Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Fred Thompson's Name Value

Political name recognition has gone Nutsy Fagin. This weekend the Washington Post has a disquisition on the power of the name “Fred.”

Anticipating the entry of Thompson into the Presidential race, an onomastician (scholar of the linguistics of names) tells us "The name Fred is basic and homey. It should give people a reassuring image."

Thompson augurs well, too, “a name with natural trochaic rhythm, which replicates a heartbeat and thus starts building appeal in the womb."

In 2004, we learn, there was a book titled "The Fred Factor" to extol the pleasures of hard work, and more promising still, further research reveals that “Fred” is derived from the German, meaning “Peace Ruler.”

In an earlier day, the candidate-to-be would have had to present his full appellation, Frederick Dalton Thompson. But Harry Truman started it all going downhill. Before him, Presidents had stately, sonorous names--Franklin, Herbert, Grover, Woodrow--but Truman was a not a Henry turned folksy, Harry was on his birth certificate.

After that, Dwight David Eisenhower was shortened to “Ike” by headline writers and the floodgates were open to Jimmy and Bill. Now every Tom, Dick or Harry can run for President, although two recent Georges have stemmed the tide temporarily.

Fred should do well against Hillary, which sounds like the name of the victim in an Agatha Christie mystery, but his chances against Barack, which means “blessed,” are etymologically uncertain.

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