What Sinner name?

BC Pires -
BC Pires -


BC Pires

BETWEEN covid19 in 2019 and cancer in 2022, I didn’t watch tennis for so long, I didn’t know the names of players at Wimbledon, but that didn’t stop it from being the best Wimbledon since Roger Federer retired, and not only because NoVaxx Jokeysumbit-- got served, royally, by the young man we now know as Carlitos.

John McEnroe described Carlos Alcaraz, the world number one even before he put the shoes on NoVaxx in London SW19, as the best 20-year-old player he ever saw, even better than Federer, Djokovic and Rafa Nadal when they all were 20.

Alcaraz gave the commentators almost as much trouble with the pronunciation of his surname as he gave NoVaxx with the tennis ball. Now anyone could be forgiven for struggling with Carlitos’s surname because it’s so visually and phonetically close to Alcatraz, the American maximum security penitentiary on Alcatraz Island off San Francisco; in Trinidad, he will probably be called Carlos Alcatraz. (And some Trini will suggest they “name him so becaw he does kill them other tennis player and them.”)

But Carlitos (the affectionate form of Carlos) comes from Spain (which is really España, just as Holland is the Netherlands and Germany is Deutschland) and, in most of Spain, the zed at the end of his surname is pronounced “th,” as though everybody in the plathe had a lithp: Alcarath.

Spanish-speakers in our part of the world, though, would pronounce the zed as an ess. So Alcarath becomes Alcaras. One poor bewildered BBC commentator, seeking to avoid pronunciation mishaps, abandoned the zed entirely and pronounced Alcatraz/Alcarath/Alcaras as simply “Alcara;” it was worth a try. (And I know I’m referring to the last letter of the alphabet as zed when every red-blooded African-American Trini knows it’s really zee.)

But Alcatraz/Alcarath/Alcaras/Alcara wasn’t the most spectacular surname in Wimbledon. No, that (dis?)honour went to an Italian named Jannik (pronounced Yannick) Sinner!

Sinner became this agnostic’s favourite player the moment I heard his name (though Carlitos persuaded me back to his side with his racket). Sinner is Germanic (or, properly speaking, if we did it in English, Deutschlandic) in origin and, like the English names Baker, Carpenter, Mason, Sheppard, Taylor or the omnipresent Smith, came from an occupation. A German sinner would have been an inspector of weights and measures.

Jannik Sinner would be well-advised never to play an exhibition match in TT, Barbados or the Bahamas, where there would likely be more evangelical pastors than tennis players interested in his backhand, his ball action, his passing shots and his coming to the net. Tobago, Barbados and the Bahamas all protested against gay-themed cruise ships docking at their respective capitals (though many of the protesters might have been in favour of docking personally).

The other player I noticed didn’t attract my attention because he’s Russian at a time when the gang leader of Russia is actively perpetrating a war crime against Ukraine. No, Daniil Medvedev caught my eye because he just looks so Trinidadian. Daniel Medvedev could not just be a Trini, he could be a Cabral! (It’s almost too much, really, that the surname Cabral should come from “cabra,” the Portuguese word for “goat;” and the Cabrals of the New World would have been goat-men in the Old World; there is room here for a joke about Portuguese goats and Serbian GOATs but I leave that for Tony Deyal to uncover – that’s your 78th birthday present, Tony.)

What’s in a name, indeed!

And all of this all comes to mind because of Wimbledon, which finished last Sunday, and my next Trini to the Bone feature, which appears next Monday in Newsday, and spotlights Joey Ng Wai, the amazing lead guitarist behind – or, depending on your perspective, at the forefront of – some of Trinidad’s biggest bands, including Frantic, Imij and Co and Secondimij.

Joey – whose real name is Joel – talks about missing playing rock music after so many decades of dining out, if not rocking out, on soca and his forming a new, guitar-heavy band.

Which is called Jimi Flipp.

He talks about his love for the guitar playing of both Andre Tanker and Jimi Hendrix.

And reveals, in a way you’re likely to be delighted to find out, what’s in a band name.

BC Pires plays like Jimi Hendrix. And then plays, like, Carlos Santana. First Electric Ladyland and then Abraxas


"What Sinner name?"

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