August 26, 2004

N.B.: Voting for the Blogalike Contest continues through midnight (Eastern Standard Time) tomorrow, Friday, August 27. If you haven’t voted yet, please do so, and help somebody win a gift certificate to Powell’s City of Books!

Today is a first on the Search for Love in Manhattan.

Someone has written me and asked me for advice.

What makes this event even more exciting is that the question is from Milksop, whose tenure as a guest blogger here was one of the highlights of this blog’s first year.

And so, my first advice column.

Dear Faustus,

I have a unique predicament involving both etiquette and pronunciation, so naturally, I turn to you.

I know the correct pronunciation of Ayn Rand’s name, but every time I use it, I feel pretentious. I realize the ideal course of action is not to use her name at all, but sometimes it is unavoidable, as she often makes a good punchline.


Dear Milksop,

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be asked at last for my opinion, and how doubly thrilled I am that the request should come from someone as fabulous as you. I have received any number of calls for assistance from people like Peter Ighene of Zimbabwe, whose father had the foresight to put $24,000,000 in a bank in Johannesburg before President Mugabe’s Land Act Reform apparently led to the massacres that killed him. Yet there has always seemed to be a touch of–how shall I say it?–the dramatic in these cries for help, and so I have found myself regrettably unable to come to the aid of Mr. Ighene and his ilk.

You are wise to have turned to me. The world is, alas, full of people who fail to navigate successfully the Scylla of incorrectness and the Charybdis of pretension. This leaves us with, on the one hand, people who pronounce “forte” (meaning “strong point”) “fortay” instead of “fort,” and, on the other hand, Alex Trebek. Those who do not wish to be part of either group have a very narrow strait to sail.

That said, you have asked me a question to which I do not have an easy, ready answer. Nevertheless, it would be churlish of me not to attempt a reply, and so I have compiled a list of some of your options.

1) You can just mispronounce her name and call her “Ann.” This is, in fact, what I do (hence my lack of an easy, ready answer), because my hatred of Ms. Rand and her shallow and morally destitute works is so vast that I am unable to express it except by pronouncing her name in a way to which she objected. However, I understand that not everyone may be capable of such boorishness.

2) You can call her by her given name, Alisa Rosenbaum. In the quite likely event that your conversational partners express confusion, you can give them either a) a condescending “oh, of course you don’t know that, you’re cretins” smile or b) a “God, I knew you were losers, but this is beyond ridiculous” eyebrow lift (with voiceless laugh), and then pronounce Ms. Rosenbaum’s chosen name with painful correctness. If you want to be really patronizing, you can even do that little quote-unquote gesture with your fingers.

While effective as a way of scoring points off rivals, this method leaves something to be desired when what’s called for is a punchline.

3) You can say her name correctly but very quickly and casually. This way a) the listener who thinks it’s pronounced “Ann” will hear what he or she expects to hear, b) the listener who knows it’s pronounced “Ine” but thinks it’s pretentious to pronounce it that way won’t be exactly sure what he or she has heard and will have to give you the benefit of the doubt or risk accusations of being unAmerican because of the whole innocent until proven guilty thing, and c) the listener who knows it’s pronounced “Ine” and thinks people who pronounce it any other way are morons will immediately include you among the cognoscenti.

I suspect that this last option is the most appropriate for your purposes. The problem, however, as my friend A.N. (who is smarter and funnier than both of us put together) reminded me, is that Ayn Rand, having been born in Russia, had an accent so thick as to be nearly incomprehensible, and actually pronounced her own name more like “Awn” than anything else.

Which is, in some ways, the most attractive choice of all.

I hope this discussion has been of some assistance to you. I encourage other readers who have questions about anything and everything to write me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go fantasize about how Chris Meloni, John Stamos (who, I just found out, is divorcing his wife), silver diving medalist Alexandre Despatie, and I might pass an evening together.

Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to N.B.: Voting for the Blogalike

  1. David says:

    I regret to inform you that John (pronounced “Jine”) Stamos is divorcing his wife for me.

  2. Sparky says:

    My new and utterly prurient interest in Alexandre Despatie has been the highlight of my week. I feel dirty looking at his website, though, because most of the pictures of him there are from his pre-legal days. Current Olympic footage, however, is both permissible and delicious.

  3. Melody says:

    I just found your blog, and I think I love you. Unfortunately for both of us, I’m a lesbian. I’ll be back, though. Maybe we can work on it.

  4. joe says:

    oh you pretentious, insecure fuckers. i love you. great entry.

  5. mauci says:

    really nice blog =)

  6. Five years ago, I read Atlas Shrugged.

    Four years ago, I read The Fountainhead and won a county-wide essay contest entitled “A Book That Has Influenced Your Life,” writing about Atlas Shrugged.

    Then I made friends. After that, I didn’t find it necessary to take a shot of Rand or Kafka to get through the day.

  7. Nick says:

    I despise Atlas Shrugged, am ambivalent about The Fountainhead, but love Anthem. I think it’s because short is better when it comes to novel. Unlike most things.

    I don’t have the pronunciation issue because in Utah people ask “Who?” no matter how you say it.

    Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree about Mr. Despatie. I was initially disappointed that he does not speak with as much of a French-Canadian accent as I expected (you can hear him speak in his bio), but I’ve overcome my disappointment. I’ve already imagined him repeat my name in several degrees of excited utterance!

  8. Kreedi says:

    A few salient facts about myself. I live in Bombay, a city which my extraordinarily annoying peers like to compare, in tones of seriocomic complacency, with New York. I have managed to acquire, in the last five years, a reputation of being somewhat literate; I suppose drunkenly declaiming James Merrill at parties has something to do with it. I am a peace-loving thirty-one-year-old gay man.

    If one more person, taking advantage of my charming and placid manner, asks me what I think of Paulo Coelho or Kahlil Gibran or Ayn Rand I will have to resort to violence. Or worse, rudeness. It seems I am surrounded by people who read nothing but “The Alchemist,” “The Prophet,” and “The Fountainhead.”

    At any rate, it’s a good thing that sex is possible without conversation.


  9. David, John (pronounced “Jawn”) Stamos told me that your comment is a baldfaced lie. Or at least he would have told me so if his mouth hadn’t been full.

    Sparky, I totally agree with you. The Sydney pictures are both disquieting (due to the NAMBLA factor) and unsatisfying, as he really is much more attractive now than he was then, even taking into account the age factor. I have been trying and trying to find photographs of him on the board about to dive, in profile with that terrific scruff (usually a turn-off for me but somehow wildly exhilarating in this case) but that image, so prolific on my television screen, seems not to be available anywhere online.

    Melody, my policy is to bend over backwards to satisfy anyone who praises me or who might conceivably do so in the future. Or, in some cases, to bend over forwards, though given your lesbianism, that’s perhaps less relevant here. Maybe together we can find a solution to our plumbing/flavor incompatibility.

    Joe, ditto, except without the lesbianism part.

    Mauci, mi piace molto averti amusato. Gli italiani mi facciano impazzare. Mi sposi? Per piacere?

    Kevin, I am not surprised that people who would name a contest “A Book That Has Influenced Your Life” would award first prize to an essay about Ayn Rand. I myself still need a shot of Kafka to get through the day; luckily, I get it from our current administration.

    Nick, in fact, it’s just as well that his accent is slight, as the dismaying thing about sleeping with francophones is that the French word for “yeah” (“ouais”) sounds extraordinarily like the English word “wait.” This leads to errors of synchronicity. Actually, I just realized that this would be true no matter how thick his accent, but I’m leaving the comment as is simply because I think it’s funny.

    Jay (or Kreedi? It’s not clear to me which you go by), seeing people reading The Alchemist on the subway makes me wish I had a broader interpretation of the second amendment even more than seeing people reading the Bible on the subway. It is perfectly acceptable to be surrounded by people who read The Prophet, as long as one teaches eighth grade.

  10. Vikram says:

    The Fountainhead is an example of a book that goes downhill from sentence one. When I picked it up, as a horny closeted teen, I was really excited because it starts with whatsisname the architect guy standing naked on a cliff. And then it goes downhill from there, though unfortunately he doesn’t.

    Jay, by the way, is hardly as disaffected as he’d have you believe. After posting his comment and getting your reply, he called me in great excitement. I wonder if all your readers behave like that.

  11. Marc says:

    How coincidental that your Blogalike voting post has 69 comments. That could not be more appropriate.

  12. Kevin says:

    In what marks my complete and final detachment from Rand, earlier today I sold my comprehensive collection of her books in a yard sale.

    Although it’s great to get her out of my hair, I’m now reconsidering whether it was wise to propagate her philosophy to the plebs. Damn.

  13. DuracellOfFinland says:

    Just to treat you with some more Olympic highlights…

    You’re obviously warming a heart of a nordicdyke *grins*


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *