I have a fun little story to share with you today, dear readers — a little something to marvel over while sharing a pint with your mates at the pub (sorry for all the contrived Irish, it’s been a long day).
Anyway, because it’s St.Patrick’s Day (and because I’ve been re-reading Ulysses this month) I thought it might be fun to assign all of my students “Irish names” for the day. One of them, for example, became O’Shaughnessy. Another became O’Malley. Two more became Molly and Finnegan. You get the idea.
Well, the kids thought it was good for a laugh, and they all had a great time calling each other weird-sounding names like “Paddy” and “Blazes”. But it wasn’t until I named one of them Stephen that the morning took an interesting turn.
“Your name is Stephen,” I told him with my famously impressive Irish accent. (Stephen is the protagonist’s name in Ulysses, so I really threw a lot of gusto into it.)
Upon hearing this, one of the little girls sitting at his table turned to me with an excited look on her face and said, “Stephen Hawking.”
Stephen Hawking? I genuinely didn’t believe I’d heard her right, so I asked her to say it again. Sure enough, she smiled and repeated, “Stephen Hawking.”
[Stephen Hawking, for those who don’t know, is a famous physicist and cosmologist, best known for his bestselling science book A Brief History of Time. You might know him as “the really smart guy in the wheelchair” or maybe “the black hole guy.” He was also Carl Sagan’s hype man in “A Glorious Dawn.” ]
Now, this would have been incredible coming from any 6-year-old, but bear in mind that this particular 6-year-old is not even a native English speaker. She’s a little Korean girl whose dad (quote) “has Stephen Hawking book at my house.” So, at 6 years old, speaking a language that isn’t her own, she invoked the name of an academic physicist…
And to think my poor parents were excited that I could read The Berenstain Bears by myself.