The Name Game
I recently was forwarded a mail by a zealous pastor commenting on the US elections. Whilst I fully agree that everyone is entitled to their own opinions I was disturbed by the playground politics angle, where he chose to associate the name McCain as "son of Cain" and place it into a biblical context to denigrate the Republican candidate. Now, I do not suport McCain even in he slightest, but it makes me angry when people in positions of influence (like the pastor) try to whip up a frenzy of fear over NOTHING!!! Good Lord, there is enough legitimate shit to bash McCain and the Republicans over, why be so pathetic as to choose his name? It just makes you look as damn stupid as those who point out Obama's middle name is "Hussein".
Anyway... you know me, I couldn't resist... here is my reply:
I was forwarded this mail by an ex-colleague and was intrigued. Whilst being from the UK I am not a registered US voter, and despite the fact that I personally would like to see Obama become President, I find your analysis of John McCain's name not only gob-smackingly ludicrous in it's assumption that a name from a non-English background would have a literal English meaning without tracing the translations, but also borderline superstitious in the assumption that the name we are born with will dictate who we are.
The commonly accepted history of the name McCain is that it is the Scots equivalent of the Irish McKean, which is itself an anglicisation of Mac Iain, or "son of Iain" - not "son of Cain"!. With Iain / Ian being a variation of John the surname McCain is essentially the same as the surname Johnson. Another less likely origin is that it is a contraction of "McCathan", meaning "son of a warrior" which, whilst perhaps ironic in this case, certainly does not make all McCains violent!
But if you are going to judge a man on his name have you considered where the name Obama comes from? The surname Obama appears when the Europeans colonised Africa and enforced family names on tribes who had, until then, only had first names. What most did was (as in our own cultures) take their fathers name as a surname (I believe the word "surname" derives from the idea that it was your "sire's name" anyway), which in this case was first bestowed on Barack Obama's grandfather. The name is taken from the Luo verb meaning "to be twisted" or "to be slightly bent", probably relating to a deformity that B.O.'s great-grandfather may have been born with. In any case "twisted" and "bent" are two connotations with which the Senator probably would rather not be associated!
Please, please... vote Obama. But do not be so childish as to take McCain to task over his name! It just makes the whole thing petty.