Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Noble Savage

It was something like: "They treat us worse than Albanians" or "We might just as well be Albanians..." There they were, a couple sitting on the steps of their trailer, complaining to The Miami Herald a few years ago about being called "trailer trash." I remember the article not just because they said Albanian but because, strangely enough for ignorant trailer trash, they had their Balkan social history exactly right.

Whether it's for the Greeks, with their Grecian columns and all that stuff, or the Christian Serbs or even the Turks, fellow Moslems, Albanians have been the trailer trash of the Balkans, or worse. "Albanians? Very dirty!" That was the reaction I got when, on vacation from the Faculty of Philosophy, Pristina, I told people in Istanbul the interesting fact that I taught Albanians. I was suddenly less an English tourist than an Albanian-lover.

The irony in all this is, that of all the Balkan peoples, it is hardest to get a physical stereotype of the Albanian. Many Albanians are dark but many more look Irish or even Scots, tall and rangy with sandy hair and grey eyes. But maybe that brings us back to white trash again, to the poor whites of Appalachia who seem to have missed out on political correctness. I don't think any comedian or commentator has got fired for calling them 'inbred' or 'stupid.' I don't think they have the equivalent of the Jewish Defense League, or the NAACP. Maybe if they did, there would be less room for right wing groups of varying degrees of anger and resentment, to fill the gap.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The naming of dogs

At Motes Orchids we spend as much time talking about our dogs and their names as we do about the orchids. We could pretend that obscure names are meant to baffle a would-be criminal: a random "Psst! Here Spot! Good boy!" won't get you anywhere with our dogs. Try Arabic or Albanian. And if you have to ask Why? then you are new to Motes Orchids -(Let me give you the sign up sheet for our news letter!) But those names? Sarah Palin would be right: we are elitist, arugula-eating liberals who think we're smart.

At the moment with our females we're on the Z series. There was our beautiful Azra,( "girl" or "maiden" in Arabic,) who died too young, then Zara. (I'd decided on Tanga till told that was the bottom half of a bikini.) Now we have Zanzi- which must mean something somewhere but I thought had a good growly sound to it. You can't have more than two syllables for a dog- "Bad Dog, Dorothy!" doesn't do it.

For our big male, we've a sharp, masculine sound: Skender! Skender is the Turkish form of Alexander and the name of the national hero of Albania, Skenderbeg. He fought off the Turkish armies so brilliantly, in admiration they called him Alexander the Great.

And speaking of the Turks, one of our dogs was named "Turkish Ambassador." Our son, when small, had a puppy he declared was to be called Turkish Ambassador. Because, he explained, he looked like the Turkish Ambassador. You could see what he meant. Puppies are mostly rather solemn. They have a lot to work out. Of course, if naming always followed that logic, most newborn babies would be called Winston Churchill.

By the way: Turkish Ambassador soon became Ambassador and then Basset. The two syllable rule.