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Tue, May 21

Williams: What was your name again?
One Man’s Rant

Throughout history, we’ve learned about famous people who made significant contributions to the world’s societies. But I ask you, just how much do we know of these personalities? Who were they, really?

For example, who was Confucius? We know he lived from 551 to 479 BC. We know he was Chinese, a teacher, editor, politician and philosopher. Surprisingly, he never knew himself by the name of Confucius. Wait, what?

His real name was Zhongni Qiu. He didn’t come by the name of Confucius until late in the 16th century when Jesuit missionaries in China gave him that name. In a sentence, he became known as Confucius around two thousand years after his death. How many of us will be assigned our legacy names 2,000 years after we expire?

Not only did most of us not know Qiu’s real name, we don’t know what he did on the weekend, if he had occasional beers with his buds or what he wore during his casual hours. In those regards, he will probably always remain a mystery.

A fellow by the name of Michel lived from 1503 to 1566. Few of us would be aware of Michel if he hadn’t published a number of books as a French astrologer, physician and reputed seer. His predictions of the future appeared in Les Propheties, a book that’s rarely been out of print since his death. Of course, we know him as Nostradamus.

He began practicing medicine in the 1530s, but he never earned a medical degree. In fact, he’d been kicked out of medical school before graduating. Despite his lack of credentials, he was successful in treating outbreaks of the plague in the mid-1540s.

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist who lived from around 384 to 322 BC. He is still viewed as one of the greatest thinkers in politics, science, psychology and ethics. In 338 BC, he began tutoring Alexander the Great.

I’m not the first person to ask about his real name. In fact, there are, reportedly, three schools of thought among scholars about his real name. Some scholars actually think his first name was Brian. Brian Aristotle. I kid you not. A second group of scholars earnestly think that his full name was Aristotle Clegg. There is some evidence that his historic family’s name was Clegg. A third class of scholars believe that his name was really Aris Totle. There might have been a fourth gaggle of scholars who thought his first name was Jerry, but I couldn’t find anything about them despite my exhaustive research.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Wladziu had a very successful career of concerts, recordings, television, film and endorsements. He was well-known for his piano artistry and during the latter half of his performing years, he was known for the candelabra he kept on his piano. He was better known to all of us as “Mr. Showmanship.” Liberace’s full birth name was Wladziu Valention Liberace.

The purpose of this column — if any of my columns has a purpose — is to learn more about some of the high-profile names in the human pantheon. I had intended to complete the analysis of famous single names with Galileo (Galileo Galilei), Ghandi (Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi), Plato (Aristocles son of Ariston), Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet), Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento), Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII Philopator), Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn),… and, of course, Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday). There just wasn’t enough space to attend to everyone on the list.

Finally, in closing, I don’t blame Charo for clinging to only one name during her professional career. Her real name is Maria Rosaria Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza.

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