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    What’s in a name? Rambling, random thoughts

    Why is this blog called Sandy’s Collected Thoughts?

    Because my name is Alexander.

    Earle is actually my middle name. Alexander is my first name and was also my father’s name. My folks thought one Smart Alec in the family was enough. So they used my middle name. And it stuck. My great grandfather was also an Alexander. As were a whole bunch of men among our forebears, according to our eldest son, who has been delving into family genealogy.

    You already knew, of course, that Sandy is the Scottish cognomen for Alexander. That’s why so many Scotsmen are called Sandy.

    I like to credit the popularity of this Scottish name to Alexander III (1246-86), probably Scotland’s most popular king. His reign has been called a golden period of Scottish history, when the nation was prosperous, enlightened, independent, and peaceful. At least peaceful after Alexander defeated the King of Norway in a battle that established Scottish control of the Hebrides.

    His is also a romantic story. At age 44, Alexander married a much younger woman. A year later, after a long meeting with the nobles of Scotland, he rushed home in the evening to be with his young bride. It was the proverbial dark and stormy night—well, at least dark—and his lone horseback journey took him along the steep cliffs between Burntisland and Kinghorn. The next day, his body was found at the foot of a cliff. Any writer of historical novels looking for a romantic figure might do well to consider Alexander III. You’re welcome. Glad to help.

    I wonder if Alexander’s subjects called him Sandy. Sandy III? My son’s genealogy research doesn’t throw any light on the subject. I’m not sure that, nearly 800 years ago, any members of the Gray family were literate. They might have been because, if not during Sandy III’s reign, then shortly after, Scotland had the highest rate of literacy in Europe, perhaps the world. John Knox and the other Calvanist preachers made sure every Scot knew how to read the Bible.

    I hope our son’s genealogy research doesn’t verge into ancestry worship. The Scottish high-and-mighty (which certainly excluded the Grays)—were inclined that way. Robbie Burns venerated the common man and loved to prick the balloons of the mighty, whose ancestry pretensions were almost antediluvian. Burns wrote: My ancient but ignoble blood/ Has coursed through scoundrels since the flood.

    Sandy, of course, is also a well-known feminine name. But I doubt that the birth certificate of any female Sandy reads Alexander. Is  Alexandra ever called Sandy?

    We once knew a dog named Sandy. A lovely Irish setter, she belonged to our daughter Mary and her husband Tom. Too many decades ago, Sandy, Mary, Tom, Joan and I were boating up Sechelt Inlet, a narrow placid body of water not far northwest of Vancouver. Sandy, Mary and Tom paddled up in a canoe, while Joan and I rowed up in a flat-bottom aluminum tub that served with undue effort as a rowboat.

    We stopped at a marine park to eat our lunch on the beach when a couple paddled up in their two-persons kayak. They were from Seattle. They had abandoned kayaking on Desolation Sound, farther up the coast, because it rained every day. They were possibly attracted here because this particular 50-mile stretch of rock and pebble beach with a few small spots of sand is known as The Sunshine Coast.

    I can recall the precise day it was endowed with that appellation. At Sechelt, then a small village, I was a high school student while also writing for the local weekly newspaper and as a stringer for the Vancouver Sun. I covered a Board of Trade meeting when the Sunshine Coast label was urged as a means to promote tourist business. I thought it a crazy idea. It quite frequently rains here. We had a certain way to forecast the weather at Sechelt. If, across the Strait of Georgia, we could see Vancouver Island on the horizon, we said that meant it would rain. If we couldn’t see Vancouver Island, that meant it was raining.

    I was wrong, of course. The area is now known across Canada as the Sunshine Coast. Even national TV weather reports occasionally refer to the Sunshine Coast. And in fairness, this short stretch of postcard scenery does get more sunshine than Vancouver, where the mountains seem often to lock in clouds; possibly more sunshine than Seattle, and most certainly, more than Desolation Sound.

    But I digress, again. As the couple from Seattle paddled their kayak ashore, Sandy, the Irish setter, bounded down the beach, happily wagging her tail with great vigour in a friendly welcome, but threatening to entangle the couple as they disembarked from their craft and pulled it up on the beach. I called out in my loudest voice, “Here Sandy. Come on Sandy.” The name of the woman climbing out of the kayak was, of course, Sandy.

    And that is the story of why my blog is called Sandy’s Collected Thoughts.

    TAGS. Names, Nicknames, Cognomens, Alexander, Sandy, Alexander III, King of Scotland, Sunshine Coast, Sechelt, Vancouver, Seattle, Kayaks, Kayaking

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