese name for my Greek one.

And even though she lived by the sea, our situation was NOT that of Peleg and his new acquaintence in one of this week's added poems - a piece of light verse by Don Marquis, featuring an insecure groom and his imperfect bride.

A Seaside Romance

"MY NAME," I said, "is Peleg Doddleding,
  And Doddleding has been my name since birth."
And having told this girl this shameful thing
  I bowed my head and waited for her mirth.

She did not laugh. I looked at her, and she,
  With wistful gladness in her yellow eyes,
Swept with her gradual gaze the mocking sea.
  Then dried her gaze and swept the scornful skies.

I thought perhaps she had not heard aright.
  "My name," I said again, "is Doddleding!"
Thinking she would reply, "Ah, then, goodnight--
  no love of mine round such a name could cling!"

We'd met upon the beach an hour before,
  And our loves lept together, flame and flame.
I loved. She loved. We loved. "She'll love no more,"
  I moaned, "when she learns Doddleding's my name!"

She was not beautiful, nor did she seem
  The sort of person likely to be good;
Her outcast manner 'twas that bade me dream
  If any one could stand my name she could.

She seemed a weakly, sentimental thing,
  Viscious, no doubt, and dull and somewhat wried.
I said once more, "I'm Mister Doddleding!" 
  Feebly she smiled. I saw she had no pride.

The westering sun above the ocean shook
  With ecstasy, the flushed sea shook beneath . . . .
I trembled too . . . She smiled! . . . . and one long look
  Showed something queer had happened to her teeth.

O world of Gladness! World of gold and flame!
  "She loves me then, in spite of all!" I cried.
"Though Peleg Doddleding is still my name,
  Yet Peleg Doddleding has found a bride!"

I stroked her hair . . . . I found it was a wig . . . .
  And as I slipped upon her hand the ring
She said, "My name is Effie Muddlesnig--
  Oh, thank you! Thank you Mister Doddleding!"

In all the world she was the only one
  For me, and I for her . . . . lives touch and pass,
And then, one day beneath a westering sun,
  We find our own! One of her eyes is glass.

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