4.6.2022 – mononymously

Raffaello Sanzio
known as Raphael

Always on the lookout for remarkable, or worthy of a remark, words and remarkable words brought together in a remarkable fashion, I came across this line in Wikipedia this morning:

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino; (28 March or 6 April 1483 – 6 April 1520) known mononymously as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance.

I always wish I had studied Italian for no other reason than it LOOKS like fun to talk like that.

I imagine little Raphael in kindergarten and the teacher reading the role, calling Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, and little Raphael saying ‘presente’.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino was on my mind this morning due a review I read of an exhibition now in London.

I might as well read about it even though I am not going to London and even if I was I know that I wouldn’t be able to get the ticket to see the exhibition and even I was able to get a ticket I most likely wouldn’t be able to afford it let alone the ticket to London.

The reviewer writes: “Of the big three of the High Renaissance, he was the most straightforward, the most productive, and for 300 years, the most influential.”

When talking of the High Renaissance, the big three were Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael.

I remember being in lectures on these fellers back in college as History of Art was my minor but all that I really remember is that of the three, it was Raphael who took a step back, looked at the suffering, angst and anguish that went into the art of the other two and said to himself, “there has got to be a better way” then went out and found one.

He lived the good life and it shows in the life and color that is in his work.

But on the one hand both Leonardo and Michelangelo lived to be crabby old men and Raphael, like Mozart, died in his late 30’s.

The review of the exhibition brought me to search him out and if you throw a name into the google, you will get Wikipedia links back and Wikipedia threw the word mononymously into my brain and it got me thinking.

I love the word and never knew it existed until one hour ago.


My spell check throws it out.

The Google pretty much throws it out.

Online dictionaries find mononymous and mononym and the Macmillan Online Dictionary has the curious line, There is also some evidence for a derived noun mononymity, meaning something like: ‘the state of only using one name’.

Some evidence?

The Committee is still out on this one I guess.

But no mention of the adverb Mononymously or the act of being known by one name.

Is that just supposed to be understood?

Then it got me to thinking of those folks truly known mononymously.

So often anyone known mononymously owes to their current celebrity.

As Paul Simon wrote:

He’s so unhip that when you say Dylan
He thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas
Whoever he was
The man ain’t got no culture

And I would have bet a doughnut that with a name like Dylan, you would be able to achieve mononymity.

Of course, Mr. Simon does mix first and last names here but you get my drift.

Does a name have to be unusual to achieve true mononymity?

I don’t think so but it helps.

When you say ‘Michael’ do you mean Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan?

When you say ‘Elvis’ do you mean, well, Elvis or Elvis Grbac who played quarterback at Michigan who threw the touchdown pass to Desmond Howard to beat Notre Dame that my wife witnessed but doesn’t remember (the game, the pass or that there was someone named Elvis in the building).

According once again to Wikipedia, 100 Billion people have lived and died in the history of the world.

And somehow, someway, some folks achieve mononymity.

That the big three of the High Renaissance achieved it and have held it for the last 500 years must say something.

I, on the other hand, have achieved anonymity and am happy with that.

One source says one third of the American males are named Michael.

I once saw a printed birthday card that had Happy Birthday Mike on the front … and inside something like, don’t get excited, half the world could get this card.

A search of the Google for my name in quotes shows 1.1 million hits ( in .63 seconds – which is a ridiculous amount of time even when you consider it is often longer than the time separating most Olympic Gold and Bronze medal winners).

Yet in MY CHILDHOOD, when I went to school in 7th grade, three teachers called the role that first day of school and got my name wrong.

I was marked absent for three days until those teachers looked at me and asked who was I?

I said my name was Mike and that I had no idea who Michelle Hoffman was.

I’ll take anonymity.

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