Monday, January 02, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Et Cetera

A few days ago, we blustered about corporate re-branding. Apparently, the people of the Somme region in northern France overheard, and thought this was a wonderful idea. Historically lumped in with some neighbors under the general category of Picards, they decided that they deserved their own name. So they held a contest. Per the Beeb, some 23,ooo locals offered suggestions. Not all were entirely serious:
Some of the more outlandish suggestions included the Simpsommes, Sommosapiens, Sommeilleurs (sleepy ones) or Sommites (luminaries).
The winner was less inventive: Samariens, from a Latin word for long, lazy river. Okay, we guess, but no Sommoosapiens.

All this raises a question for us. Regional pride is all well and good, but -- from a purely economic perspective -- do they truly think it serves their purpose to adopt a name that will remind English-speakers, at least, of a brutal Great War bloodbath, when they previously enjoyed one that reminded us of our favorite starship captain?

Jokes aside, the name given to a particular group of people can be awfully serious. Yesterday, we were serenaded by a cluster of Gypsies, celebrating the New Year (and looking for donations of cash, booze or tobacco). But of course one doesn't call them Gypsies anymore, at least in theory, as in French one doesn't call them Tsigane (or Gitans, or Manouches, or whatever).

Easily the most calumniated people in modern Europe, they have asked to be known as the Romany or, more often, merely the Roma. And so they are, at least in the European press and the literature of well-meaning NGOs.

But this name is immensely annoying to those who can claim to have prior dibs. Citizens of the Italian capital city, for one. For another, the 22 million or so [other] citizens of Romania, whose name for themselves is Romani (masculine plural) and means little more nor less than "Romans." Rightly or wrongly, they're quite protective of the name, and of the history they believe it reveals.

The European Union has chosen to call ... those other people ... "Rrom," a name that manages to neither please anybody nor solve the problem.

It is not our place to tell anybody what they should call themselves or ask to be called. People in our own country are generally called Americans, which is a little tough on the hundreds of millions of other people who live in the Americas.

Still, the confusion is annoying to everybody. Somebody needs a new name. And we hear that Sommosapiens is up for grabs.

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