Humor of Foreign Names by Mark Twain

Humor of Foreign Names by Mark Twain is from his book Following the Equator [1897]:

Manuel was a failure, poor old fellow. His age was against him. He was desperately slow and phenomenally forgetful. When he went three blocks on an errand he would be gone two hours, and then forget what it was he went for. When he packed a trunk it took him forever, and the trunk's contents were an unimaginable chaos when he got done.

We couldn't understand his English; he couldn't understand ours; and when we found that he couldn't understand his own, it seemed time for us to part.

I had to discharge him; there was no help for it. But I did it as kindly as I could, and as gently. We must part, said I, but I hoped we should meet again in a better world. It was not true, but it was only a little thing to say, and saved his feelings and cost me nothing.

But now that he was gone, and was off my mind and heart, my spirits began to rise at once, and I was soon feeling brisk and ready to go out and have adventures.

Then his newly-hired successor flitted in, touched his forehead, and began to fly around here, there, and everywhere, on his velvet feet, and in five minutes he had everything in the room "ship-shape and Bristol fashion," as the sailors say, and was standing at the salute, waiting for orders.

Dear me, what a rustler he was after the slumbrous way of Manuel, poor old slug! All my heart, all my affection, all my admiration, went out spontaneously to this frisky little forked black thing, this compact and compressed incarnation of energy and force and promptness and celerity and confidence, this smart, smily, engaging, shiney-eyed little devil, feruled on his upper end by a gleaming fire-coal of a fez with a red-hot tassel dangling from it. I said, with deep satisfaction--

"You'll suit. What is your name?"

He reeled it mellowly off.

"Let me see if I can make a selection out of it--for business uses, I mean; we will keep the rest for Sundays. Give it to me in installments."

He did it. But there did not seem to be any short ones, except Mousawhich suggested mouse. It was out of character; it was too soft, too quiet, too conservative; it didn't fit his splendid style.

I considered, and said--

"Mousa is short enough, but I don't quite like it. It seems colorless--inharmonious--inadequate; and I am sensitive to such things.

How do you think Satan would do?"

"Yes, master. Satan do wair good."

It was his way of saying "very good."

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This latter's real name was intensely Indian. I could not quite get the hang of it,

but it sounded like Bunder Rao Ram Chunder Clam Chowder.

It was too long for handy use, anyway; so I reduced it.

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When we reached our (railway) car, Satan and Barney had already arrived there with their train of porters carrying bedding and parasols and cigar boxes, and were at work.

We named him Barney for short; we couldn't use his real name, there wasn't time.

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It was in Benares that I saw another living god. That makes two.

He was sixty years old when I saw him.

He is called Sri 108 Swami Bhaskarananda Saraswati.

That is one form of it.

I think that that is what you would call him in speaking to him--because it is short.

But you would use more of his name in addressing a letter to him; courtesy would require this. Even then you would not have to use all of it, but only this much:

Sri 108 Matparamahansrzpairivrajakacharyaswamibhaskaranandasaraswati.

You do not put "Esq." after it, for that is not necessary. The word which opens the volley is itself a title of honor "Sri."

The "108" stands for the rest of his names, I believe. Vishnu has 108 names which he does not use in business, and no doubt it is a custom of gods and a privilege sacred to their order to keep 108 extra ones in stock.

Just the restricted name set down above is a handsome property, without the 108.

By my count it has 58 letters in it.

This removes the long German words from competition; they are permanently out of the race.

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