Thursday, December 18, 2014

Q Toon: Eviction Notice

The Michigan statehouse is cranking out what they call a Religious Freedom Protection Act, so that Jews can't be fired for refusing to work on the Sabbath. To protect Muslim butchers from being forced to offer pork roast to their customers. To guarantee Sikhs the right to wear turbans in their driver's license photos.

No, no, of course that's not the reason. It has nothing to do with the rights of religious minorities. Now that a tide of marriage equality is sweeping the land, something must be done to ensure fundamentalist Christians' right to discriminate against couples they don't like.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Dec 18, 2014
The other day, I read a blog post about "Writing People of Color (if you happen to be a person of another color)" by MariNaomi. The essay included an observation by Keith Knight that "Silly 'ethnic' names and stereotypical dialect should be avoided."

Well, shoot. There go my plans to name a character of color "LiBrarian Bookman."

I often have to give names to the generic people who speak in my cartoons -- at least in the pitch that I send to my editors, even if those names don't appear in the final product. (My editors and I are the only ones who know which is Abby and which is Zoe this week.) I have a page of my sketchbook dedicated to jotting down wordplay names as they occur to me, perhaps to be used later. A few betray an ethnic background, such as "Juan Thieu III."

I grew up in a generation who could expect to have three classmates named "Steve," four named "Mike," and a bunch of "Sues" and "Anns." At least one other classmate was guaranteed to have the same name as you. For variety, "John" might be spelled without the "h," or "Erica" with a "k" instead of the "c."

Many of my fellow baby boomers decided that their own children should have unique names, although the result was a flash flood one year or another of "Ryans" "Ashleys," and "Madisons." (If I give a character one of these names, my editors can tell exactly how old he/she is.) In a desperate attempt to forge uniqueness, many parents resorted to deliberately misspelling their children's names: "Riyann," "Aschleeigh," "Madicine."

I don't know whether African-Americans started this trend or were merely swept up in it along with everybody else, but I would argue that you'll find some of the most inventive names among African-American Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and Millennials. Some parents found wonderful names by researching their heritage. Others just made baby names up out of random syllables.

This has resulted in a lot of confusion for the people who have had to deal with these babies as they grew older. I know of a teacher scolded by a student's mother for mispronouncing the name, which included a hyphen, of her daughter: "The dash don't be silent!" (Apologies to Mr. Knight for using stereotypical dialect, but that is a direct quotation.)

If parents of any color today are looking to saddle their children with unusual, even bizarre names, I can suggest leafing through Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, with fellows named "Doremus," "Shad," and "Berzillius." The quack doctor in my cartoon last week, in fact, was named after an incidental character in the book.

All this is a roundabout way of cluing you in, dear reader, that there is an extremely obscure Merry Christmas reference in this week's cartoon somewhere.

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