Saturday, December 26, 2009

Arrr and stuff

Another Christmas drawing to a close, standing on the cusp of a new year, the mind takes a philosophical, even sentimental bent. So as 2010 draws near, I ponder the same issues everyone else does. By that of course, I mean why is Captain Kidd famous?

You could go stand outside Wal-Mart and ask people... hey, did you know Wal-Mart security guards have tasers? Well I sure didn't, but that's a different story.

So you could stand just OFF Wal-Mart property (I can't stress that enough) and ask strangers to name famous pirates. Answers would be: Blackbeard, Long John Silver and Captain Kidd. LJS was a fictional character of course, but I understand lines are blurry these days. Blackbeard, or Edward Teach? Personally fearless, audacious chap with a cool nickname.

But why Captain Kidd? That guy was such a lousy pirate, were he alive today he'd be pitching for Pittsburgh. His entire short, depressing piratical career consisted of taking one ship. And that only happened because his crew bullied him into it. Yep, some fearsome buccaneer there!

Morgan was a much better pirate. Ships? Pish! Morgan did ships for practice. He also siezed islands and looted cities. Yet Kidd is the more enduring name in the pirate dictionary. So why is that? It's because he had a perfect name.

First, alliterative names have a powerful effect on the memory. An example? Hmmm...
OK, pre-radio no US Presidents had alliterative names. Post-radio, twenty percent have had alliterative names. The graph takes off exactly at the point when mass consumption of the spoken word starts. Not just politicians either. Ninety percent of all cartoon characters have alliterative names too. But politicians, cartoons, I don't wish to get redundant here.

Second, most people are children when exposed to general history stuff like pirates. In a world dominated by adults, youngsters find something empowering in a person named 'Kidd' even if they understand he wasn't actually a child pirate.

So it works like that sometimes. One's enduring fame can be less accomplishments, more the name they bear. But it's the time of year all our thoughts turn to the deeper mysteries of life. Like for instance, what's the deal with that cereal box? "Cap'n Crunch" for Lord's sakes? Can't they show respect and spell the man's rank correctly? Either make the letters smaller or the box bigger; problem solved.

And how come he's been in the Navy all these years without getting promoted? I should go to Wal-Mart and ask people about that. But I'll stand just OFF Wal-Mart property. Can't stress that enough.

No comments: