What's in a name, and what isn't

 

Overlooked in the inane to-do about Anthony Weiner is the fact that the spellings are all wrong, and do not support the ribald aspect of the brouhaha.  Ideally, pornography should recapitulate orthography.

To wit:  the Germanic name "Wiener" -- note the vowel order -- is properly pronounced "VEEN-er" (anglicized to "WEEN-er").  Most simply, this means a person from Vienna, which in German is "Wien" (say "VEEN").  More broadly, "Wiener" is colloquially short for "Wiener  Schnitzel" (cutlet) or "Wiener Würstchen" (sausage or frankfurter).  Similarly, denizens of the cities of Frankfurt and Hamburg are Frankfurters and Hamburgers, yet we commonly know these terms as grill.  As deli items, they're food; as names, they're people.

German is full of this kind of stuff.  Berlin's specialty snack is a "Berliner."  Grammar being what it is, JFK meant to say, "Ich bin Berliner," but instead uttered "Ich bin ein Berliner," thereby forever leaving behind "I am a Berliner," in favor of "I am a jelly doughnut."  Those devilish indefinite articles.  The Berliners understood anyway, and they cheered.  If you think this is strange, just look at the simple analog in English.  "I am Danish," means I'm a Dane; "I am a Danish," means I'm a pastry.

Contrariwise, "Weiner" -- spelled Anthony's way, e-i -- doesn't actually mean anything in German.  It may be a corrupted spelling of "Wiener."  This kind of thing happened all the time at Ellis Island.  But in Yiddish, "Weiner," in its own right, means "wine merchant".  The name was often transliterated and also endures stateside as "Vayner", and spelled either way, invariably is and would be pronounced approximately as "VINE-er" (that's "WINE-er" to you).  There are plenty of Jewish Wieners, Weiners, and Vayners, and there are other spellings, too.  But the fact that the Congressman himself says "WEEN-er" doesn't help the situation any.  All his it-wasn't-easy-growing-up-with-this-name jokes might have been for nothing because, sadly, he may have his own name wrong.  Given the incongruity between its spelling and his pronunciation, that's a real possibility. 

By his silly reaction to this incident, Anthony Weiner sure looks like he's hiding something.  He certainly is a world-class whiner, and the less said about his politics, the better.  And whatever else may or not be going on, the puerile snickering is inappropriate in any case.  But, however it plays out once the subpoenas have been had, the spelling's in his favor, and at least his name is innocent.

 

Overlooked in the inane to-do about Anthony Weiner is the fact that the spellings are all wrong, and do not support the ribald aspect of the brouhaha.  Ideally, pornography should recapitulate orthography.

To wit:  the Germanic name "Wiener" -- note the vowel order -- is properly pronounced "VEEN-er" (anglicized to "WEEN-er").  Most simply, this means a person from Vienna, which in German is "Wien" (say "VEEN").  More broadly, "Wiener" is colloquially short for "Wiener  Schnitzel" (cutlet) or "Wiener Würstchen" (sausage or frankfurter).  Similarly, denizens of the cities of Frankfurt and Hamburg are Frankfurters and Hamburgers, yet we commonly know these terms as grill.  As deli items, they're food; as names, they're people.

German is full of this kind of stuff.  Berlin's specialty snack is a "Berliner."  Grammar being what it is, JFK meant to say, "Ich bin Berliner," but instead uttered "Ich bin ein Berliner," thereby forever leaving behind "I am a Berliner," in favor of "I am a jelly doughnut."  Those devilish indefinite articles.  The Berliners understood anyway, and they cheered.  If you think this is strange, just look at the simple analog in English.  "I am Danish," means I'm a Dane; "I am a Danish," means I'm a pastry.

Contrariwise, "Weiner" -- spelled Anthony's way, e-i -- doesn't actually mean anything in German.  It may be a corrupted spelling of "Wiener."  This kind of thing happened all the time at Ellis Island.  But in Yiddish, "Weiner," in its own right, means "wine merchant".  The name was often transliterated and also endures stateside as "Vayner", and spelled either way, invariably is and would be pronounced approximately as "VINE-er" (that's "WINE-er" to you).  There are plenty of Jewish Wieners, Weiners, and Vayners, and there are other spellings, too.  But the fact that the Congressman himself says "WEEN-er" doesn't help the situation any.  All his it-wasn't-easy-growing-up-with-this-name jokes might have been for nothing because, sadly, he may have his own name wrong.  Given the incongruity between its spelling and his pronunciation, that's a real possibility. 

By his silly reaction to this incident, Anthony Weiner sure looks like he's hiding something.  He certainly is a world-class whiner, and the less said about his politics, the better.  And whatever else may or not be going on, the puerile snickering is inappropriate in any case.  But, however it plays out once the subpoenas have been had, the spelling's in his favor, and at least his name is innocent.

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