By Jim McCarthy Jul 16, 2012 0 comments

Names Matter

I was driving out to the desert this weekend when my kids saw a billboard at the side of the freeway for an upcoming show in Palm Springs.  It was Engelbert Humperdinck.  This, they took as a joke.  Surely, no one could really be named Engelbert Humperdinck, and if they were, why in the name of all that’s holy would they admit to that fact in 10 foot letters on the 10 Freeway?

Well, I told them, he wasn’t always Engelbert Humperdinck.  He was once just plain old Arnold Dorsey (and he later went by Gerry Dorsey), with the same knock-out voice, but a lot less success.  I don’t really remember any of this when it happened of course because it was in the 50’s and 60’s, but music trivia is one of those things that stick with me for some reason, and I think my mom had a few of Engelbert’s records in her library.

As Engelbert Humperdinck, he’s done very well, with a long string of hits and the ability to tour successfully for decades.  Partly, it’s because of the voice and the talent, and partly, it’s because once you hear the name Engelbert Humperdinck, it’s pretty hard to forget.  You might think it sounds a little bit ridiculous (and you’d be right), but for some reason, the human brain makes it work, funny old thing that it is.

While we’re on the subject, I want to go on record (perhaps first) in saying that next year, we will begin referring to the decade we are currently in as “the Teens.”  Count on it.  It’s been 12 years since we were living in a decade that we had an easy handle for, but growing up, we were always talking about the 70’s or the 80’s or the 90’s, as in “the music of the 90’s is so…” or “can you believe the bell bottoms people wore in the 70’s” or even “let’s have a 50’s theme party” at which point we’d all go dress like Fonz or put on poodle skirts.  Some did both.

Anyway, we’ve been deprived of that since the year 2000, but it’s coming to an end.  You will naturally begin to call the decade we’re in “the teens” as soon as we get to a year that has “teen” in it, as in 2013.

Somehow 1990-2012 has all felt like one enormously long decade to me, and I think that’s the reason why.  But it’s finally over.  It will begin to feel like a new chapter because it has a better name.  Your brain, funny old thing is is, will begin to divide up time and your memories better once we’re in a decade that we have an easy way to refer to.  Watch and see.  Names matter.

(While I’ve got you, you should watch comedian Eddie Izzard’s take on Engelbert Humperdinck’s name too.  Enjoy.)

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