Published On: Fri, Jan 17th, 2014

What’s in a name?

Dear Editor:

The other evening there was a TV interview of a man who had spent 15 years in a jail cell with “Machine Gun” Kelly. He said, “Machine Gun” was a chatterbox, during all those years, often beginning a story with “Did I ever tell you about…?” and when I would say “yes,” he’d say, “Well this is the way it happened” and begin the now familiar details. (Note: this writer had a conversation with “Machine Gun’s” wife and her mother, Ora Shannon, once at the Alderson Prison where they were serving their time for kidnapping.)

It is a jump that leads into the following, but there was a prisoner named “York” who had also had contact with “Machine Gun,” a name I can’t hear unless I think of WWI hero Alvin York and believe me this guy didn’t look at all like Gary Cooper, more like Walter Brennan. Credit is given to “Machine Gun” for the word “G-Men” as that is what he shouted as he was captured yelling for them not to shoot as he was surrendering.

Something must have triggered a recollection that in the telling will require forbearance on the part of the Editor as it does go into this and a later continuation, realizing that staying on the same subject, issue after issue, can wear against the interest of the readership.

As we nodded our way through the history teachings, we may have missed the fact that we of the Anglo heritage did not have surnames until after the invasion of England by the French, who occupied that nation and the Royal Court for an extended time. As an example, this writer would, under the old custom, would have been known as “Jack of Lewisburg.” Then, after the French influence a trade or profession title might come into play, Smith or Miller for example. Perhaps a physical trait, as in my family, “Abelard” (bald headed) later the “A” was dropped and “l” was added becoming “Ballard,” which in Great Britain is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable.

More familiar to the student of English Literature is the romantic novel, “Heloise & Abelard” telling of the love affair between a pupil and her tutor who in spite of his vows of chastity, taken when he became a Priest, shall as we can say, yielded to the flesh and for this crime against his faith, his superiors in the church demanded a terrible an extreme punishment, which he survived, a clue to what it was may be found by knowing his Christian name.

Not as drastic was a scene in a recent film showing an outraged parent, leading a crowd, waving a baseball bat in the air, as he proceed towards a high school class room and an instructor who had been found to have been touching a student in an improper way. A voice called out “What are you going to do?” and the reply was “A little bit of this will stop a lot of that!”

Jack Ballard

Lewisburg