Another Twist on the Name Game: Backward, It's . . .

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Barack Obama! Has there ever been a presidential candidate whose name has lent itself so readily to rhyme and wordplay? Oh, sure, there were Eisenhower ("I like Ike!") and Barry Goldwater (whose name could be spelled with the periodic table of elements -- Au H2O!). But the senator from Illinois has given us "Obama mamas," and "Obamomentum" and "Obamania." (Or is it "Obamamania"?) Also: "Barack Attack." And our own little contribution to the canon, on the occasion of his induction to Mme. Tussauds's,"Bar-wax Obama."

The latest revelation about Obama -- who could be the first president whose name ends in a vowel (other than "y" or silent "e") -- may explain some of the particular frenzy surrounding him, starting with those steamy "Obama Girl" videos last summer.

His last name spelled backward: "Amabo" -- Latin for "I will love."

John Miller, chairman of the classics department at the University of Virginia, confirmed the translation. "It's just standard Latin for 'I will love,' without any particular object in mind," he told us. "It refers to love in various senses, but especially the erotic sense, because there are other [Latin] words for 'esteem' or 'friendly' love."

Make of it what you will. Happy Valentine's Day.

Johnson, Back on His Feet to Help Tracy's Kids

Sen. Tim Johnson, campaigning for reelection but still in rehab after brain surgery 14 months ago, made a rare party appearance Tuesday night, using a wheelchair and, later, standing with a cane. The South Dakota Democrat and wife Barbara -- both cancer survivors -- hit the red carpet at Gallery Place for Tracy's Kids, an arts therapy program created for kids battling the disease. More than 500 guests (including Disney head Bob Iger, Sen. Pat Leahy and MPAA head Dan Glickman) scarfed down pizza and beer, then attended their choice among six Oscar-nominated movies; most of the politicos -- including the Johnsons -- settled in to watch "Charlie Wilson's War," because they had worked with the hell-raising Texas congressman. Thumbs up, according to Johnson: "Charlie was exactly like that."

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

John Heard (oh, you know, the dad from "Home Alone" and a million other roles) treating a pack of thespians at Chubby's BBQ in Emmitsburg, Md., Tuesday. The D.C. native, now playing Ben Bradlee in the touring "Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers," had a day off between shows in College Park and York, Pa., so he day-tripped to Gettysburg with a dozen cast and crew, then stopped for a late lunch at the Route15 diner. Heard picked up the $200 tab and left a $100 tip. Says the owner: "Everybody in Emmitsburg will claim they were at Chubby's when John Heard came in."

THIS JUST IN . . .

Denise Thimes will sing for President Bush and the first lady at tonight's Valentine's Day dinner at the White House. The St. Louis jazz singer performed for Queen Elizabeth at the British Embassy in May.

Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden and fiancee Sophie Monk have split, reports People. The La Plata, Md., native and Australian model/actress (aren't they all?) met during a video shoot in 2006 and were engaged for a year.

QUOTE

"What about Eleanor Holmes Norton? Because you're even better than Barack Obama! You're black AND a woman, and you have absolutely NO voting record to attack!"

-- Stephen Colbert, nominating his favorite sparring partner for president on Tuesday's "The Colbert Report." (D.C.'s non-voting House delegate and the faux newsman also bantered about why she's for Obama. Colbert: "Based on what? Hillary's got so many years of experience." Norton: "Doing what?" Colbert: "Saying that she has experience.")


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