Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Conversation with a Prince

Of what use is it to be a prince named Ronald?

Roland! Now there's a name fit for a prince. A hero! A warrior! Scarcely any difference at all; and yet, a very great difference indeed, especially when one's Mother and Nannies persist in calling one Ronnie.

It's hardly fair. No-one ever calls my brother Robbie, or Bobby, or Bob. No, he's been Robert to the whole family as long as I can remember. Even his bosom companions-- like the young sons of the Duke of Northeast-- only call him Rob when they think they're alone.

To be fair, he never calls me Ronnie. At least, not since I've grown bigger than him. And yet, Ron is scarcely better. And what do I have to look forward to? Ronald.

At the tender age of four, I was instructed that forgery is no fit accomplishment for a prince. I recall it distinctly, though I remember nothing else about the occasion. I can only suppose I was caught attempting to tamper with my birth certificate, my certificate of lineage, my baptismal record, or one of the many other documents that enshrine the six sorry letters that make up my name.

No, not the letters, I beg pardon. It's the order of them that offends me. Doubtless as a newly literate child, just beginning to discover the vast power of written words over the minds of those who write them, I was struck with the notion that I could rearrange them to form more pleasing words. Perhaps I was even precocious enough to reason that I could change reality thereby.

At any rate, the paper (whichever one it was) was taken from my chubby, ink-stained fingers and I was scolded, firmly but not cruelly. My family are very kind folk. I should not like to give you any other opinion of them.

But we were speaking of names. They can be so important, you see. The difference between a good name and a... well... merely acceptable name...

And what are names but words? Very, very special words, of course. Northeast is a word, and also a name. Which it is at the moment depends entirely on the context of the utterance. You see, words change one another by their mere proximity. Left is not the same without hand. Duke modifies Northeast, but so might King. Screw alters thumb. There can be no demonstration more practical than this of the power of words. Do I bore you?

Come, let us think of some names. I've thought of one already. It's your turn. Such a little thing, a man's name. A handful of letters.

Remember, words can alter reality. Words can make a free man a captive, a captive into a torture victim and so into a free man again. And names are the most powerful of words. And yet they are only words. Only words.

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