Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
Writing the previous post, I couldn’t help wondering about Peter Rabbit. Peter was the name of choice for both Beatrix Potter and Thornton Burgess. Then there’s Peter Cottontail and countless other rabbits as well. Why are rabbits so frequently named Peter? Why is anyone named Peter? Doing a little research (I don’t just make this stuff up), I found that the name Peter has a long history and quite a few interesting incarnations.
There is, of course, Biblical Peter or Peter the Fisherman. His real name was Simon until Jesus, hiring disciples, said: “I don’t like it; I think I’ll call you Peter.” Jesus was like that; he also called Harvey Judas. In naming Peter, Jesus was harking back to the Stone Age when almost everyone was named Peter, the name meaning rock. This, we gather, was a compliment. (Simon means he has heard which makes Simon Peter he has heard the rock. We’ve got to wonder a bit about that.) The fact that Jesus liked to rename things is, of course, hereditary; his dad was quite into naming things – “I think I’ll call that pretty two-legged creature Eve, and the ugly one Adam. And that four-legged one will be a doe, a deer, a female deer, and that thing up in the sky a ray, a drop of golden sun, me a name I call myself and far a long, long way to run.” Well, you get the picture.
Here then is a sampling of Peters, some named by Jesus and his father, some not, some interesting, some not:
Peter the Hermit was a French monk who just prior to the First Crusade led a People’s Crusade (sounds so 21st centrury) to the Holy Land. Along with fellow monk Walter the Penniless, he and his entourage sought to bless infidels wherever he could find them. The infidels, however, were more into slaughtering crusaders than being blessed, and Peter’s entourage grew smaller and smaller until Peter was forced to join the real crusade, the one with weapons. There he was more successful, blessing infidels before the crusaders slaughtered them.
In addition to inventing a popular dance, Peter Minuit is known for his real estate prowess, particularly his purchase of Manhattan from naïve native Americans for $24 worth of baubles and precious (are you ready?) stones. History suggests, however, that the Indians who sold him Manhattan were a visiting team with no claim to ownership. Brooklyn Bridge anyone?
Peter Piper, in a horticultural experiment, crossed peppers with dill weed and vinegar, growing peppers that needed no further pickling. Upon picking them, however, he became hopelessly tongue-tied. His accomplishment is about on a par with growing a potato that looks like Mitch McConnell.
Peter Benchley is the author of adventure novels, including Jaws which was made into several movies with the clever titles Jaws I, Jaws II, and Jaws III.
Peter I, or Peter the Great, the iron-fisted czar (spelled tsar in crossword puzzles), ruled Russia from 1682 to 1725. He was followed by two sequels, Peter II and Peter III, Peter the So-so and Peter the Insignificant.
American folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary were noted for their 1963 hit Puff the Magic Dragon. Puff, as anyone from the 1960’s can tell you, was not really a dragon but a joint. And little Jackie Paper was a narc.
Flemish folk singers Peter, Paul and Rubens were noted for their 1603 hit Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (later updated as Peggy Sue Got Married).
American singing duo Peter and Garfunkel were going nowhere until Jesus changed Peter’s name to Simon and the soon-to-be superstars recorded I Am a Rock.
Pierre, of course, is French for Peter, and Pierre Trudeau is a former Canadian prime minister known to Americans only as the husband of Maggie Trudeau who was an item with Mick Jagger of the Rolling (spooky isn’t it?) Stones.
And we’ll close with a Peter of the more infamous sort. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater was a scoundrel who kept his wife in a pumpkin shell which is, if you stop to think about it, strange and downright kinky. It is also rumored that the pumpkin shell looked exactly like Mitch McConnell.