Hypocrite, n.  One who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.–Ambrose Bierce

RushI’ve wondered, from time to time, what parents may have been thinking to name a son “Rush.” A few of my New England ancestors adopted hortatory names–”Small-Hope Biggs,” “Safely-on-High Snatt,” or my favorite, as David Hackett Fischer relates it, “ffly fornication Bull,” who “was made pregnant in the shop of a yeoman improbably called Goodman Woodman.” Most New Englanders had Biblical names, of course, but never “Jesus.” That was left to Latins, who did other crazy things like reenact the Crucifixion. But Fischer also points out that naming children (according to cultural historian Daniel Scott Smith) “is culturally never a trivial act.”

One of the possible synonyms for “Rush” is to “hightail it!” Rush did indeed do just that, after slipping out his “slut” comment about the young woman who testified before Congress that she felt personally deprived because her Catholic university law school would not pay for unspecified means of birth control. The OED says that “slut” can mean a woman who is untidy or lazy, which it appears on television that this young lady is not, or, the preferred definition, “a woman who has many sexual partners,” which, of course, one cannot tell from viewing a Congressional hearing. Unless, of course, one is named “Rush.”

And, since Rush both rushed in and hightailed it we are drawn to the various reactions to his willingness to live up to his name. Advertisers, we are told, rushed away from his radio program faster than the rats abandoned the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. It is possible that they assumed a high moral ground, just as it is possible that the young woman in question is not a slut at all, but an altruistic person interested only in the health and well being of other women who for whatever reason need free birth control as a matter of natural right.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Rush, because he used a politically incorrect term, becomes the anti-hero while a woman who wants us to pay for her behavior of choice becomes the victim? The businesses and other institutions who are the self-proclaimed champions of the free market rush like rats to disavow imprudent language while implicitly elevating the stature of someone whose behavior just a generation ago would have earned the name Rush called her by acclamation. Hypocrites have been around a long time, and most of them deserve their names.

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