Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Nutty Name Ruffles Some Feathers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Nutty Name Ruffles Some Feathers

Article excerpt

My teenage son, Alyosha, is very sensitive to the importance of names.Perhaps this is because his own name, which is Russian, has several variations, including"Alyoshka," "Alyoshinka," and "Aleksashka." Little did I suspect that the very concept of bestowing a name would become a bone of contention between us.

It all goes back to a student I had in my college biology course last year.As I was reading the roster on that first day of class, I halted at a name that captivated me, and was clearly native American.I examined it, and then, after a moment's pause, slowly marched the syllables out:"Min-quan-sis."

Then I looked up at the class and allowed impulse to carry me away."Whoever this is," I announced, "I need to say that I think this is the most beautiful name I've ever heard."

A young woman with distinct Indian features slowly raised her hand and threw me a sheepish look.

"Am I pronouncing it right?" I asked her.

She nodded, and then echoed, "Minquansis."

During the course of the semester I used her name at every opportunity, for the sheer pleasure of speaking it.To me it drew to mind the image of a canoe bobbing on a summer lake, against the backdrop of a rocky shore lined with tall pines.

I am happy to be able to say that Minquansis did well.When she exited the course at the end of the semester, I truly lamented the loss of opportunity to recite her enchanting name.

The scene now moves to a recent day, when I suggested to my son that we obtain a companion for his solitary parakeet, whom he had named Harpo for its inability, or lack of willingness, to speak.Alyosha was all for it, and even gave me carte blanche to select the new bird.

The next day I went down to the pet store and found a young, buff-yellow female, the type of bird I could imagine alighting on a canoe bobbing on a summer lake ringed with pines.

I brought her home and placed the nervous creature in a separate cage set next to Harpo, who immediately retreated to a far corner of his own domain and eyed the new arrival with pointed interest.

When Alyosha came home from school that day, he immediately sought out the new budgie. …

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