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190658Re: Real names

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  • Padraic Brown
    Sep 1, 2012
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      --- On Fri, 8/31/12, Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...> wrote:

      > >> in different spheres / communities. I know judging
      > a book by
      > >> it's cover is supposedly Bad, but a cover usually
      > tells you
      > >> everything you need to know about how a person
      > interacts
      > >> with the world or wants to be perceived by the
      > world: a name
      > >> is just part of a person's dust jacket.
      >
      > The analogys seems inapt.   I don't think a
      > book's cover art, or even
      > its title, is a good analogy for person's name -- certainly
      > not given
      > names, and only rarely for self-chosen names. 

      Perhaps a given name especially is more like the ISBN. It serves as a means
      of retrieving data or finding the book on the shelf / person in the
      database.

      > From a person's given
      > name you can make a guess at their ethnicity,

      A highly unreliable guess! Especially given the way biblical and Christian
      names have spread around the world, American slaves being given their
      masters' family name, immigrants to the US taking on or being told to
      take new names.

      I think you might get a *slightly* better gauge of ethnicity or at least
      ethnic heritage from the surname.

      > and maybe at their age
      > (based on when certain names for babies were most popular;
      > e.g.
      > somebody named "Jason" is probably under 45), but that's
      > about it.

      And I know several Jasons over 45, so this is about as haphazard a guess
      as the person's ethnicity!

      > From their nickname or online handle you might get a little
      > bit more
      > information about their personality or interests,

      If you can make sense of the nickname. Mine is not as immediately
      transparent as some others. But even then, nicknames don't necessarily
      tell you anything about the person. I've used throw-away email accounts
      with perfectly sensible English words that don't reflect anything personal
      about me.

      > but probably not as
      > much or as reliable information as you'd get about the
      > typical book from its title or its cover design.
      >
      > > Well, the cover of a book only tells you about the
      > marketing aims of the
      > > publisher and the erotic fantasies of the artist, not
      > so much about the
      > > content of the book itself. A lot of books with
      > exciting cover art and
      > > enticing blurbs on the back have turned out to be
      > horrifically unreadable
      > > as stories.
      >
      > The *quality* of the cover art, typography, layout, etc. may
      > have very
      > little correlation with the *quality* of the writing and
      > storytelling.

      Of course. The quality of either simply reflect the artistic ability of
      the painter and writer respectively. What I'm saying is that the picture
      itself -- imagine if you will the stereotypical wild blonde haired, D-cup
      wielding, orc-head-smashing barbarian heroine -- doesn't tell you all that
      much about whether the story contained within is a good read or not. The
      girl on the front may or may not play a prominent role in the story. The
      scene depicted may not even be part of the story line! Even if the story
      has a heroine, she may be described in the book as a short, slim black
      haired girl who relies more on throwing knives and stealth -- quite unlike
      the basher on the cover! The role of the cover art is simple and clear-cut:
      hook the potential buyer and turn him into an actual buyer! This is why
      they put sexy girls on car hoods and coke commercials. Sexy girls sell
      products and it's really no different for books.

      > And a lot of covers don't represent the detailed content of
      > the book
      > with a high degree of accuracy.  But once you get to
      > know the cues and
      > conventions, they are a halfway decent guide to what genre
      > and subgenre the book falls into.

      Sure.

      >  Not a perfectly reliable guide, but far
      > more reliable than facing a shelf of indentically formatted
      > books with
      > no cover art, only the title and author's name in a single
      > standard
      > font... you'd have grab each book whose title looks halfway
      > interesting and read the first page or so, rather than
      > subconsciously
      > filtering them by their cover art into the genres you're
      > interested in
      > and those you aren't, so you don't have to read the first
      > pages of so
      > many books to find the ones you want to read.

      This is a) exactly what you have to do with most books published before
      the 1930s or so and b) exactly what you have to do when confronted with
      an unknown person the only thing about whom you know is the name! Take a
      little time to get to know.

      For example, I found a xix century book in the F/SF racks at the local
      shop. I forget the title -- Fairy Queen Something-or-Other. Looked
      interesting based on the title, but the prose was just so horrible -- that
      condescending tone authors of the time used when addressing children --
      that regardless of what merit the story itself may have had, the book was
      entirely unreadable. Especially for the price they wanted for the book.
      If there were a good story in there, it would have to be rewritten.

      So, I think the original analogy is not entirely inapt. A similar process
      of piqued interest and careful investigation is required to discover
      whether a book is worth reading or a person is worth befriending. Whether
      it's the picture on the front of the book or a resume or first introduction
      of a person -- all that is just advertising hype. You don't really learn
      much about the book or the person from those first impressions. Which is
      why we have the old bromide "you can't judge a book by its covers" in the
      first place, and why we apply it to people as well!

      Padraic

      > Jim Henry
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