Talking to William about “dunking” in the comments on the previous post, I was reminded of the time I learned of my religious heritage on my father’s side. A while back, as part of preparation for a family reunion, my Aunt Weezie sent me a booklet in which a cousin had written the genealogy of Dad’s family. I won’t reveal my maiden name here, but it was a name of German derivation . . . let’s say it was Wienerschnitzel. The family book on the Wienerschnitzels was exhaustively researched, going back several generations.
I learned about how the first Wienerschnitzels came from Germany and settled in the Allegheny Mountains. And then I read something that stopped me cold:
“The first Wienerschnitzels to settle in the United States were all drunkards.”
It went on to say that they formed close-knit communities with other drunkards. Okaaaaaay. I knew very well that there was alcoholism in the family. But day-um! Do we have to say it like THAT? I wondered if Aunt Weezie had had a hand in editing the Wienerschnitzel history book. She is not known for her tact, and she IS known for getting her way. I began to prepare my rebuttal in my head — what I would say when I called her:
Aunt Weezie, for heaven’s sake, I know you want to be honest, but can’t we finesse this a little bit . . . we could say they faced certain “challenges” . . . it IS, after all, a family reunion, it’s a “feel-good” occasion . . . it’s not like we’re going on the freakin’ Dr. Phil show . . . and come ON, surely they weren’t ALL drunkards . . .
The more I thought about what was written, and what I had to say about it, the more annoyed I became. There was no reason for saying such a thing in a booklet to be distributed at a family reunion! There were elderly people there who would be embarrassed, offended . . . I couldn’t believe it.
I went back to read more about the drunken Wienerschnitzels before I called Aunt Weezie. At some point, the historian cousin took to capitalizing “Drunkard,” and even calling my kinfolk “devout” in their drunkenness. Devout Drunkards? Oh, wait . . . it doesn’t say “drunkard.” It says “Dunkard.” Dunkard. A Christian sect, precursor to the Church of the Brethren, so named for their practice of Baptism — of “dunking” church members in imitation of Jesus in the Jordan, for purposes of symbolically cleansing them of their sins and raising them in the likeness of Christ.
Ohhhh. Dunkards. Never mind.