Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Name Game

I have been thinking about first names recently. I believe it is a function of a co-worker being pregnant and C-Mac and I looking at adopting a stray cat that has been hanging out at the house. For reference, we think her name will be "Celery." The cat, that is.

Anyway, last names, or surnames if you want to get technical, are fairly rigid so if you're stuck with a bad one...tough. Just ask Dick Butkus. Sorry about that, blame your distant ancestors. Or the INS if your surname had the misfortune of being "Americanized" upon your family's arrival to the States. Although I think Coors looks better on a beer can than Kuhrs would. Just saying.

But first names, or given names, are just that...given. Every generation is offered a small but valuable opportunity to get the next crop of "Whatevers" off on the right foot with a good, positive first name. Sadly, many parents are woefully negligent of this opportunity...no, that's not strong enough, let's go with...obligation. Parents have an OBLIGATION to their kids to name them responsibly.

And if the sports and entertainment world is any indication...many parents are not living up to their end of the bargain. And even worse, many are potentially contributing to the growing illiteracy rate in this country. For example: Jerramy Stevens, Jerame Tuman and Geramy Rodamer are all prominent football players and Jeromy Burnitz was an MLB outfielder for about 14 years.

In case you were curious, Jeremy (correct) is a form of Jeremiah and ALL of these spellings are WRONG. In fact, I blame Jerramy Stevens’ horrible Super Bowl performance and subsequent DUI in Seattle on the fact that his name is spelled incorrectly. No real Jeremy would have behaved like that. Except maybe Jeremy Miller aka Ben Seaver from Growing Pains. That kid is bad news. Anyway, Stevens has been overcompensating for that misspelled birth certificate his whole life. That’s on you, Mr. and Mrs. Stevens.


Now, in the grand scheme of genetics and socialization, naming your child wouldn't seem to be at the top of the Overall Parental Duties list. But trust me, it is and should probably be moved up in the order. It’s not as lighthearted and fun as naming your cats Cosmo and Celery. Additionally, blatantly misspelling a "normal" name is just as bad as naming your kid "Dweezil" or "Apple" or whatever. Granted, it helps if your surname is Zappa or Paltrow but come on...isn't growing up hard enough?
With that said, the sport of cycling has remained fairly untainted by the questionable naming and spelling choices plaguing professional athletics and entertainment. Except for the Fabian Phenomenon, which I detailed earlier. But I think we came to a favorable resolution with that one after all the data was collected.

So, since there is not much use in heckling the names of the riders, I thought it would be interesting to look at the origin and meaning of some high-profile first names in the world of professional cycling. Since many names, such as the aforementioned Jeremy, are cultural forms of earlier “root” names, I will try to get to the original meaning.

Cycling Geneology 101: The Given Name

LANCE – Lance Armstrong
From the Germanic name Lanzo, a short form of names that began with the element land meaning "land".

I always thought this was a crazy name because it is a Noun, a Verb and kind of an Adjective in some senses with regard to Armstrong. This is probably the most “Heckle-able” name on the list though. Lance rhymes with too many things and kids are too creative with names like this.

GREGORY – Greg LeMond
From the Latin Gregorius, which was from the late Greek name Γρηγοριος (Gregorios), which was derived from γρηγορος (gregoros) meaning "watchful, alert".

Now we know why LeMond has been so involved in all these public disputes and slanderous accusations. He was born “watchful and alert” so I guess he can’t help calling it how he sees it. He sure could have used those qualities while he was hunting back in ’87 though. Oops.

GEORGE – George Hincapie
From the Greek name Γεωργιος (Georgios) which was derived from the Greek word γεωργος (georgos) meaning "farmer, earthworker", itself derived from the elements γη (ge) "earth" and εργον (ergon) "work".

Once again, this is a very apt name for one of the best “workers” in the sport. Perhaps the “earth” part explains some of his problems in Roubaix, Eneco and California. And the “Farmer” part is clearly a reference to the tan lines.

LEVI - Levi Leipheimer
Means "attached" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament Levi was the third son of Jacob and Leah, and the ancestor of one of the twelve tribes of the Israelites (the tribe that eventually became the priests of the Israelites).

Okay, now this is a great example of how hard someone has to work to get over the limitations of their first name. Leipheimer was clearly “attached” as a racer for much of his career. He could usually hang in there but never really separated himself from the group. Things changed somewhat this year as he stretched the shackles of his “Levi-ness” a few times in the TdG, TdF and USPRO but I think he will always be fairly Levi, no matter what.

BJÖRN – Bjarne Riis
From an Old Norse name meaning "bear".

Seems pretty fitting, even though he is known as the Eagle. Regardless, those are two good animals. Question: Does a bear dope in the woods?

CHRISTOPHER – Christophe Moreau
Means "bearing Christ", derived from Late Greek Χριστος (Christos) combined with φερω (phero) "to bear, to carry". Christopher was the legendary saint who carried the young Jesus across a river.

This meaning may explain some of the rather lofty expectations carried by La Chien Moreau. Although I have to think that “young Jesus” was probably pretty light. Solid diet, super good strength to weight ratio.

ALEXANDER – Alexandre Vinokourov, Alejandro Valverde
From the Greek name Αλεξανδρος (Alexandros), which meant "defending men" from Greek αλεξω (alexo) "to defend, help" and ανηρ (aner) "man" (genitive ανδρος).

The meaning of this name would be much more appropriate if they switched it to “defended men” or “to be defended, helped.” Close, but not quite.

OSCAR – Oscar Freire, Oscar Pereiro,
Means "deer lover", derived from Gaelic os "deer" combined cara "lover". In Irish legend Oscar was the son of the poet Oisin and the grandson of the hero Fionn mac Cumhail. The name Oscar could also represent a revival of an Old English name (meaning "god spear" from Old English os "god" and gar "spear").

I am not sure how Oscar became a popular Spanish name but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be quite as common if everyone knew what it meant in Gaelic. Common meanings in Spain vary between “Rainbow Jersey Wearer” and “2nd Place.”

THOMAS – Tom Boonen
Greek form of the Aramaic name Te'oma which meant "twin". In the New Testament this is the name of the apostle who doubts the resurrected Jesus. According to tradition he was martyred in India.

If Tom Boonen had a twin, Belgium would explode. And they would win Flanders on a tandem bike.

PHILIP – Phil Ligget
From the Greek name Φιλιππος (Philippos) which means "friend of horses", composed of the elements φιλος (philos) "friend" and ‘ιππος (hippos) "horse".

Are they talking about Paul or Bob?

TYLER – Tyler Hamilton
From an occupational surname meaning "tiler of roofs" in Old English.

If the Operacion Puerto thing doesn’t get cleared up this may be a viable career option.

PAUL – Paolo Bettini
From the Roman family name Paulus, which meant "small" or "humble" in Latin.

They got the “small” part right but the gold helmet and shoes pretty much did away with the “humble” element.

LLOYD – Floyd Landis
From a surname derived from Welsh llwyd meaning "grey".

Floyd is a variation of Lloyd apparently. Feel free to read whatever you want into this meaning. Grey has a lot of connotations, but not nearly as many as say…Dick Pound for example.

5 comments:

cyclema said...

Your last entry must be feeling pretty grey today....

Jeremy T. Arnold said...

Ugh. Yeah, there is a lot of grey in this so-called "verdict."

Regardless of Landis' innocence or guilt, this was not a fair trial. This is not justice as I define it.

How do you condemn a lab for its sloppy handling and testing procedures and then validate their results?

Velovera said...

I personally love Fabrizio. Such a good Italian name. I was thinking of naming a dog Bettini or Guidoline (handlebar tape in French).

cyclema said...

"How do you condemn a lab for its sloppy handling and testing procedures and then validate their results?"

You said it in a nutshell!

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