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What's in a name? Everything

By: Brian McLeod

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am

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As many of you know, our American cousins have been busy observing the 150th anniversary of their Civil War. These observances will continue to April, 2015, a date that marks the original surrender of the Confederate forces.

This got me thinking about some of the colorful figures that gained prominence during the war, and whether or not their prominence would still have occurred with different names. For example, at the first battle of Bull Run, Confederate forces were caving in to superior Union forces when Confederate general, Jubal Early, saw his partner, General Thomas Jackson, holding firm.

Early called out to his soldiers: “Look at Jackson, boys, he’s holding like a stone wall. Rally around the Virginians.” The result was a Confederate victory and a new general was born: Stonewall Jackson.

But had General Early said, “he’s holding like a brick outhouse” (which, after all, is just as sturdy as a stone wall), would history have been as kind to “Brick Outhouse Jackson” as it was to Stonewall? I think not.

And what about Union general, Ulysses S. Grant? The hero of Vicksburg, Grant took control of all battered Union forces in Maryland and Virginia, and through a dogged campaign of continual engagements, wore down the rebel forces under the command of Robert E. Lee. Ultimately, Lee had no option, other than surrender.

But if Ulysses had commanded under the name Jimbo, I doubt President Lincoln would have even given him the chance to show his military skills.

In fact, this phenomenon is not limited to Civil War participants. Would Alexander have conquered the known world if he had been known as Alexander the Mild-Mannered? He would never have made it out of Macedonia with that name.

Would Bonaparte have conquered continental Europe if his name had not been Napoleon, but Elmo instead? Elmo Bonaparte? Just doesn’t sound that scary. William the Conqueror as William the Polite? Forget it, William, stay in Normandy and keep weaving your baskets.

Or, if we look at more recent times, we remember the name of General Erwin Rommel, the German general who became known as The Desert Fox for his brilliant (but ultimately unsuccessful) campaign against Allied forces in North Africa. Heck, this guy is remembered even though he lost! Would Erwin have earned his nickname if he bore the moniker of Skippy instead? I believe Skippy Rommel would have spent most of the war cleaning out latrines in Yugoslavia.

Sticking with the Second World War for the moment, would Winston Churchill have been so successful at rallying the British spirit if his parents had named him Mickey instead? Fortunately, we will never know, for I fear the results would have been disastrous.

Clothes make the man? I daresay, I think the name makes the man (or woman). With that in mind, I’ve applied to change my name from Brian McLeod to Protector Braun, The Magnificent. And, please be warned, any clown who abbreviates this to Brauny will be shot.

Brian McLeod is a longtime prisoner of St. Albert.


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