Tis Pity He's a Writer

Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor

What’s in a Name?

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 potter_peterrabbitcountless 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 peterfemale 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 MITCH2tongue-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.pumpkin

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.

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16 comments on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Linda
    January 18, 2013

    Yeah, okay, but you forgot some pretty important Peters – Pete Seeger, an amazing talent, and one you shouldn’t have forgotten since you got to spend a day with him on the Clearwater, Peter Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overature?, Nutcracker? and on and on, Lacenay’s Peter, the American Kennel Club’s registered name of Petey, the Little Rascal’s dog, ( who could forget him?) and of course one of my favorites, Peter Brown of Castleton, New York fame. Not to mention Peter and his Wolf, Peter Stuyvestant, Pete of Pete’s Dragon and there is the unforgettable Pete Moss but I’m not sure of the spelling.

    Like

    • Richard Daybell
      January 21, 2013

      Forgot? Never. I purposely excluded those you’ve mentioned, saving them for a boffo Part Two, which you’ve now ruined for me. So start thinking up a replacement post for January 23.

      Like

  2. Craig Dunford
    January 18, 2013

    Where was the penis reference? You know, something about is your Peter Dragon? Love the Biblical name changing. I need to do that.

    Like

  3. elroyjones
    January 19, 2013

    I love Peter Rabbit and Peter Cottontail but am not personally acquainted with either of them.Mitch McConnell has spoiled a perfectly good name. One of my dearest friends from childhood is named Mitch McConnell. Speaking for us both, the unfortunate coincidence has traumatized us beyond repair. It’s my understanding that Peter Piper was last seen quite pickled, having become heavily involved in fermentation.

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    • Richard Daybell
      January 21, 2013

      He spoiled a perfectly good potato as well. Condolences to your friend.

      Like

  4. Kenton Lewis
    January 19, 2013

    Good writing cleverly contrived. Peter was also known as Cephas.

    Like

  5. Michael Sadowski
    January 19, 2013

    I think you petered out there at the end…

    Like

  6. melanielynngriffin
    January 20, 2013

    You had me laughing out loud with this one!
    But I could have done without the just-before-bed image of Mitch McConnell as a less-than-attractive potato. He’s always so — stony faced.

    Like

  7. docdick
    January 20, 2013

    Richard, what a great compilation of ways to liven “Peter”. I was getting worn from the abuse of “Dick” (my moniker). I’ve learned to live with that as long as there are no appended suffixes. I notice you have avoided this problem.

    Like

    • Richard Daybell
      January 21, 2013

      I did, but not because of the suffixes. There were just too many of us with the same name running around in the same circles. Nevertheless, there have always been those who insist on calling me Dick.

      Like

  8. harperfaulkner
    January 22, 2013

    Great stuff, Richard. Enjoyed it. HF

    Like

    • Richard Daybell
      January 28, 2013

      Thank you, Harper. I appreciate the comment, especially coming from such a consistently entertaining writer.

      Like

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