Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, quite a while ago, a valued friend wrote me a funny story. I thought I might share it with you to see if you laugh as much as I did.

You see, my friend’s last name is Fowler and he likes to catch birds. Being the smart alec I am, I commented one day at the wry irony of having a last name like Fowler and really being a birder at heart. I receive an interesting story not too long afterwards and it went something like this….

Yes, my name goes back to the dawn of social division of labour, sometime during the Palaeolithic Revolution when Homo sapiens was on the point of emerging from Homo erectus and language was developing. When stone tool cultures developed, it resulted in the acquisition of surplus food so that not every member of the community was required to be hunter gatherers, and individuals could specialise. These specialists needed names, so you can imagine them sitting round a fire chewing their woolly mammoth steak and the head man started pronouncing:

“You there (grunt), you did a fine job catching this mammoth, your name will be Hunter.”

“And you there, showed fine skills catching that salmon yesterday, you will be known as Fisher.”

“That man who invented the wheel can spend your life making more of them, you are called Wheeler, and the chap putting them on carts can be Carter and the man carrying the stuff to the carts will be caller Porter, and the man grinding the corn into flour is Miller.”

“And YOU, you horrible hairy man over there who seems to have a knack of catching birds, we’ll call you Fowler.”

"Very well", said I quite rightly amused, "and how then did I get my name if all names go back to the dawn of time?" First arrived this strange email with the following message, “Tell me Susan, has there, to your knowledge, been a history of singing in your family? I mean in choirs, church choirs maybe, opera, folk singing, anything like that? Do you sing yourself?”

I very happily replied, “why yes!” as I do love to sing, though it is not by far my strongest suit! I wondered though at the really strange questions. Then another story arrived to which I responded in peals of laughter with tears running down my cheeks! Here is the tale my friend spun for me!

The Homo sapiens prototype men were chewing their mammoth steak, mulling over how things might turn out in a couple of million years and inventing names for the emerging specialists among their group (the Porters, Fowlers and the like), smoking complex mixtures of plant alkaloids and sipping herbal ferments.

The women were rushing round keeping the fires going (Homo erectus used fire, we know that), washing this, cleaning that, preparing the other, bearing babies, looking after the kids and generally doing womanly duties.

All of a sudden the wise old man looked up from the fire as he heard the most beautiful singing coming from within the cave. He traced it to a young woman who was singing to herself while stitching an antelope skin for her man. She was singing about the sagas of the mythology of how her world came into being. She was extremely beautiful and had long tresses of golden hair that ran down over her naked shoulders and covered her, errm, covered her bosom.

The Elder said, “that is beautiful, you can specialise in singing and keeping our mythology going through song. In fact you are charged with forming a choir so we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. I shall call you My choir”.

Now you know how words can become corrupted over time; they can become shortened, contracted, abbreviated, letters lost or added here and there according to convenience and fashion. Our vocabulary is littered with examples.

Anyhow, back at the ranch, after successive generations of “My choirs” the name got abbreviated to “M’choir” but the “ch” was a bit of a mouthful, and “M’goir” became adopted. Now, the section of the population of M’goirs that settled in Ireland transformed the spelling to conform with established literary custom and it became McGoir. Then some monk that was trying to put this down on parchment made a silly transcription error, and for ever after it has been written as McGuire.

It’s obvious, really, isn’t it?

So tell me, do, how clever you think my friend is and if his tale is true that I am forever destined to the back of a cave doing “womanly duties” and wishing for a sweater!


Ted M. Gossard said...

Very funny! And very clever. This guy ought to write a book with full illustrations of the forebears, and pics of the progeny, especially the one he meant!

(I've told him that before, but I meant another book, but this one would suit quite fine, as well!)

Every Square Inch said...

Clever, your friend but although I doubt his story, I'd like to hear your singing to judge the veracity of his tale.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Me too, ESI. Me too.

Craver Vii said...

Funny, I thought it was the original coffee farmers (make wired). But singing probably suits you better, 'cause I know you like to sing, and I've heard that you have a good voice for it.

Great story, by the way.

NaNcY said...

i would say a cave is very much like the present day auditorium or opera house.

simon said...

well- its typical of the tales he spins- you should hear them in the pubs here!! :-)

Martin Stickland said...

Very good, love it!

send us some petrol (gas) in some parts it has been over $8 per gallon due to strikes!


Love Martin Stoopid (where did my name come from?)

Martin Stickland said...

Can you make me a cup of tea please? Just the one sugar and a nice choccy biccie too!

Thanks love!

Litl-Luther said...

Sounds reasonable.

Andrew said...