Eric Zorn's latest column muses on the "euphonic symphony" of players' names in today's NFL. The Chicago Bears roster includes guys named Adawale Ogunleye, Oladele Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Israel Idonije—and yes, one of them is foreign-born: Idonije was born in Canada. The rest of the league includes many other players with non-European, not-traditionally-American names.
Celebrating their distinctive appellations celebrates that Americans from other cultures no longer have to "westernize" their names to fit in, Zorn writes. It wasn't long ago that the conventional wisdom held that Illinois voters would be reluctant to elect a governor with a hard-to-spell name like Blagojevich, or a senator with a "foreign" name like Barack Obama. As it turns out, not only did Illinoisans vote for Obama in droves, but the rest of the country wants a chance to vote for him, too. Zorn points out, Unfamiliar is not the same as strange. Foreign does not mean unwelcome. The beauty is both in the lyrical cadences of Ayanbadejo, Idonije and Ogunleye and in the recognition they provoke: National and cultural origins notwithstanding, these are also, now, truly American names.
I look at the names of my son's kindergarten classmates and see the future of the city. Zishan and Maham, Tinuola and Pedro, Michelle and Lynda. All of them are American kids, no more or less so than the Caitlyns, Tylers, and (alas) Brittneys.