What’s In a Name?

A modest proposal: Make Beijing Peking Again.


“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title.”

In this famous passage from Act II Scene II of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the Bard espouses the idea that the name of something doesn’t define its essence. The philosophical debate over language and reality, form and function, has been ongoing for millennia – from Plato and Aristotle to postmodernists and deconstructionists. I’m generally not someone who believes in the power of labels to define reality, but some labels are indeed important.

One such type of label that is increasingly salient in the modern day is the geonym, or place name. Geographic nomenclature is deeply political, with place names having significant cultural and propaganda value. In scholar Benedict Anderson’s 1983 book Imagined Communities, the author describes nations as groups of people who self-organize into a limited, sovereign community based on some shared feature. Language is one of the prime features of an imagined community, and the names of places and institutions reflect the political and societal realities of the nation. They are deliberately intended to convey civic meaning and serve a particular purpose in uniting and consolidating the shared community around a common orientation.

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Past, Prose, & Polydactyly in Paradise

A visit to the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West is a perfect encapsulation of the uniquity of the southernmost point in the United States.


The Florida Keys – and Key West in particular – have always been something of a peculiar place.

The southernmost island chain in the United States, the Keys sit astride the Straits of Florida, the passage between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico trafficked for centuries by commercial vessels of all kinds. Their idyllic tropical location, combined with the availability of fish and safe harbors, made the islands simultaneously a place of refuge and of peril. Due to their strategic geography, the Keys were often passed through by European treasure galleons on the long journey back to the Continent. The myriad cays, inlets, channels, and atolls of the archipelago – and the storms which could whip up a frenzy – made navigation treacherous for even the most professional of crews. Wrecks abounded, heavily laden with the precious cargo of the New World.

The opportunity these treasure fleets represented – and the lack of oversight from the distant Spanish Crown – drew a whole host of marginal characters to this isolated outpost, this Gibraltar of the West. Even after the American government purchased Florida in 1819 and officially took possession two years later, governance in these remote islands was spotty at best. Pirates, wreckers, con men, outlaws, and adventurers all found their way to the Keys. And so did their cavalier and freewheeling lifestyle. Brothels, drink, illicit trade, and a laissez-faire attitude proliferated, eventually centering around the farthest large island, Key West. This cultural largesse was financed by economic largesse; the scavenging of rich local shipwrecks, combined with its low population, made mid-19th century Key West one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.

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Juxtaposition Nation: Israel at 75

Israel is celebrating 75 years of existence this week. Here’s a smattering of thoughts on this miracle nation’s fascinating history and culture.


The Jewish State turns 75 this week, and Israelis are celebrating their Independence Day, known in Israel as Yom Ha’atzma’ut. The date changes each year, as it is referenced by the Jewish calendar, but it falls from April 25 to 26 in 2023.

Israeli independence is dated from the declaration of the State by the nation’s first Prime Minister and the dominant figure in Israel’s early politics, David Ben-Gurion, only a few hours before the official end of British Mandate Palestine. The state was declared despite the desires of the British (one of the few times you’ll see me fault the British Empire is in its treatment of Israel). It was declared knowing it would trigger a massive, all-out, genocidal invasion of the country by its far larger and better-equipped Arab neighbors. It faced down that war of extermination, along with several others, coming out victorious each time. It has dealt with constant terrorism for nearly its entire history, often funded or promoted by various nations and international institutions – including the United States. And still it is here, thriving, in spite of the gale-force headwinds. The existence of such a state is a prophecy fulfilled – whether from the Bible or from Theodor Herzl. (My money is on the latter.)

Somehow Israel seems both older and younger than its seven and a half decades of national life; this is just one of the many paradoxes that makes Israel one of the most interesting countries on Earth.

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Marriage is Good, Actually

A brief defense of an institution that really shouldn’t need defending.


I ran across a sentiment online yesterday that I found entirely incomprehensible: a strong antipathy to marriage from people who are on the conservative side of the political spectrum. This was not an attitude I had seen from that specific segment of the political population, so it struck me as particularly bizarre. Typically, anti-marriage talk has come from the more radical sections of the progressive movement, arguing either that marriage is a conservative institution that needs demolition, that it stigmatizes non-traditional relationships like polyamorous groups, or that it leads to an investment in the status quo when radical change is needed. More often than not, conservatives have been the defenders of marriage as a social institution; seeing this shift among people on the increasingly secular right is concerning for anyone who believes that marriage is good.

And yes, reader, marriage is indeed good! Let us count the ways.

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Trans Misogyny

Trans activism is often a one-way street – and females are in the way.


Over the past few years, no realm of political activism has grown faster or become more central to our disputes than gender ideology and transgenderism. It has rapidly transformed from something at the fringe of current events to a topic that inserts itself into every other news cycle. The pace of change, especially after the Obergefell Supreme Court decision which legalized gay marriage across the country, has been blistering. Trans activists are common on television, punch above their weight online, and exert serious pressure against dissenters and neutral institutions. Even minor pushback to this revolutionary movement – and yes, redefining our understanding of our sexed bodies is radical – has been routinely labeled as bigoted, transphobic, or, in the case of trans women, ‘transmisogynist’.

Transmisogyny is a term, coined by the trans writer Julia Serano, for prejudice against transgender women (natal males). This idea is of a piece with the broader intersectional movement, which posits that “all forms of inequality are mutually reinforcing,” creating a hierarchy of victimhood in which the more identity boxes one checks, the more ‘oppressed’ one is. In just a few years, the incidence of this term has positively exploded across the Internet, with major news outlets using it repeatedly and scholarly articles abounding. But the real transmisogyny isn’t as Serano described it; the term is a more apropos of the severe misogyny of the trans activist movement.

Transgender activism only seems to look one-way: at women. Activist focus on trans men (natal females) is practically nonexistent, and they are far less ubiquitous in media. Theoretically, both sorts of transgender person would merit activist attention, but this is not how things have played out in reality. Instead, the vast majority of trans activism centers exclusively on inculcating the idea that trans women (again, natal males) are in fact no different from natal females. The activist attempt to usurp womanhood is a shot across the bow of feminism and more often than not reinforces misogynist stereotypes.

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