Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Alfed, Alferd, Alfrd (for Alfred)

Alfed appears 19 times in OhioLINK (all of them typos for Alfred) and Alferd 16 times (more than half of those refer to Alferd G. Packer, a convicted though possibly innocent 19th-century cannibal; several others include a "sic" or are unclear as to the correct spelling). I found four results for Alfrd as well. There are lots of interesting "Alfreds" out there: the aforementioned Packer, whose actual name Alfred was misspelled by a tattoo artist and stuck; Alfred Hitchcock; Alfred Kinsey; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Alfred E. Neuman; etc. But the one that intrigues me the most at the moment is Alfred Jarry, father of the so-called Theatre of the Absurd. I just saw a local performance of his notorious 1896 play Ubu Roi—or, as it was alternatively titled in this case, Ubu Rex. King Ubu, according to Wikipedia, is "one of the most monstrous and astonishing characters in French literature." And, especially in this adaptation by Oakley Hall III in which Ubu and Mother Ubu are played by gigantic puppets, the most seemingly well fed as well. (Ubu's campaign platform, such as it was, was to tax everyone twice, take all their food, and then kill them.) Alfred Jarry was a 19th-century "merry prankster" and had quite a few idiosyncrasies of his own. He pronounced each and every syllable in a word and eschewed intonation. He referred to himself using the royal we. He named the wind "that which blows" and his bicycle "that which rolls." He adored alcohol and particularly absinthe ("the green goddess") and once merged his love of the drink and the love of his bike by painting his face green and riding through the center of town. Fey and fastidious to the very end, his final request was for a toothpick. (Fascinating factoid: the name Alfred means "counsel of elves.")

(Photograph of Alfred Jarry in Alfortville, Paris, France.)

Carol Reid

1 comment:

Angela Kroeger said...

I also found an "Aflred" in my catalog.