Mrs. Buttersworth & Politics

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One of my childhood friends was Johnny.  Through most of my formative years, we and a gang of several others ruled the neighborhood, skateboarding in the middle of the street, playing army in the woods, biking in the fields around them, and doing whatever anywhere else that our feet or bikes would take us.  Good times. 

Adding a long e sound to the end of names certainly wasn’t universal, but it was common.  Daniel to Danny, Amanda to Mandy, Patricia to Patty, Charles to Charlie, Jaclyn to Jackie… etc.

I moved away for a few years before meeting up with Johnny again in college.  John.  I guess it’s kind of like the little kid “buzz cut” that eventually grows out for a more adult form.  So long, Johnny. I adapted. 

The same can often be said for pets.  It’s rare to have, say, a dog named Gilbert.  But, Berty, maybe.  Gussy?  Whatever.  We’ve had dogs named Sadie, Gypsy and Maddie.  And, a cat named Joey.  My wife and her two siblings each have names that end with “y” or “ie”, so maybe there’s a built in predisposition.  Still, the customization adds a flavor of affection, I’d say.

Puppy, kitty, bunny, monkey, donkey, horsey, pony…  No wonder kids like them.

Fast forward to the 1990’s Atlanta Braves, who fielded some fine teams with excellent pitchers.  Greg “Mad Dog” Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine.  We know the names, but people who listened to the announcers, teammates and managers knew the last two as “Smoltzy” and “Tommy.”  They were adults, but I guess professional baseball players are still playing a kids game and are naturally tagged with kid names.

Some names stick.  Bobby Cox, their manager, was born Robert Joseph Cox.  I gather he’s lived all his life as Bobby, and I’m fine with that.  It’s a more familiar form of a formal name, just as Tommy would be for Tom, or Johnny for John.  Currently, the Braves have Tim Hudson.  “Huddy.”  Meanwhile, the Falcons have Matt Ryan, aka “Matty Ice.”  Whatever.   If nicknames won titles, Atlanta would have a rich sports history.

But a line has to be drawn somewhere.

Recently I heard a sports talk host refer to the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach Mike Smith as “Smitty.”  I guess they’re buddies, right?  If I were getting paid millions of dollars and/or being paid to be the head of an organization where respect and authority are implicit, I think I might prefer to be called “Coach Smith,” … if, of course, my last name was Smith.  And Smitty needs some respect, as his 0-3 record in the playoffs is not endearing.  Arty Blanky has some thinkin’ to do.

Did anyone call Dean Smith “Smitty?”  Would anyone call Mike Krzyzewski “Coach Mikey?”  Vince Lombardi “Vinny?”  Of course not.

I researched the internet (Googled means research, right?) and couldn’t find any psychological studies that looked into whether names with long e sounds provoke feelings of warmth, likeability or affection.  Clearly, though, the weight of our societal experience points towards just that.  The more eeeeeee, the more we like it.  Syrup is sweet, syrupy is sweeter.

So, let’s apply the Mrs. Buttersworthy (sic) hypothesis to the frontrunner of current events, the remaining Republican hopefuls for President:

Rick Santorum – No affection there.
Ron Paul – Nope, though his facial expressions beg for political cartoons.  
Jon Huntsman – No.
Newt Gingrich – egad.  Blame your parents, man!
Mitt Romney – ah, and I so wanted to dismiss him.  Alas, Mrs. Buttersworth says he’s good, and one can’t help but wonder if his subconscious pour of syrupy goodness is what causes his public to stick.  (Or, why gooey Republicans still swoon for Chris Christie…) 

You’ll have to wait some months for this principle to go viral.  You’ll know that it is a serious factor when Baracky Obama starts approving his own ads. 

1 comment :

  1. Actually, doesn't Obama go by "Barry" among his friends? Your theory works!!!!