An Exotic Taste
— The Contributor who wrote so cleverly of A Sense of the Ridiculous took Bryant to task for giving such a name as Genevieve to the wife of his Hunter of the West. Now, for my part, I do not doubt in the least that, in real life, she would have been a Genevieve, —perhaps, even, with the addition of Maud Celestine, — for experience has taught me that fine names blossom most prodigally upon the stony ground of poverty. South of Mason and Dixon’s line, especially, an exotic taste flourishes; and from any provincial newspaper that indulges in a Society Column one may cull such felicitous combinations as Ruby McPhaters, Pearl Tubbs, Angel Puig, Dimple Timmany, Cooksie O’Leary, Birdie Twofoot, — to make the matter worse, this particular specimen hailed from Mulesville, — Mississippi Holyland, Rosebud Einstein, etc. What would the author of A Sense of the Ridiculous think of Buzzard Roost, a forlorn suburb of an unprosperous Southern town, where Linas and Marcellas and Edithas and Ethelyns are as thick as commentators have informed us that summer leaves are not in Vallombrosa ? One parent, evidently reasoning that she had nothing else to bestow upon her numerous progeny, sent them forth into the world equipped with such names as Romaine, Mortimer, Waldo, Malcolm, Gwendolen, etc. A wanderer in eastern Louisiana, being forced to stay over night in a log-house, observed that the eldest daughter of the family was called “Ettolie.” As he had an inquiring mind, he hunted the name to its lair, and discovered that it was really “ Etoile,” — the simple-minded father and mother having seen it signed to an article in the county paper. The sentimental mother of another poor girl had her baptized. “ Alone,” — the title of one of Marion Horland’s novels. Her surname was Jones ; and although rural communities take life very seriously, and are not prone to see the joke in realities, it must be confessed that, in this instance, the neighborhood reached the snickering point. It was the last straw, and, so to speak, they were tickled by it. The same lack of that valuable sense of the ridiculous which allows poets to sink into bathos is patent in the cases I have cited. Of course that great engine of progress, the “ story paper,” has something to do with the matter; it has opened vast romantic vistas, and the outcropping of high-sounding names is an effort to get away from the bare walls and mean furnishings of a poor home, — a mother’s blind endeavor to give her daughters something, at least, in common with Lady Ethelinda and Lady Gladys, who trail velvet robes over marble floors.