Friday, November 12, 2010

Not the Same People

It's that time in the term when my students have to do a research project--a type of academic trivial pursuit game. A comment made on another blog leads me to mention this now. Absolute care must be taken when presenting material as true that that material is actually true--solid research is key.

Let's see how you do with the piece of information I'm referring to. Francis Scott Key and Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald--are these the names of two separate people or two names for the same person? Go ahead, take a moment.....

Okay, the answer is that the names refer to two different people. Francis Scott Key was the composer of the lyrics of "The Star Spangled Banner." Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was otherwise known as F. Scott Fitzgerald and is perhaps best remembered as the author of The Great Gatsby. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896, the namesake and second cousin three times removed of the author of the National Anthem.

So what's the problem? F. Scott Fitzgerald was known as a drunkard--the first Francis Scott Key was quite the opposite: a man of solid character, highly religious and not an inbiber of alcohol.

A highly respected Rav apparently made a comment a few decades ago that is remembered by some today. Unclear from the comment on the blog was whether or not the Rav was referring to The Star Spangled Banner or to Hatikvah when he said that it is kefira because its author was a drunkard. If this was said in reference to The Star Spangled Banner I'd like to believe that that Rav, were he living today and were it pointed out to him that he was mixing up two different people, would have retracted his statement. Unfortunately the Rav is not living, but it seems that his words live on after him. If the statement was made referring to The Star Spangled Banner it's time for a correction.

So, lesson of the day: check your sources, and then double check them, or triple check them if need be.


Abba's Rantings said...

it's also possible that the rav you mentioned wasn't confusing two Francis Scott Keys, but rather the authors of two different national anthems, i.e, the american anthem and the zionist anthem. as frum people sometimes like to point out when disparaging zionism, naphtali herz imber (composer of the poem that became hatikvah) liked to drink.

"check your sources, and then double check them, or triple check them if need be."

also make sure you use multiple sources, even when dealing with academic sources. just because someone commits something to writing doesn't make it correct.

Danny said...

Imber was well known to be a drunk and he never tried to hide that fact. I'd think that a rav would more likely be referring to the Israeli anthem then the American anthem. Just kind of weird though that someone named for the writer of the American anthem gets confused with him and also is a drunk. Something about being associated with writing and with anthems that sparks alcoholism?

Susan said...

No one in our family could ever forget who wrote the American anthem. When we were younger my sister got homework on the anthem and told us about it at the dinner table. Our aunt was at the table and said she knew all about the anthem. She also thought it was wonderful that the author was a Jew, someone named Schlussel. My sister told her she was wrong. The man who wrote the anthen was named Key. My aunt shrugged her shoulders and said Schlussel, Key made no difference because they were 'die zelbeh zach'--the same thing, and he probably changed his name when he came to the country. It's how family stories get born.

profk_offspring said...

The music for the Star Spangled Banner actually does come from a British drinking song, so it's not altogether beyond the scope of possibility that the composer was a tad tipsy at the time :)

Anonymous said...

F Scott Fitzgerald was more than just a drunk.