The word 'tiger' is a powerful word, muscular, even deadly. And this has nothing at all to do with any particular jungle cat. There was the tiger tank, for example. Also a boxer who moved quickly with a feline grace and what they call 'killer instinct'.
Were someone to say, Don't use the word 'tiger' anymore, use the word 'mozab' instead, I would object. A man-eating mozab is as nebulous as an amoeba. Any self-respecting village would be ashamed to have one lurking about.
Words are important. And certain family names are magical. Mine is that of an Irish clan which fought the Romans, Danes and Saxon chiefs. It was name whispered in fear by English infantry crossing the Boyne. A name shouted in the streets during the Rising when the Dublin Post Office burned.
My grandfather gave me more than a few Celtic words and a secret handshake. Before he died, he connected me with kings and warriors, with poets and arrogant barristers. 'A green island of songs and long days, my boyo. A land that had universities when the rest of Europe still swung by their tails from trees. That's in our name, bucko, and smiles that light up the darkest room.'
So I tell my son, 'Don't change your name as your mother has.'
I'd never do that, ' he vows. 'It's the name of my first father.'
I question him closely to determine if 'first father' (who is me) is like the First Secretary of the Communist Party or like The Father in Rome. It is too much of one, too little of the other to let it rest. So I teach him Celtic handshake. Recite the ancient Gaelic words. Speak to the green island his blood knows, singing deep in his veins.
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