What’s In A Name?

This item popped up on my Ancestry page last week. It has me worried for my identity, my very existence…

For context, we’ll need to check out Stanford University’s Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, a list of blackballed…I mean, whitewashed…I mean, well, it’s difficult to keep up with the proper wordage in this brave new vocabulary.

In it’s zeal to expunge any trace of favoritism, racism, or nationalism, American will be replaced by U.S. citizen. Immigrant will be replaced by non citizen or person who has immigrated. I’m not sure how that last definition differs from the original, but hey, if makes someone feel better about their status it must be okay.

It’s been especially tough for rappers, and even mainstream songwriters and singers. In this digital age it’s easy to edit out every dreaded “n” word and “f” bomb, but in doing so it dilutes the message the artist was trying to convey.

I have to look at my name with wokened eyes. If Crabb describes someone with a peculiar gait, as in awkward, then it nails this old man who now has to walk with a cane just to keep from falling over. And if you read my comics, you know that I’m a cranky, sour tempered, judgemental person at least some of the time. And that would be hurtful to my self-image, however accurate.

My name was challenging during my formative years. From the first day of kindergarten there were snickers from my peers when my name was read out loud by the teacher during role call. I was bombed with bastardized versions like crabapple and crabtree throughout grade school by bullies and mean girls, which did nothing for my sense of self-worth.

By the time I reached high school I had become hardened against such slings and arrows. My mantra was sticks and stones may crack my exoskeleton, but words will never hurt me.

And as I matured I embraced the name, even using it to recreate myself as Crabman, a superhero bitten by a radioactive crab louse, giving me the power to leap great distances and command armies of crabs to infest the pubic areas of evildoers.

And now, in my doddering years, the name fits me, both mentally and physically. I’m a crabby old man who skitters around sideways. My cartoons are sarcastic scrawls aimed at my growing frustration with the world around me.

But it is wrong. In this new century I should not have to endure such a hateful moniker. If it is possible to be misgendered, then certainly I have been misnamed. I am not an animal! I am a man!

The name will have to be scrubbed from the dictionary, and every cartoon and signature I’ve ever scrawled will need to be replaced by…what?

I suppose I could go for the literal scientific nomenclature; Crustacean, but it sounds a little awkward. I could shorten it to Crusty, but even that suggests a stale, hard exterior or attitude.

When Mary Ann and I were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, I signed up for a supermarket discount card so we could buy the ingredients for sandwiches and avoid the high cost of restaurants. Being the jokester I am, and knowing it wouldn’t mean much after the trip, I signed up as Rex Manley. I forgot about it until a few years later when I happened to be in the same chain here at home. After I used the card, the checker sent me off by saying, “Have a nice day, Mr. Manley.”

Indeed. Of course, Manley suggests toxic masculinity and gender identity issues, so forget that, and Rex implies the snootiness, white fragility and privilege of royalty.

I say the hell with this new age redacted reality. I survived seventy-two years of abuse. If anything, it reinforced my resolve to be my own unique person. I like me. I am, and forever shall be, Crabb.

And to those who would restrict and redefine our vocabulary, watch out what you wish for. It’s not as easy as saying just be nice. You can’t purge ugliness from the New Word Order by wishing it away. Think of all the books, songs, poems, films and letters that will have to be edited to be acceptable as  self-appointed censors invade every bookstore, classroom, library and home in civilized society. Think of how creativity will be stunted by the fear of writing down an idea that doesn’t conform to what’s popular at one given moment in history.

Some conservatives want to rewrite our history to highlight the nobility of American principles. Some progressives want to rewrite our history to expose the hypocrisy of all men are created equal in regards to slavery and Jim Crow. There’s enough room in the history books for both.

And while these politically correct scolds on the left and right decry name calling, they are all too eager to slap labels such as fascist or communist on those who don’t follow the party line.

Ray Bradbury confronted school censors who “softened” the language in his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 to make it more palatable to young readers by saying, “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”

I’m not saying it’s okay to bully people with slurs and bad language. Those who engage in serial  name calling deserve to be called out. As long as there are idiots (another banned word) in the world, I’ll be scrawling unflattering images of them. But I’ll do my best to avoid punching down on those who can’t punch back.

Even so, we need to be able to discuss our differences without being labeled as a heretic and consigned to linguistic limbo. We need to face facts when the evidence is beyond question, even if it doesn’t fit your preconceived notions.

You can remove the word evil from the dictionary, but it will still exist.


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1 Response to What’s In A Name?

  1. Tom Banwell says:

    Hear hear! Beautifully spoken, er I mean written. Isn’t life hard enough without having to monitor every word?

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