Matt Striker's Word of the Week for 01/30/07
Hello, my students. Your teacher has returned to bring you a brand new word for this last week of January. I have chosen this word for several reasons. When you discover the definition, it will become obvious.
Beyond the standard definition is a historical reference. During the height of immigration in our wonderful country, before the borders were swung open like saloon doors, and every Tom, Hassan and Pak Son were allowed into our country, immigrants would pass through major checkpoints and their admission would be documented.
Many times the language barrier would create difficulty in the pronunciation and spelling of some of the more "ethnic" names of the immigrants. In an effort to assimilate the immigrants, or as some short-sighted liberals claim, an act of xenophobia (which could be a word of the week in itself), last names would be altered based on criteria such as occupation, social standing or appearance.
It is not uncommon to find people with last names such as "Baker," which started as an occupational description and adhered as a last name, or "Barker," whose ancestors may have been employed as salesmen. Last names such as "Gaylord" and "Lipschitz" are not uncommon to find as well.
Other names were too difficult or ethnic to pronounce and thus were altered: "Glassino" would become "Glass" and so on.
In other cases immigrants were given new names based on status. Former Montreal Expo fireballer, Floyd Youmans' family may have had their last name changed upon entry into our country (look up the word "youman" if you need further explanation). Other examples include Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King, SmackDown Superstar Jamie Noble and, in keeping with our Road to WrestleMania mindset, former Detroit Pistons alum Alvin Gentry.
Our word of the week is gentry, a great word for a great people. I await my students' emails.
Anyone who captures the true essence of this lesson will be rewarded.