Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Sweetest Revenge

Hitchcock once said: “Revenge is sweet and not fattening.” On deeper analysis, his quip indeed feels deep. Think about it. When life serves you lemons, the only artificial sweetener at your disposal is the aspartame of vendetta. When sprinkled in the right portions, it lightens up the bitterness, melts away the rancour and replaces the taste of acerbity with the saccharine glee of tit-for-tat.

For those who want their retribution to linger a little longer, there’s always ‘revenge naming’. It’s the practice of labelling a living thing or object after a name you despise, so that it acts as a permanent advertisement for whatever you hate.

Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, was the pioneer of the concept. When academician Johann Siegesbeck was busy denouncing his ideas, Linnaeus got even by naming a foul-smelling yucky weed as ‘Siegesbeckia Orientalis’.  

Carl was not the only one to take veiled jibes at opponents. Out of disdain for Anne Chisholm - the critic who trashed her novel - Jilly Cooper immortalised a goat in her next novel by calling it ‘Chisholm’. Understandably Anne wasn’t amused. They say it got her goat!

Revenge names, sometimes, present a handy valve for jilted wives to ventilate their anger. When Victoria Bage discovered that her husband had a mistress, she decided to embarrass him once for all by launching ‘Sarah Coggles’, a fashion store in Yorkshire. Every time someone asked her about the identity of ‘Sarah Coggles’, she used to regale her audience with salacious tales of her man’s fling with Miss Coggles!

In Michael Jackson’s case, it was just the reverse. He punished Diana Ross, the crooner who spurned him for Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess, by releasing the famed single ‘Dirty Diana’.

Using names as weapons to take pot shots at hate figures took an altogether political turn recently, when a French gaming designer created ‘Kill Mittal’. Apparently, his aim was to demonise Lakshmi Mittal, the billionaire responsible for shutting down steel plants in France. The game got such bad press for Arcelor Mittal that the steelmaker is now said to be steeling itself against more attacks. What this goes to show is: there is power in naming and shaming.