Monday, September 10, 2012

Adventures in Onomastics

As I sortied forth with the recyclables, the next-door front-lawn presented a spectacle of two amiable females, two generations apart.

I greeted grandma with what little Polish I know (she has taken charge while her daughter lies in childbed above), then turned to little Miss Marya.   We exchanged well-bred greetings, and then she turned to a new topic.

“My clown-name is Honky,” she said, holding forth her polka-dotted dress as though by way of illustration -- as though it were a costume;  which, for her, at the moment, it doubtless was.  (After all, all our clothing is a costume for something.)
“Ah, yes!” I said, catching on.  “That thing they do with the big red nose.”
“Like this,” she illustrated, squeezing her little button of one, and emitting, in her childish countertenor, more of a hink than a honk.
(Everyone should have a clown-name, I reflected.  Un nom de clown. )

I asked how the newborn baby is doing.   Her reply was matter-of-fact.
“He’s upstairs sleeping.”  Then she added, as though dubious, with a bit of a frown.  “He’s very … small.”
I nodded agreement:  That’s the thing about babies.
“He doesn’t have a number,” she added;  and, well, she had me there.  I’ve been re-watching the British TV series “The Prisoner” (where Number Six bellows, “I am not a number -- I am a free man!”);  but surely she cannot yet be so intertextual as that.
“He’s zero,” she explained;  and added, “I’m four.”

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