1.11.2012

Characters (with and without Spaces)


Let's begin here.

Now, thus refined, let's continue.


My name is Benb Gallaher, as everyone that knows me on occasion sometimes knows. That’s not my given name. My given name is the far-less-challenging “Benjamin.” This happens to be a name that I rather like. I am pleased that my parents gave it to me.

Even though it’s a name of which I am fond, its derivatives and diminutives comprise a frightfully sticky wicket. I was plenty pleased as a young youngster to be called “Benji.” Except that ratty dog of the same name was a mammoth irritant. So, by the time I turned 8ish, it was truncated to “Ben”—a handle that I detested but saw myself as never being able to escape. I tried very hard to like it, even if it is the Americanized pronounciation of the past tense of “be.” I was regaled with huckamucka “How ya Ben?” and "I've Ben Working the [Expletive] Railroad" quips until whatever trite saying that means forever came true like one’s own prophesy of one’s own non-event.  

Anyway, I gradually became accustomed to turning my oversized head several hundred times daily. But, as I said, I never felt “right” about the name, just as I never felt okay in any other department of living that possessed any significance. And so it went until the end of 7th grade at West Frederick Middle School, when some friends and I were courted by teacherly personages to study Russian during the following year. (The Soviet bloc had just dissolved, so it was all Jesus Jones and “Winds of Change” and whatnot.)


A primary selling point of Russian-language scholarship was that it entailed learning a new ALPHABET in addition to new sound-and-meaning intersections. The Cyrillic alphabet was terribly fascinating to me, for reasons that I continue to understand, even with my shrinking brain. One aspect in particular that I found riveting was the presence in the alphabet of letters that contained no standalone phonetic value. This was as good as poetry to me. I’ll post them vertically, for effect.

А

Б

В

Г

Д

Е

Ё

Ж

И

Й

К

Л

М

Н

О

П

Р

С

Т

У

Ф

Х

Ц

Ч

Ш

Щ

Ъ

Ы

Ь

Э

Ю

Я

If you will, please note the 4th character from the end (Ь). It’s called a miyaki-znak, and its purpose is to soften the ending consonant of a word like one seeks to soften a blow or a stool. While that’s a very-esteemed purpose, I was into the absurdity of how it looked like an eternally lowercased b, and I wondered what would happen if I were to append it to the desultory “Ben.”


The results were marvelous. Nothing like that extra b could stay silent for long, and suddenly, my name was two syllables, had a distinct bounce to it, and rhymed with “Brenda.” I was swept away.


That was a long, long time ago, but I continue to cherish the name. Molly’s never called me anything else. And people get so uptight about it—whether someone acknowledges it is a failsafe identifier of dullness or salient guardedness. Generally, I see someone’s decision to continue calling me “Ben” as presumptuous and passive-aggressive in that dismissive way that none of us should brandish at one another’s expense.


A recent membership of mine to Vile Social Utilities Whereby People Can Choose to Forget What You're Actually Like involves this kooky thing known as "MyLife" (let's all pray that we'll have no more social utilities named after Billy Joel songs). I have very little understanding as to what its differentiating characteristics are or could be vis-à-vis other, identical social utilities, although nomenclature does, apparently, matter, however marginally.


In any case, MyLife thinks that I’m really, really into finding other people that share my name, like that’s a worthwhile thing to spend MyLife doing. And, every morning, it notifies me of my self-generated uniqueness.

2 comments:

  1. Just fyi, 笨,in Chinese, (pronounced "ben" with a falling intonation) means "stupid."

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is magic, Mr. Wade.

    ReplyDelete