Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Arcradle Sinorous"

I love Quora, but it can be a real time-sink.

Case in point: the following question, which consumed about an hour of my time this morning. I don't resent that at all, however; those among you who love language as much as I do will understand why.

Anglicized Names: I created my English name: Arcradle Sinorous. Does that sound silly or offensive?

"Silly" is not a judgment on the name, but on the person who asserts it of another's name. As you will see below, I think the name anything but silly. It certainly is not offensive.

It does not, as Trevor Best says in not so many words, sound organically English: that is, it doesn't seem to have "grown up" out of the Teutonic-Romantic-Silly-Ass-Grab-Bag soil of the English language, which apparently never saw a foreign word it didn't like. So why not a name like Arcradle Sinorous?

To its credit, all else aside, for English speakers it exhibits excellent scansion (two dactyls: DUM dum dum DUM dum dum), is quite euphonious (it does not require any full stops or awkward consonantal transitions), and in written form, is as phonetic as it's possible to be in a famously non-phonetic language. In combination, these three factors ensure that it will come trippingly off the tongue. The only downside here is that people will hear it wrong if you speak it too fast or in a thick accent, and in any case, unless they're like me, they will need you to spell it.

BTW, to the English ear, this is a masculine name. I don't think it works for a woman.

However, what seems most important to me is that if one can get past the first-hearing oddity of the name—and this is a big "if" that some people won't be able to get past, to their loss—it is a very rich name. So rich, in fact, that it makes the more usual English combination of familial given names, derived from God-knows-where, with occupational or place-derived surnames, seem impoverished by comparison. (Like mine: "Dave," a slangy derivative of the Anglicized Hebrew Dawid, which means "beloved;" plus 'Trowbridge," originally a village, now a town, in Wiltshire, England.)

By contrast, your chosen name is highly poetic and evocative, which is hard to do in English. In fact, it seems to me as close as one can get in English to the almost infinite depth possible in the preeminently evocative Semitic languages (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic), whose three-consonant root structure makes every word echo with dozens or even hundreds of associations. This is why I think Muslims are right to insist that the Quran can only be fully received in the original Arabic: whatever else he may or may not have been, the Prophet of Islam was one of the greatest poetic geniuses the world has ever seen. 

So let's unpack some of the "echoes" of this highly original name in terms of its associations, first the "given" name and then the surname. I'm just going to throw the most obvious out, but I don't think I have time to list them all. I'll do it as duples, in the form "association:evocation."


  • Noah's Ark: rescue, safety, obedience to God
  • Arc (n.): the rainbow that announced God's promise after the Flood
  • The Ark of the Covenant: numinous power, danger, mystery, obedience to God, that which carries the feminine power of God (Shekinah)
  • Arc (n. or v.): danger; what high voltage electricity does if you're not careful, reinforcing the image of the Ark of the Covenant
  • Cradle (n.): love, maternal tenderness, safety, returning back to Noah's Ark
  • Cradle (v.): to hold something with great care, which resonates with everything above to imply that the name's bearer carries within him with maternal care the nurturing and dangerous glory of God


  • Sonorous: of the nature of song or chant; as a delightful bonus, self-referential for the entire name, which is indeed quite sonorous.
  • Sinuous: moving like a serpent, thus evoking gracefulness, temptation, and danger, the latter thus supporting many of the evocations of the given name
  • Sinese: a more distant evocation of "Chinese" (based on the Latinate root of that English word), suggesting the exoticism of the "Orient." If you are not Asian, don't worry; this association won't then come up. If you are, bonus points again!
Well, I've run out of time, as my own poetry and prosody call me back urgently.

TL;DR: Densely packed, sonorous, allusive and evocative, "Arcradle Sinorous" is a work of poetic genius. Please don't abandon this name! It will be a burden to carry among English speakers, but such a mitzvah to those who hear it!

P.S. Mitzvah (מִצְוָה,) is the Hebrew word often translated as commandment, but that's only one meaning. Each of its three primary meanings applies to your name:

Commandment: hear! (sh'ma, the first word of the first and greatest commandment in both Judaism and properly understood Christianity: "Hear, declare, understand, ye who strive with the Eternal...")

Blessing: a rich anointing that reveals the depth of the English language to those will to hear it.

Act of charity: in Judaism, a mitzvah in this sense is ranked in part by the ratio between the effort it requires of, and the benefit to, the giver. I don't think you'll get as much benefit from the name as those who hear and receive it. 

(Note that by this measure, an act of charity that requires all and delivers no benefit has infinite value! As Jesus the faithful Jew said, there is no greater love than to give up one's life for another.)

P.P.S. I am definitely going to borrow this name for a fictional character, and not casually: instead, I expect the story will grow organically out of the name. 

I really, really have to stop now. See what you've done to me!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Beautiful Simplicity

Rude Record creates Beautiful Simplicity

Rude Record talks about Strutting Sashiko Scavenger Style, illustrated with a pair of thrift store jeans transmogrified into something for which people with more money with sense would gladly pay a couple of hundred dollar, although I fear that even then they'd need a label to make the purchase complete in their own minds. Paging René Girard!

This is something Friends (Quakers) can certainly get behind. It's a beautiful example of how the Testimony of Simplicity does not require wearing ugly, plain, or uninteresting clothing. 

My favorite jeans are a pair of broadfall pants from Gohn Brothers, an Amish dry goods store in Indiana. Made to order for about $40, they're made of very heavy black denim with a hammer loop and pliers pocket, and they may outlast me. Perhaps I should try decorating them!

Shekinah Fire

His lungs burning, throat spasming, Yeshua lunged out of the water. Before him, Yochanan fell backwards, his dark eyes wide, his hands, which had held Yeshua under for eternity, flung up beside his head. But Yeshua had no attention to spare for the half-naked prophet. The daylight was now sharper beyond even the searing noon of a Judaean summer, and everything had edges to it that clawed his skin. Beyond, over, under, around it all a Presence loomed too vast and too immediate for the world to hold. Breathless in a suddenly breathless world, Yeshua stood stunned until stillness finally breathed in, the four corners of the world rushing away from him until he feared the firmament would burst. He shouted in terror and ducked his head between his arms as stillness breathed out, the world's boundaries rushing in at eyeblink speed to fit themselves so tightly against his skin that the sharpest knife could never slip between. Breathe in, hoarse and sobbing. Breathe out, a moan too deep for words as the Presence poured into him. Where else could it go, in a world now infinitely smaller than a mustard seed? How could there be room? Adonai, Adonai… Incomprehensible peace, infinite space within, an architecture of light and love and such a yearning, sorrow, joy that his throat spasmed and his eyes shed salt into the muddy Jordan. Amah, Abba… Yeshua stood up, free and not free as the Shekinah possessed him fully. No more need to fret and worry that he had transgressed the mitzvot he so loved, the commandments, blessings, acts of charity that comprised the garden wall within which his people had dwelt for centuries. In some wise he didn't understand, that wall was now his own boundary, and he could no more step out beyond it than he could step out of his own skin. His exile was over. A fierce joy and terror took hold of him; he breathed in sharply… And held as a shard of fulgent light tumbled out of heaven, a spinning still-point above him and encompassing him to center a fragile and chaotic world. Before him he saw it reflected in Yochanan’s eyes, but there seemed only terror there. Yeshua felt infinite tenderness for his friend and teacher and poised his tongue and lips to reassure him. Be not afraid… The shard spoke. A voice like oil, a rich anointing; like honey, infinitely sweet; like the coughing roars of the lions that had oft pricked Yeshua’s skin as he lay sleepless in Nazareth; like the voice of his mother calling him to Sabbath dinner. “Bᴇʟᴏᴠᴇᴅ ꜱᴏɴ ꜱᴏ ᴘʟᴇᴀꜱɪɴɢ. Lᴏᴠᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ᴅᴏ ᴀꜱ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡɪʟʟ.”

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I Surrender

O Eternal One, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived;
Thou art stronger than I, and thou hast prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out, 
I shout, "Violence and destruction!"
The word of the Eternal has become for me 
A reproach and derision all day long.

But if I say, "I will not mention him,
Or speak any more in his name,"
There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones,
And I am weary with holding it in,
And I cannot.

Jeremiah 20:7-9 (RSV, paraphrased)
"The intention [of Jeremiah] is ... not one of literalness, but of emotional quality. Thus the first movement ('Prophecy') aims only to parallel in feeling the intensity of the prophet's pleas with his people; and the Scherzo ('Profanation') to give a general sense of the destruction and chaos brought on by the pagan corruption within the priesthood and the people. The third movement ('Lamentation'), being a setting of poetic text, is naturally a more literary conception. It is the cry of Jeremiah, as he mourns his beloved Jerusalem, ruined, pillaged and dishonored after his desperate efforts to save it." [Bernstein's program notes, 1944] 
With Jeremiah, Bernstein not only established himself as a major American symphonist, he began a musical and dramatic exploration of a theme that would continue to inspire many of his major works throughout his career. "The work I have been writing all my life," he said in 1977, "is about the struggle that is born of the crisis of our century, a crisis of faith." While Jeremiah offers only consolation and not a solution to this crisis, Bernstein's creative journey through The Age of Anxiety(1949), Kaddish (1963)Chichester Psalms (1965) and, finally, Mass (1971), led him to a profound conclusion—that a renewal of faith in modern times requires a return to innocence, a shedding of the trappings of dogma and orthodoxy, and a fundamental belief in our common humanity. [ed. emph]