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Carroll County Times
Carroll County

What's in a name? Identification

MEXICO CITY - Recently, a Mississippi state legislator proposed renaming the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of America.

In introducing the bill to the state House of Representatives' Marine Resources Committee, Daniel Steve Holland, a Democrat, said he wanted the body of water identified in all official state dealings by his proposed name.

Of course, the proposal is intentionally anti-Mexican. It is a textbook example of how public officials stoke local cornpone nativism. A no-name politician capitalizes on knuckle-headed prejudice and foments dissention.

Fortunately, there is serious brain science on if minds like this are normal or psychopathic. Really, I mean it.

But the Mississippi name change could have some other consequences. For instance, this is a good time to consider whether to convert the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Arizona. That body of water borders the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur, not the U.S. state. But if its name were changed to Gulf of Arizona, there's no mistaking what we mean, even if Arizona does not border it. Arizona is closer to that gulf than California is.

There's precedent for different names for the same geographic thing. The river dividing the U.S. and Mexico is known on the north side as the Rio Grande and on its south as Río Bravo.

For reasons of full disclosure, I have to admit a personal interest in all this. Just as the name "America" comes from an explorer and mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci, my surname comes from an ancestor, Frenchman Guillaume d'Isle (or alternately Delisle), who made the first definitive map of my native Texas.

The "Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississipi 1718" was the first printed map using technological methods new at the time. Details show a variation of the name for Texas on it, contained in a reference to "Mission de los Teijas etablie en 1716" in East Texas. This is the map that named Texas.

Now that we are setting things straight, it's OK with me if Mississippi decides to rename Texas "D'Isle" or "Delisle," thank you very much, for the same reason America is named after Amerigo.

I alluded to Mr. Holland above as a "no-name" politician. This was not intended as an insult, but to acknowledge that some Americans might be wary of an elected official with the name "Holland." This could lead people down at the diner to think foreigners are making our laws.

I propose that in official documents we identify all elected officials who share the name of a foreign country as "Noname." They can keep their Christian names for civic life, but they are not permitted to embarrass us officially with their foreign-country names.

Just so there's no confusion, if there's more than one Noname, each can file for an identity website on their state government website, such as http://www.Noname002.ms.gov, which provides their civic AKA name. Failure to register would require forfeiture of the right to drive and denial of all state benefits. Nonames would be required to provide proof of residency and literacy to vote in elections. They would be considered "illegals" until such time as they become legally registered. We are not against legal nonames, just illegal ones.

Now that's what I call bridging the gulf between Noname public officials and we, the people.


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