Friday, November 21, 2008

What’s in a name: Radar

For some very quick history on “radar”, the term that many of us associate with speeding tickets…

…it is actually an acronym coined in 1941 for “RAdio Detection And Ranging”. I’m big on nicknames and acronyms. For example, one of my mom’s many rescued dogs (that I rescued and discreetly left in her house) is named Hilda. She was run over by a car in 2003 and left in the street when I picked her up… she is a “HIt and Left to Die Angel.” Even Fantango is short for Fancy Tango. So, being that this technique has been successfully applied to technology and puppies, how could it go wrong with a real live human baby!?!

And so it is that my son, Rafael Darwin, will have to put up with his nickname Radar!

As for the name Rafael Darwin, that’s a mixture of cool history and family history.

The Cool History

Rafael is an angel…
but not just any old angel. He’s an archangel with the power to heal!

Charles Darwin was a botanist…

he was that evolution dude, tied inexorably to the physical world.

So by mixing the two names, it seems I’ve covered all of heaven and earth! But that isn’t why I chose the name.

The Family History


I have only one living relative who carries the name Rafael – my cousin, who is currently serving as a Major in the US Army in South Korea. Of the 15 grandchildren of my paternal grandparents, he has been named “The Perfect One” for 10 years running. We attribute this in large part to the lack of any serious competition, but there is also some element of validity in the accomplishment. He is smart, cool, funny, a good family man, and just an all around great guy to hang out with. His drawbacks… he is very hairy and he is a Republican. But mostly I think that to be his namesake is not a bad thing.

Of course, my cousin wasn’t the first Pazos to carry the name. My dad’s great uncle in Cuba was the original Rafael (that I know of). I have no pictures of him. He died in Cuba when my dad, uncle and aunt were still young. But from their descriptions, he looked a bit like this…

A few things I’ve learned about Radar’s great-great-great uncle Rafael…
1. He was tall – at least 6 feet, which was tall for a Cuban man.
2. He was one of four children (three boys and a girl). Only his brother, Jose Francisco Javier Pazos, had any children (my grandfather), so he has no direct descendents.
3. He used to visit the family in Havana every Sunday. In his last year of life, he always wore his pajama top instead of a regular shirt because it was more comfortable… way to go Tio Rafa!
4. He was very bright and a good chess player.
5. He was a Mason (ie, Freemason) and was a true believer. He used to take my dad to a few of the Mason funerals.
6. He was married, but before settling down with his wife, he was entangled in a love triangle that was fodder for gossip.
7. The family was very fond of Tio Rafael and my cousin was named after him.

All in all, it sounds like Tio Rafael was a kind and colorful character. Rafael is a family name, but one that has not been used very much. I am proud to have my boy carry the name.


This is an easier one and one that has a specific link back to the “cool history” part of the name. My maternal grandfather was named Darwin Miscall. His parents were science loving Unitarians, so when my grandfather was born in 1909 (the 100th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth), it seemed a good choice for a name. (This picture of Darwin is circa 1914)

“Grandpa” died in 1987, so I had the pleasure of knowing him well (he died shortly before my 19th birthday). I knew him as a good natured and funny Grandpa! Some of the things I remember from my many visits to see him in Maine are:

1. He had many goofy expressions… when asking for the butter at the table, he would always ask you to pass “le beurre.”… when saying thank you, he would often say, “gratzi, gratzi, you old nazi.”
2. He had a workshop out in the garage where he would spend hours making jigsaw puzzles, improving Grammy’s birdhouses or carving out wooden figures for us… I still have one of the carvings of a man leading a donkey on a rope with my name painted on it.
3. He would ride his small tractor down into the woods behind the house where he had cleared an area that he termed “the national park”… we still call it that today.
4. He loved the Red Sox and he was the first thought that crossed my mind when they finally lifted “The curse of the Bambino” and won the series in 2004!
5. He had a deep, booming voice and couldn’t sing a note on key. My grandmother has always devoutly attended church, but he never did. I remember a story he told of one occasion when he went to church with Grammy and when it came time to sing a hymn, he boomed the words out all off key. Grammy was embarrassed, but he just told her, “God gave me this voice and now he’s got to listen to it!”
6. His friends were loyal and they loved him. Even today when I visit my almost 94 year old Grammy, some of his old friends still make a point of telling me how much they admired and cared for him and he’s been dead for over 20 years.

So that’s it in a bunch of nutshells… that’s how my Rafael Darwin, aka Radar, came to inherit the name.

Hugs and pugs,
Titi and Radar


The Science Pundit said...

Tio Rafael sounds like quite a character.

Lali said...

Lovely! I like your Tio Rafael sketch!

Kisses, Loves, Hugs and Pugs,

Andrea said...

You have such a wonderful way with words.. what a completely entertaining family you have.. or frame that you put them in!! I can't wait to see Radar listening to you tell family stories!

Angela said...

Seran dos Angeles en la Familia,,,
Rafael y Miguel,,
tendran algo en comun, .
ya se aproxima la hora de llegada del Bebe,,,
un abrazote,,
Angela, Anglea, Mrs Monk, Reina.