16 April 2008
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In a ceremony at the White House today, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech, and then was treated to a rendition of "Happy Birthday" in honor of his turning 81.  As this was an official government pageant, you just know that someone (or some committee) had the thankless task of devising the name substitution in the penultimate verse.

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday [? ? ?],
Happy birthday to you.

It would scan best with three syllables, of course.  But it would be in manifestly bad taste to say "Dear Bennie," even if that were an acceptable diminutive.  Other choices don't scan well:

  • Pope Benedict

  • Your Holiness

  • Holy Father

"Dear Pontiff" does scan, but "Dear" may come across as lčse majesté.  Which leaves my favorite, the Italian "Il Papa" which does scan and bears a frisson of class.  Of course we do know what was chosen—"Holy Father."  As always, they didn't ask me, but unlike with consumer products, this may have been a wise precaution, since there may be good reasons to have gone with "Holy Father."  Or, they might have given up and tossed a coin.


Do you suppose that the pope has an "official birthday" as does the queen?  When one goes from being a cardinal to being pope, does a new birthday go along with it?  My guess is that it doesn't, but it seems to me that it should.

I am perpetually amazed by the fact that human females are able to wear white for a full day and remain clean and without stains.  I am sure the pope has more help and attendants than almost anyone, but then he probably has to deal with colored beverages and ceremonies in profusion.  And, he is a guy.  I think the fact that he can even remain free of crumbs is remarkable.  I wonder if he thinks so, too.

Do you know if I am correct in not capitalizing "the pope" in the first question?  Likewise, "the queen."  I think I am, since it could be any queen or pope, not necessarily the incumbent, with the official birthday (or not).  I could look it up.  In fact, I did look it up.  I've seen it both ways, and it is my hunch that people capitalize "pope" more by reflex than after due consideration.


Did you know that "Happy Birthday," the song, is still under copyright?  I wonder if and how much we paid for the performance.  And if there is a special papal discount.

NP:  "Televisionary" - World Entertainment War

© 2008
Richard Factor

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