What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

There’s a delightful, ruefully funny piece in the current Atlantic about a nun who has the misfortune of bearing the name Sister Mary Schmuck.

Like the good reporter he is, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg tracked her down, he writes, after “the Los Angeles Jewish Journal published a letter she wrote taking issue with the title of the recent film ‘Dinner for Schmucks,’ and asked the newspaper’s readers – many of whom she thought (not incorrectly) might be associated in some manner with the film industry – for ‘awareness and sensitivity to various audiences out here.’ I was moved by her pride,” Goldberg writes, “and I was also surprised to learn that there are actual Americans named Schmuck.”

Indeed there are. Or were. According to the 72-year-old Sister Schmuck (it is impossible not to laugh, poor thing), “At one point, there were 400 Schmucks in America,” although she’s not run across any lately. Perhaps they have all changed their names.

Growing up in Kentucky she was not aware of the “English” (so to speak) Yiddish has spun onto her surname. But now that she’s out in the world she’s unhappy about the obscene meaning and profane usage associated with it.

The entire article – including an old but still funny Jewish joke – is at www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/05/sister-schmuck-takes-a-stand/8445/.