Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Kerry me back to old Bohemia

Kerry me back to old Bohemia

Posted on the American Dialect Society's listserv:
A recent issue of the German magazine Spiegel (1 March 2004, p. 109) tells how John Kerry's grandfather came to have the last name Kerry. The story probably appears in John Kerry's autobiography:
(translation): "In contrast [to the blueblood origin of the mother's side of the family], the Kerrys have a prosaic family tree. The grandfather of the little JFK [i.e., John Forbes Kerry, vs. President JFK] was actually named Fritz Kohn and was a Jew from Bohemia. Before his emigration in 1904, he looked over a map, selected a new name based on the Irish county Kerry and converted to Catholicism."
Ah, fait' an' begorrah, but the name Fritz Kerry brings the mim'ries back behin' th' eyeballs. Sure, an' a fine broth of a boy he was, an' minny a day were the Fritzes and the Fitzes in and out o' one another's yards, stealing one another's cattle, as long as the sun did shine.

But why become Catholic, and then leave Bohemia. Or did Fritz convert and then have to leave? In any case, I'll bet it was a shock to arrive in Boston and find that being Irish Catholic was but small improvement on being Jewish. With a bit of luck and a better map, he'd have become Presbyterian and changed his name to Lowell. Another Jewish immigrant did that once, so the story goes, giving rise to the rhyme,
This is the town of Boston,
home of the bean and the cod,
where the Cabots speak only to Lowells,
and the Lowells speak Yiddish, by God!
The poster's name is Cohen. I want to be there when he addresses John F. "Band of Mongols" Kerry as "Cousin John" and gets the famous Kerry "Do you know who I am" treatment.


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