Nevertheless, the strategy of hiding race — in particular changing names — can be soul-piercing. It prompted one African-American reader of the article to write that he was reminded of the searing scene in the groundbreaking TV miniseries “Roots” when the runaway slave Kunta Kinte is whipped until he declares that his name is Toby, the name given to him by his master.
Black job seekers said the purpose of hiding racial markers extended beyond simply getting in the door for an interview. It was also part of making sure they appeared palatable to hiring managers once race was seen. Activism in black organizations, even majoring in African-American studies can be signals to employers. Removing such details is all part of what Ms. Orr described as “calming down on the blackness.”
In “Covering: the Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights,” Kenji Yoshino, a law professor at New York University, wrote about this phenomenon not just among blacks but also other minority groups. “My notion of covering is really about the idea that people can have stigmatized identities that either they can’t or won’t hide but nevertheless experience a huge amount of pressure to downplay those identities,” he said. Mr. Yoshino says that progress in hiring has meant that “the line originally was between whites and nonwhites, favoring whites; now it’s whites and nonwhites who are willing to act white.”
Then, when another seven-year-old came round for tea after school one day, I overheard the two of them, busy in the spaceship construction yard that used to be our living room, get into a linguistic thicket.
“Can you see any clippy bits?” my son asked his friend. The friend was flummoxed. “Do you mean handy bits?” he asked, pointing.
“Yes,” replied my boy. “Clippy bits.”
Of course! This language of Lego isn’t just something our family has invented; every Lego-building family must have its own vocabulary. And the words they use (mostly invented by the children, not the adults) are likely to be different every time. But how different? And what sort of words?
“sock barrel”: a collection of roughly identical jokes all about the same thing. Pick one, cut the rest.
“hang a lantern on it”: Instead of trying to hide a script/credibility problem, address it in full measure, so it can be dealt with and discarded. “How does she break into the base?” “Hang a lantern on it, how tough it is to get the codes, but that makes her twice as cool for pulling it off.” This is often a bit of sleight-of-hand, but hell, you’re probably using it to address some—
“fridge logic”: a logic problem in the script that the average viewer would only ask themselves about, say, an hour later when they’re at the fridge getting a snack during commercials. TV is a very tight little medium time-wise, with an enormous amount of hand-waving to begin with. Often a logic problem that seems to smack you in the face because you’ve had the time to read the script, reread it, give notes, break it down, etc. is going to fly by your average—and hopefully emotionally engaged—viewer.
“Well, how’d she get from Dallas to Houston.”
“Could she make the drive to the airport in time?”
“That’s fridge logic.”
Note that you’re not trying to be lazy here—you’re just dealing with the fact that every line of exposition is a line that isn’t active or particularly interesting, and you only get so many of those in 44 minutes before your show is now boring. Logically flawless, but boring.
[T]here are railroad kings, copper kings, tobacco kings, etc. It is, however, manifestly improper and incongruous that the people should possess a higher title than their President, who is the head of the nation. To make it even, I would suggest that the title “President” be changed to “Emperor,” for the following reasons: First, it would not only do away with the impropriety of the chief magistrate of the nation assuming a name below that of some of his people, but it would place him on a level with the highest ruler of any nation on the face of the earth. I have often heard the remark that the President of the United States is no more than a common citizen, elected for four years, and that on the expiration of his term he reverts to his former humble status of a private citizen; that he has nothing in common with the dignified majesty of an Emperor; but were the highest official of the United States to be in future officially known as Emperor, all these depreciatory remarks would fall to the ground. There is no reason whatever why he should not be so styled, as, by virtue of his high office, he possesses almost as much power as the most aristocratic ruler of any nation. Secondly, it would clearly demonstrate the sovereign power of the people; a people who could make and unmake an Emperor, would certainly be highly respected. Thirdly, the United States sends ambassadors to Germany, Austria, Russia, etc. According to international law, ambassadors have what is called the representative character, that is, they represent their sovereign by whom they are delegated, and are entitled to the same honors to which their constituent would be entitled were he personally present. In a Republic where the head of the State is only a citizen and the sovereign is the people, it is only by a stretch of imagination that its ambassador can be said to represent the person of his sovereign. Now it would be much more in consonance with the dignified character of an American ambassador to be the representative of an Emperor than of a simple President. The name of Emperor may be distasteful to some, but may not a new meaning be given to it?
Far from being an ancient myth with no contemporary relevance, the story of Adam’s task has inspired and shaped human endeavor throughout the centuries. Modern science got its start in the golden age of exploration, when collectors began cataloging exotic plants and animals in the hope of restoring Adam’s complete knowledge of the world. Some sixteenth-century scholars, like Benito Montano (1527–1598), gave Hebrew names to the places Columbus discovered, because they assumed that the Bible must contain all the words we need to understand the New World. Others realized that there were more things to know and to be named than they ever imagined. Francis Bacon exhorted gentlemen of means to build gardens “with rooms to stable in all rare beasts and to cage in all rare birds . . . so you may have in small compass a model of the universal nature made private.” Adam’s sin, Christians believed, not only expelled the first couple from the Garden. Plants and animals too had been dispersed, but now scholars could imagine a return to paradise by achieving universal knowledge.
If God were to bring all the animals before man today, the line would be too long. This scene could only take place on the computer, which is exactly what the new Encyclopedia of Life proposes. This remarkable project aims to gather descriptions of every species known to science on a single website. Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson has been the driving force behind the Encyclopedia, and his enthusiasm for it is unbounded. “It’s going to have everything known on it,” he said, “and everything new is going to be added as we go along.” Nearly two million species are known, but scientists estimate that ten times that many are yet to be discovered. Most of these unknown species are bacteria, fungi, and insects. We can name them because we know, or want to know, everything about them.
The change in the way these children address their parents probably stems from baby boomers’ less authoritarian child-raising practices. Technology is a factor, too, given the offhand style that people use in instant messages and cellphone texts. The Internet has made people comfortable using names that are not their own - in particular, the frequent use of screen names online has made naming a bit more elastic, said Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska who is a former president of the American Name Society, a group that studies the cultural significance of names. Screen names, he said, “might have made people freer to think of the same person addressed by multiple names, and that’s what nicknaming is.”