What's in a Name?

Rick Santorum

The presidential primary season generates lots of data relevant to decision making in the courtroom.  Not only is the choice of candidate important, but what people think they know about a candidate is sometimes very interesting.  We were fascinated to learn that when it came to one particular candidate, many people  had become instant experts on etymology.  John Stewart, of the Daily Show, had become an etymologist, along with Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time, and a host of other left leaning comedians.  It wasn’t just comedians who seemed fascinated with the origin of presidential candiate Rick Santorum’s sir name, but lawyers, judges and yes, potential jurors, all seemed to think they knew the origin, that is, the etymology of the former senator’s sir name.

So what did these instant etymologists spout with great confidence when asked:  These otherwise highly educated and intelligent people spouted that the sir name Santorum “means a mixture of fecal matter and lube?”  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you reading this still believe that the sir name Santorum means just that.  If you believe that, please accept my admonition that you are not ready to take your oral examination for your etymology degree.

Permit me to publicly thank professor Thelma Lou Parks, my Latin instructor in high school, who gave all of us privileged to learn from her a distinct advantage when it came to understanding the origins or words and names.  Students don’t study Latin these days, but they know how to do a “Google search,” and therein is part of the problem.

Dan Savage

First, here is the TRUE etymology regarding the Italian sir name “Santorum.” The former Senator’s sir name originated from the medieval first name Santoro, derived from the Latin word Sanctus = Saint, the genitive plural form is “Sanctorum”, used also to indicate the All Saints feast. Possibly connected to someone acting as a saint, or who has connection with religious things (a sacristan).  1

So where does the fecal matter and lube come into this?  Well, a man by the name of Dan Savage, a sex advice columnist who is a gay activist, decided that he did not like presidential candiate Rick Santorum’s stance on homosexual marriage and his displeasure with the gay lifestyle.  So Dan decided to reach into his personal experience and link a subject he knew something about, i.e., fecal matter and lube, with candidate Santorum.  He posted this in his column and managed to link it to Google’s search engine.

What fascinated us during our research was the absolute arrogance with which our instant etymologists spouted their understanding of the meaning of the sir name Santorum.  No one had ever heard of Dan Savage and when asked a number of Socratic questions all designed to help them reason away their belief, they resisted with an equal measure of sureness.  When we asked, for example, “do you really think that an Italian sir name, given the influence of tradition and family to Italian culture, that anything so gross as fecal matter and lube would become associated with a family sir name?”  Our respondents didn’t budge when asked that question.

1.  Italy World Club/Italian sir names and genealogy.

Larry the Cable Guy

If I were to ask you:  Name a comedian who embodies conservative values, is a “good ol boy” and who trades in blue collar humor, you might reply “Larry the Cable Guy”.   I remember Larry being on a late night talk show with Michael Moore a few years ago.  Moore handed Larry a DVD of his latest film at the time, Fahrenheit 911.  Larry took it, mugged for the camera, then threw it across the stage.  Larry is a cast member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, along with Bill Engvall, Ron White, and Jeff Foxworthy (with whom he’s starred on Blue Collar TV)  His three cast members are all genuine “good ol boys” who embody what they lovingly call “redneck comedy.”



Larry the Cable Guy is the darling of conservatives everywhere, especially the Midwest and the South.  Larry may be a comedian, but he wears his conservative bona fides on his sleeve.  His current hit series, “Only in America,” is a good example of how Larry engages in flag waving and trades in nationalistic pride.  Larry’s clothes, demeanor, language, political views and persona scream “good ol boy.”  Larry punctuates his good ol boy philosophy with his mantra:  “Git-R-Done.”



So what if I told you that Larry the Cable Guy is a ONLY a character, albeit a brilliant character, developed by a man who does NOT naturally have a southern accent, doesn’t walk like he is stepping over cow patties, doesn’t speak with a twang, doesn’t shop at Wall Mart, isn’t a member of the 99% crowd, but is worth millions and millions of dollars?  Don’t believe me?  Here are the facts:


A comedian/actor by the name of Dan Whitney (Larry’s real name) created Larry the Cable Guy out of thin air.  He invented the good ol boy dress, demeanor, attitudes and conservative philosophy in order to market himself to a particular audience of conservative Americans who love home spun, patriotic and yes, rock-ribbed conservative humor.  Conservatives everywhere bought Dan’s act, as Larry might say:  “hook, line and sinker.”


Compare the two still photos below.  The one on the left is a photo of Dan Whitney, a stand up comedian who speaks without a southern accent, dresses like a lib-left leaning standup comedian of the 1980’s and whose demeanor, haircut, and act are 100% L.A. or New York.  You’re looking at Larry the Cable Guy.  “Git-R-Done.”


Hard to believe, isn’t it?  For those of you who still are skeptical, I have included a portion of Dan’s stand up act PRIOR to his creation of his brilliant character Larry the Cable Guy. (See below)


Now let me make something clear.  I’m not “outing” Dan Whitney, so to speak.  Others inside show business know about this.  Instead, I want to congratulate Dan for creating, then portraying, a character so brilliantly that people never stop to question Larry’s genuineness.  Next time you see Dan perform on stage, TV or film or see him a commercial (he currently has a Prilosec TV commercial running), appreciate his brilliance, not only in his performance, but the creation of the character.  If Larry isn’t real, he should be…maybe its Dan who is no longer real.  I know this, Larry is much funnier than Dan ever was.

Dan Whitney

Larry the Cable Guy

Dan Whitney NOT in character as “Larry the Cable Guy.”

Dan Whitney in Character as:  Larry the Cable Guy,


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