Smile Politely

The Magic of Names

I am intrigued by the concepts of saints and martyrs many of whom, when they were alive, had the alleged power to heal people. But what is even more interesting (or disgusting) is the concept of relics, which are body parts (fingers, teeth, bones, etc.) of the saints and martyrs and which also are believed by some to have healing powers.

Even in our modern culture, there are people who possess great magic. I don’t really know how the magic works, but good things will happen to you if you meet one of these magical people. And if you touch one of them, some of their magic will rub off on you. Some folks are even lucky enough to acquire certain talismans that the magic people owned; for example, a handkerchief with which Elvis mopped his sweaty brow, or Mick Jagger’s armpit hair.

This powerful magic can even be invoked simply by saying the person’s name.

In the ancient past, cities would often invoke the powers of gods and goddesses by using their names. For example, Athens, Greece, was named for the goddess Athena whose temple, the Parthenon, was built on the Acropolis in Greece.

Today, cities continue to use this magic. The other day when I drove to Urbana, I noticed the sign on University Avenue that says:

              Home Town
              Miss America

Urbana has invoked the powerful magic of Erika Harold. And it really works. I remember driving to Urbana years ago, before that sign was there, and I have to admit that the city was a very dreary place. There was a depressing and ominous, death-like shroud that hung over the entire village. Most of Urbana’s residents were sick and homeless, wandering around without hope, ripping their clothes, tearing their hair, and picking through the Champaign peoples’ garbage cans for their dinner.

But now all of that has changed. Today, the people of Urbana are happy and the city is full of life, chocolate bunnies and joyful, obedient children — all because the city leaders put up that sign.

I first became aware of this phenomenon when I was growing up in the small town of Eureka, Illinois. Up until I was thirteen years old, Eureka was a place where people went to die. But in 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president and our city leaders put up signs that said something like:

              College Home
              Of President
              Ronald Reagan

Well, needless to say, suddenly everything changed in Eureka. People began to smile uncontrollably and the streets filled with balloons, music and jellybeans.

Names have magic. Powerful magic.

Now, after reading of these miraculously transformed cities, you might assume that the magic of name-dropping is a wondrous and remarkable thing and you may be tempted to use it liberally. But I must caution you, dear readers, that invoking magic names does not always work for good. There is also a wicked and dark side to this name-dropping magic.

Once I was having an innocent conversation with a friend. I don’t remember what, exactly, we were talking about — it might have been the local music scene or possibly local columns we liked to read. Anyway, at some point in the conversation I mentioned someone’s name (I dare not repeat it again here) and, almost immediately, something terrible happened to my friend. The smile vanished from her face. The light in her eyes darkened and my friend’s face became grossly contorted as if she had just sucked on a rotten lemon. Then our conversation came to an abrupt halt as she nervously murmured, “I have to go.”

I don’t know exactly what happened, but ever since that day we have no longer been friends. And someone recently told me that she checked herself into the Pavilion. I can attribute it only to the negative and evil power of magic names.

So, good readers, beware of the power of names. Some will work good. Others will not. You can trust my advice because I myself have stood with my arm around Miss America and her pure and innocent, holy magic was infused into my being. Before I met her, I was Your Evil Arrogant Heretic but ever since standing in her presence I have been,

Your Humble Heretic

Related Articles