Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I can't ignore the fall of Lehmann Brothers but can't quite grasp it either, or don't want to, so my mind skitters defensively to the company's human namesakes. Nicholas Lehmann, Julie's old Harvard classmate, now dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. Pronounced like 'lemon', not 'lee-mun'. He must be experiencing some onomastic angst of his own. And David Lehman - clever, glum American poet and prolific poetry editor. Glad today to be short one 'n' in his last name.

What's in a name? Or what's in a word, like 'reformer' or 'deregulation'? The presidential candidates are each trying to cash in on Wall Street's woes -- "John McCain casting himself as an outspoken populist outraged at corporate greed and Barack Obama hammering what he called a Republican-led climate of deregulation that McCain championed" (Boston Globe, 9/17). Personally, I worry that more people will embrace the faux-maverick "populist" who channels their visceral fear and resentment than the earnest liberal who asks his audience to pay mind to legislative and economic history.

Conclusion: did Nicholas Lehmann's immigrant ancestors think "lemon" was less Jewish sounding than the alternative?

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