The Unbearable Lightness of von Korncrake

I was sitting in my office the other day having just returned from a very satisfying lunch with my chief research assistants, Manfred and Helmut, or as I like to refer to them, Tweedletoady and Tweedlegrovel, when the deputy chief our our division, Frau Prof. Dr. Beatrice Glaeßner, poked her inartfully dyed head into my office.

“Guten Tag, Frau Professor Glaßner, what may I do for you?” I said, leaping to my feet, so as to be able to offer her my chair.

“Guten Tag, Herr Professor Korncrake,” she whispered, “Herr Direktor Professor Dr. Kleimann requires our presence in the conference room forthwith.”

You’ll notice that she refused to address me by my proper name, the aristocratic “von Korncrake “, preferring instead the more democratic “Korncrake”, which she does principally to twist the knife of her unmerited promotion deeply into the wound.

While it is true that when the Soviets entered Germany in 1945 they discouraged the use of the ancient and aristocratic prepositions “von” and “zu” in an effort to unnaturally level society (going so far as to ceremoniously destroy the archives of the Almanach de Gotha), it is also true that since the Reunification some of us have recovered our birthright.

I, myself, did so very publicly by sending all of my acquaintances a carefully worded, engraved notecard, one which bore the coat of arms I had adopted for myself. I know for a fact that Frau Prof. Dr. Glaßner received that card, for I saw it in her trash can the next day.

And now here we are, fifteen years later, and this woman still refuses to acknowledge me by my proper name.

For many years I gently tried to correct her, by saying the word “von” when she missed it in the course of speaking my name. For example, in a faculty meeting she might say something such as, “And in respect to the problem of the coffee funds, I think Herr Professor Korncrake will…”

“Von,” I would interject, “von Korncrake.”

“…will agree with me that Herr Professor Pfitzmann and some of the research assistants have not been contributing their fair share,” she would continue without appearing to notice what I said.

These attempts at correction continued for at least a decade, until I finally gave them up when she was preferred over me for the position of deputy director of our division. By that time, she had developed a rather flamboyant facial twitch, one that became more pronounced during our weekly faculty meetings, or anytime she would see me in the hallways.

She also had ceased to speak publicly in a voice above a whisper. Indeed, almost no one could hear a word she said, a trait I believe contibuted greatly to her being promoted over me.

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