Opinions

Name-dropping is also an art

I just came across Katherine Mansfield's sage advice to all name-droppers in all countries, communities and continents: 'Name-dropping is a sheer art. A name-dropper will hardly be caught if s/he drops the name of a celebrity from the past or a famous book or movie with at least one (factual) line about it to buttress his/her point. Moreover, a name-dropper must always pronounce the names of the writers, actors and books correctly to give a false impression of being knowledgeable without getting caught and giving misgivings about his intellectual claims.'

An invaluable advice, I must say because the moment a name-dropper pronounces Albert Camus as it's spelt, rest assured, he or she never read the great French existentialist because the very name of Albert Camus, being French, is pronounced as 'Albair Camu' with both ‘t’ and 's' being silent. When a name-dropper says 'Jean Paul Sartre' (yet another French name of a great existentialist) the way it's written, you can be sure that he/she has just read the name but never read the man's epochal works. A truly well-read person will pronounce his name as 'Jhaan Paul Sa(r)tra'. When the father of modern philosophy Rene Descartes, famous for his oft-quoted Latin statement 'cogito ergo sum' (In French: je pense, donc je suis: I think, therefore, I'm), is pronounced as 'Descartes' rather than 'Dekart', the name-dropper drops a sure clue of his/her unfathomable ignorance. The same can be said about the pronunciation of the legendary French novelist Gustave Flaubert. 'Flaubert' is pronounced as 'Flaubey' or Byron's famous 'Don Juan' is actually enunciated as 'Don (J)Uan' with 'j' being silent. Great German Johann Wolfgang von Goethe will invariably be pronounced by a novice and unstudied name-dropper as it's written in print, whereas the correct pronunciation is 'GETE'!

Name-dropping is surely an art and some are really past masters in this sphere. One comes across such characters in high and haute societies where they most abound and thrive. They'll talk about western classics, French cinema, Beethoven, Mozart and Sebastian Bach's sublime symphonies and cantos without ever listening to them, let alone understanding even the basics of western classical music. They'll pronounce 'Chopin' as if they're chopping woods or chomping on celery. But they'll descant upon these uber-refined pursuits with so much confidence and a sense of authority that the listeners will be spellbound. They'll enumerate upon European cuisine but pronounce 'salmon' and 'almond' with a harsh emphasis on 'l' and the last syllable 'd' in 'almond', whereas in both the words, 'l' is not enunciated. It's always 'sa'mon' and 'a'mon(d). 

But if we peep into ourselves, aren't we all name-droppers at times? Agreed, there're incorrigible name-droppers and sciolists (pretenders to knowledge) everywhere, but even those who seldom drop names to impress others, resort to it at times, lest people call them ignoramuses. 

The late Khushwant Singh had to resort to the name-dropping in the realms of very rare and exquisite European wines in the company of the diminutive polymath Nirad Chandra Chaudhury at Oxfordshire where he lived, only to be caught by the genius Bengali when he whispered into the irrepressible Sardar's ears, 'You may be a die-hard lover of wine and women but not a somelier or oinologist.' The honest Sardar had to refer to a dictionary to find the meanings of both the words 'somelier' and 'oinologist'. By the way, a 'somelier' is: a waiter who manages wine service in a hotel or restaurant and an oinologist/oenologist is a viniculturist.

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