Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It's all in a name ?

Johnson-Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush- ???

Starting in 1963, and extending to the present, the United States has been led by Presidents with a maximum of two syllables in their last name.

So what does this mean for Barack Obama ? O-bah-mah. That's three syllables ! Ouch. Since Johnson replaced Kennedy, the following major party candidates have had three or more syllables in their names- Goldwater, McGovern, Dukakis. What do these three candidates have in common- a two-syllable word- landslide. Goldwater and McGovern were soundly thrashed in both the popular vote and the electoral bullshit- um, er, electoral college. Dukakis has the honour of having lost the popular vote by slightly less than 10% but getting pistol-whipped (or is that tank-whipped) by almost 4-1 in the EC.

So what's in a name ? Well, we already know that a Clinton can beat a Bush, and a Bush can beat a McCain...but this is linguistics, not math.

Do Americans have some weird preference for short names in politics ? Is this all that's standing between Dennis Kucinich and the White House ? Is Mike Huckabee destined to be an also-ran because his grandfather didn't change the family name to Huckfinn?

Even the men on the losing end have been short-namers. The last four losers ? Bush-Dole-Gore-Kerry- or is that Bush-Dole-Bush-Bush ? It's same short names either way.

The last time five syllables were involved in the Presidential Election (two major party candidates), it was Nixon/McGovern, and that was a bloodbath.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for big names. Let's face it, what's more fun to say, George Bush, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ? Now granted, I wouldn't want to have dinner with, much less live in a country led by, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but that's a name that you can lay into. It's fun to say, if you can get your tongue around it. And the United States has been making it too easy for foreign journalists for 45 years. While we have to learn to say (and spell) Ahmadinejad, Sarkosy, Macapagal-Arroyo, and so on- names that are hard for us, if not for others- we've been serving up softballs- the last 20 years all we've served up are Bush, Clinton and Gore. Um, I mean Bush and Clinton. And the Bushes both had the same first name. What the hell is that ?

That's right, for the last 20 years the country has been run by either a George or a Bill. This is the same country that once served up Ulysses as President (granted, he sucked).

I'd be all for Barack Obama changing his name to Obamalamadama. Try it- come on, just try saying it. Felt good, didn't it ? I can see the translators struggling to make that name into something intelligible... just think what they could do with it on the Daily Show.

So, can a man with three syllables in his last name beat a man with just two ?

Well, I certainly hope this isn't what decided the general election, let us put it that way. After all, we wouldn't want to interfere with the Diebold hegemony, would we ?

No comments: