Monday, August 1, 2011


Perhaps because I have answered to it for 63 years, I quite like my name and was bemused to see Tropical Storm Don barrelling through the Caribbean the other day. Bemused, that is, until I read some of the comments on the CNN web site.

"Don? Seriously? I refuse to be prepared for anything named Don," wrote ksig162. "Don is the weird great-uncle that shows up at the family reunion and eats all the potato salad. We need better names like Prometheus or Shaniqua."

Well, ksig162, let me address a few of your issues. First of all, yes, I am the sort to show up at a reunion and eat all the potato salad.

But Don (and its formal version, Donald) have a proud tradition. In the 1930's and early 40's, it was one of the ten most popular baby names in the US. In my birth year of 1948, it ranked 14th which means there are a lot of baby boomers named Don. Which, to be fair, may very well explain thinking it sounds like a great-uncle's name.

Even as late as 1990, Donald was in the Top 100 for boys names in the US. Now, inevitably, it has declined in popularity and in 2010 it had fallen to #377.  But you think Prometheus or Shaniqua are better names? I challenge you to name even three great people with those names.  (OK, the guy who brought us fire and the lady wrestler, but have you got a third?)

Yet consider the Donalds and Dons of this world. (And I'm not even going to go for the the honorary title of Don and bring in such characters as Don Corleone and Don Diego de la Vega.)

In the field of entertainment, we have Don Cheadle and Donald Sutherland, Oscar winner Don Ameche, the great hoofer Donald O'Connor and my favorite soul singer, the late Donny Hathaway. Here in Oz, our greatest sporting legend is Don Bradman, probably the greatest cricketer ever.

We do seem to have dropped the ball in politics. All I can come up with right now are Rumsfeld and Trump, but I think even with those two you wouldn't refuse to be prepared if they were coming your way.

And then there's my Uncle Don. The man I was named after and who was one of the great gentle men of this earth. (And I do mean gentle man and not just gentleman.)

You may mock my name, but it is a great legacy. The brainy ones at Wikipedia explain the name  means "world ruler". coming from the Gaelic "donn" for chief. And it is such a Gaelic-sounding name, isn't it? "My name is Don," sounds just about right in English, but "Soy Don" or "Je suis Don" just doesn't ring true.

Nope, when a storm is named Don, it's coming from the cold north and carrying a shilelagh. So maybe the problem was that they used the name for a tropical storm from the Caribbean. In any case, I have to admit that you were right not to get too fussed and prepare for the storm.

As the Gonzalez Cannon reports on its web site, Tropical Storm Don was more accurately named Tropical Storm Dud.

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