Saturday, February 14, 2009

the naming of gatos

I ventured over to Borders Friday evening. I have been there several times this year -- but always in the book and map sections.

What I needed was a new CD. So, off I went through what was once a vast treasury.

Treasury is not the word I would use to describe the music section in Borders these days. I have been to garage sales that had a better music selection.

While skimming the Lilliputian world of CDs, I started chuckling to myself. Someone had decided to file all of the Andrew Lloyd Webber CDs under "W." A rather common mistake.

I caught the attention of the clerk and pointed out the error. He did not immediately understand what had caught the obsessive attention of the old short, fat guy.

I told him the composer's last name is "Lloyd Webber," not "Webber." He shrugged and said: "What does it matter? Nobody buys this stuff."

The exchange reminded me of a similar problem we had with the local police officers when I was practicing criminal defense law in the 1980s. The police were arresting Hispanic men and regularly charging them with the misdemeanor of "Giving a False Name to a Police Officer."

I was appointed to represent a young man charged with that misdemeanor, and noted that my client, a citizen of Mexico (and legal immigrant) had given his full name to the police officer. For the sake of our story, we will call him Jose Antonio Martinez Sanchez.

When asked for his "last name," Jose had responded: "Martinez." The officer then looked at his driver's license, and charged him with giving a false name. As far as the officer was concerned, Jose's last name was "Sanchez."

Now, we all know why the mistake took place. Most nations with a Spanish tradition have a different naming custom than other European countries. Spanish children get two surnames: the first from their father (the apellido paterno or paternal surname) and the second from their mother (the apellido materno or maternal surname).

For some reason, the local police thought Hispanics were trying to pull something funny on them. And it would be excusable as a bit of cultural ignorance, if the police had not taken several years to stop issuing the citations.

I have several theories on why the police were that recalcitrant. But, whatever the motivation, it drove a wedge between the legal immigrant population and the police -- and the relations were not great, by any measure.

As the Borders clerk walked away, I thought: Maybe he is correct. No one is going to miss picking up their CD of Lord Lloyd-Webber's greatest hits because it is filed under "W," instead of "L." And he will never suffer the personal indignity that my clients suffered over an issue every bit as trivial.


glorv1 said...

I love that painting of that woman done by Frida Kahlo. It captures every detail in the face. I love it. I have the book that has that painting in it and I have never tried my hand at that, but I'm thinking about giving it a stab because she so reminds me of my Grandmother. I got carried away with the painting and forgot to read your post...eheheheh. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I was at a "record shop" and was looking for Beatle albums (vinyl). When I asked the young owner (approx late 20's) where they were located, he said "They're over in the "oldies" section. I informed him that "oldies" are records from the 1950's and back. Youth is wasted on the young.
Detroit, Mich.

Steve Cotton said...

Gloria -- I was afraid the painting would complement my prose. I see it is the distration it deserves to be. Hope your day is going well.

Frank -- I am afraid if I asked for the Oldies section, the clerk would say: "Wherever you are standing."

kisses and cupcakes said...

thanks - i would have looked under "W" too -
and funny --- all the music these days is on-line and on ipods - what a waste! don't cha miss the old style - remember hearing the records actually "drop" down on your record player!
btw...nice blog -
kisses and cupcakes,

Steve Cotton said...

Amy --
Most people would look for his work under "W," I suspect. After all non-hyphenated dual surnames are almost as unusual in Britain as they are in the States. Only fussy old men, who are soon to see the value of their education reduced to a bit of dross, care about such things. And soon won't.

cwilson said...

When you're retired, and have all the time in the world, you'll ask to see the manager of the music store and, with Google printouts in hand, you'll show him the error of his ways...then you'll give him 30 days to rectify the error before you check in on him again...which you will...

Steve Cotton said...

cwilson -- Ah, sir, you forgot the step where I would demand universal apostrophe correction -- getting those genitives and plurals straightened out.

I can see my retirement unfolding before my eyes.

By the way, are you coming to the retirement party? An opportunity for you to induce an Et tu, Brute?