Playing With ‘The Funny Sounding Name’

Until recently, a friend of mine’s 4-year-old son pronounced Barack Obama’s name as “Gobama”. My own four-year-old son calls him “Rock Obama” or “Rocco Bama” – and I prefer the latter, because I picture the Senator with beefy arms, serving pizza: “Y’want pepper with that?”

But a Facebook ad just asked me “Are You Rack’n Obama?”

No. No, I’m not. And screw you.

Look, I get it. He’s got an easy name to play with phonetically, and it’s a lot of fun, I suppose, when you’re all wrapped up in The Movement and The Hope and The Change, to go a little Joycean with the homonyms.

And I won’t bore people with unnecessary warnings to stay away from potentially racist permutations, because if someone needs to be told, they’re probably not going to get it anyway. His name is only “funny sounding” because our culture has had a WASPISH aversion to anything that ends in a vowel (with Kennedy adding a different meaning to the “and sometimes y” rule.)

It’s just that these phonetic games get pretty tedious pretty quickly. And for whatever reason, adults are really bad at it. They turn it into a recruiting slogan, at best, and at worst a means of further polluting the discourse with blather.

I prefer the unintended puns of four-year-olds. Or the more deliberately playful variations my ten-year-old daughter and her friend came up with recently while having dinner: “Broccoli Obama” and “Celery Clinton.” It’s silly, and fun to say to yourself. And they aren’t selling me anything.

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