the buzzword is: barack

January 22, 2007

since the barry obama 2008 watch is rocketing up the charts, quickly on its way to becoming the second most popular post in the history of yesterday’s salad, i decided to engage in a little obama inspired word blogging, and look into the oddly topical question of his name.

as expected, neither “barack” nor “barak” is in the OED. but since they’re such kind and generous fellows, the OED offered up, “zoombooruck,” specifically the alternate form, zoombarack. A zoombooruck for the few of you that don’t study cameline military strategies, is a small swivel gun mounted on the back of a camel.

the AHD gives, “Israeli politician. He ended a 35-year military career to enter politics, joining the Labor Party in 1995 and serving that year as interior minister, then foreign minister. He served as Israel’s prime minister from 1999 to 2001,” for Barak. One can only assume that Mr. Obama does not want to be likened to Mr. Ehud Barak, lest cross-dressing become yet another reason Mr. Obama will not be president. along these lines, many of our hebraist and evangelical readers probably recognize the name barak from the book of Judges. Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary has this to say about that barak, “The character of Barak, though pious, does not seem to have been heroic. Like Gideon, and in a sense Samson, he is an illustration of the words in Heb. 11:34, ‘Out of weakness were made strong.” More troubling connotations for the Hyde Park local. btw, in these two cases, the word barak means “lightening,” which is an acceptable verb.

many websites like to point out the fact that “barack” is not an African name, but a muslim-arabic name. although i don’t see how these two things are mutually exclusive (the last time i checked, one was a religion and the other a continent), people are nonetheless making a big deal out of the arabic origins of the name, baraka, “blessed.” in that case, the name is related to the hebrew root barach and not barak; the English sounds lose the semitic connection.

thankfully, the OED turned up a great obs. verb when I tried to find “Obama.” Obambulate: intr. To walk about; to wander here and there. kind of what these word columns are all about.

perhaps the anti-Obama crowd’s insisture (obs. rare: A word of obscure use in Shakespeare: taken variously in the sense of ‘persistency, constancy’) on investigating candidates’ names will disappear.

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