item 1 >>> Do Men Ever Visit Boston? This is the mnemonic devise for remembering the British titles of nobility, highest listed first: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron. The female equivalents are: Duchess, Marchioness, Countess, Viscountess, Baroness. Notice there is no “Earless,” in fact, “Count” is not a noble title, but the English word for a European title of similar rank: Comte/Comtesse (France), Conte/Contessa (Italy), Conde/Condesa (Spain), etc. The complicated German system will be dealt with in item 3. Then there is a Baronet/Baronetess, who is a commoner, not of the peerage. Yeah, it gets kinda snooty, what can you do?
item 2 >>> Marquess/Marchioness is one you don’t hear very often on this side of the Atlantic. More common, thanks to Lafayette, is the French version Marquis/Marquise. Other titles you’ll encounter include Viceroy, which is an “Assistant King,” in charge of a foreign colony, and Coronet, literally “little crown,” worn by a peer, but it can also refer to the title itself. In history, you come across the Italian Doge/Dogaressa, who was the head of a city-state before the unification of the country, and is a dialect form of Duca/Duchessa or Duke.
item 3 >>> The name of the rigid airship Graf Zeppelin and the WWII battleship Graf Spee might lead one to reckon that “graf” is some sort of technical designation, along the lines of “SS” or “HMS.” Actually, these craft were named after real people, who were both of German nobility, hence Graf, which is the equivalent of Earl in the UK, and Count elsewhere in Europe. And there are a dizzying array of levels, the main ones being Altgraf, Burggraf, Pfalzgraf, Landgraf, and Markgraf, but also including Reichsgraf, Rhinegraf, Wildgraf or Waldgraf, Raugraf, Freigraf, and the lowly Vizegraf or Viscount. The Female versions add the suffix “-in”, as in Markgrafin. In English, all these are translated into -grave, as Margrave/Margravine. The Germans also have a Herzog (Duke) at the top, and a Freiherr (Baron) at the bottom, and good luck to them…BTW, in case it’s your name, or someone you know, Konig is King, Furst is Prince, and Ritter is Knight,
item 4 >>> And if one of those grafs looked familiar…Pfalzgraf certainly resembles the kitchenware company Pfaltzgraff. While foreign words that are spelled almost the same can be tricky, from what I gather, these are variant spellings for the same thing. The political structure of the Holy Roman Empire in medieval times was extremely complicated, with surprisingly little of what we would today call centralization. For example, there was no fixed capital…the Emperor would have many castles or palaces throughout his reign, and travel between them, literally “eating the taxes” as they would say back then. Such a regional court was called in the Germanic regions a pfalz, and the count who had jurisdiction over it, a Pfalzgraf, or in English, a Count Palatine, a Count of the Court, or Palace. What originated as essentiality the part of a royal host evolved into an important and powerful office.
item 5 >>> Before leaving this subject, you might be curious about modern-day knights. Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John are just the tip of the iceberg. But again, its complicated. There are many orders or levels of knighthood, and only the top 2 have the right to be called “Sir,” or “Dame” for a woman. While all knighthoods today are in a sense honorary, there are “honorary” honoraries given to foreign-born personages as well. Thus Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and Bill Gates are honorary knights. “Real” knights include Mick Jagger, Bono, George Martin, Sean Connery, Tom Jones, Alfred Hitchcock, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Ralph Richardson, Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, even Salman Rushdie…and most recently Patrick Stewart and Peter Jackson. Which if any of these are officially Sirs is more research than I care to do…I just happen to know that Bob Geldof is a knight but not a Sir because he was born in Ireland.
item 6 >>> But one more thing…with Sean Connery and Roger Moore on the list, you might wonder about 2 other secret agent icons, Patrick McGoohan and Patrick McNee. Whatever other honors may have come their way, neither can be Sirs. Patrick McGoohan, Secret Agent Man John Drake, The Prisoner, The Scarecrow of Romney March, was actuality born in Astoria, Queens of British immigrants, who moved back to the Old Country when he was very young. And altho McNee was born in London, he became a naturalized US citizen in 1959. (Yes, that far back.) A shame really, since his Avengers partner Diana Rigg is a Dame…
item 7 >>> From yesterday, speaking of the Baluchitherium, you might have wondered when the giraffe stands in all of this, no pun intended…well here, see for yourself…
item 8 >>> And speaking of puns, you might be a Baby Boomer if…you remember when “Stay Out of the Draft” was a pun…and a delay serious one at that.
item 9 >>> Also from yesterday, I mentioned Lee Van Cleef in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Its a funny thing, but as many times as I’ve seen that movie, I can never remember what happens with that 3-way showdown at the end, so it’s always a surprise. Maybe it’s because the movie’s so long, and with that extra 14 minutes of footage…but one thing you’ll notice during that drawn-out finale, the tip of one of Lee’s fingers, to the first knuckle, is gone. I believe that’s called the “first joint.” This is real…he had an accident building a studio onto his home, and it became sort of an ‘inside” trademark. Also, as you’re watching The Andy Griffith Show, if you see someone who looks like him, it probably is…he was in a carnival episode, the one with Jerry Van Dyke.
item 10 >>> Altho they tend to hide it very well, other celebrities missing parts of fingers include James Doohan, Telly Savalas, Danny Thomas, Darryl Hannah, Matthew Perry, Buster Keaton, Jerry Garcia, Boris Yeltsin, Rahm Emanuel, and astronaut Deke Slayton…among many others, you’d be surprised. Mike Lookinland also lost a piece of a finger, but it was long after his role on The Brady Bunch.
So what were they really? Not sure I ever knew…lice, fleas, ticks…I do remember all girls had ’em…
Resume and audio samples at http://home.rr.com/mastolfi