Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Title's Better Than Your Title, Part 2

Some time back (in March of this year, actually) I wrote a post I called "My Title's Better Than Your Title," which turned out to be one of my more popular (or, at least, more frequently read) pieces. You may remember that's the one in which I mused that it would really be nice to have a formal title like Illustrious Potentate, as opposed to something more appropriate like Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.

Well, today I'm ready to take the title discussion one step further.

I want a coat of arms.

No, not a winter garment for an octopus, I mean a real coat of arms like all the noble people have. I'd like to have a real, colorful, no-kidding shield adorned with bears, unicorns, stars, knights, and all sorts of other neat stuff. I'd like people to be able to Google Bilbo on the Internet and learn that his shield has bars, gules, a pomegranate proper, roundels, goutes, dragons rampant d'or, and similar imposing things that would make salesmen, flacks for political candidates, and annoying itinerant preachers think twice about knocking on my suitably emblazoned front door.

Prince Charles of England has a coat of arms:

And so did the late Pope John Paul II:

Unfortunately, descending as I do from a long and illustrious line of working-class Eastern European nobodies, I don't really rate my own coat of arms in the traditional heraldic sense. But that doesn't stop me from being fascinated by the whole idea.

You can have a lot of fun with heraldic terms. Old-time children's cartoons were famous for including all sorts of adult puns and allusions that you couldn't possibly use of my favorites was a villain in the old Underdog cartoon series - Simon Bar Sinister:

Today, being older and somewhat more educated, I know that in heraldic terms a bar sinister, meaning a line from the top right to the bottom left of a coat of arms, signifies that the owner of the crest is a bastard.

You can get a fairly good introduction to the arcane art and science of designing coats of arms here (more information than you probably want, but it's neat, anyhow). There are also lots of websites and companies out there that will happily design you a coat of arms for your family in exchange for a signature recumbent on a check of large denomination. Unfortunately, they'll just throw a bunch of stuff together that really doesn't necessarily mean be real, a coat of arms has to tell something about you and your family's history, achievements, lineage, and so on.

I'm still working on drawing out my idea for Bilbo's Coat of Arms, but in heraldic terms, it would be something like a debtor rampant on a field of unpaid bills, pursued by a tax collector, furious. I need a motto, too...perhaps something like capilla semper incendium ("hair always on fire").

I'll let you know when it's done.

In the meantime, you can just continue to call me Illustrious Potentate. It'll do fine.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Jean-Luc Picard said...

There's nothing wrong with 'Chief Cook & Bottle Washer'.

Mike said...

I added the link to the heraldry site to my favorites. I'm going to look into my geneology some day. Right after I write your letter.