Monday, January 11, 2010

The Game of the Name

If someone named J. Wellingford Wisenby gave you some advice, you'd likely be more apt to accept it than had it come from one named "Snake Eyes" McHan. While it may be true that all generalizations are specious, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

Names - and the people that go with them - just fascinate the heck out of me. Did you ever wonder why a parent would deliberately name a baby in such a manner that will someday force that infant to become an expert in physical or verbal judo? Mr and Mrs Close - when you named your daughter 'Glenn,' did you not figure that she would spend a significant amount of time explaining to people who wore whistles and lanyards around their neck that she did NOT belong in Coach Cleats's 3rd-period Boys Phys Ed class? And Maury Povich's father was an estimable sports writer in DC for some fifty years, but how many times do you think he got a letter from some disgruntled Redskins fan (that's the only kinda fan they have) addressed to Mrs Shirley Povich?

Johnny Cash "sang" it - and Sheldon "Shel" Silverstein wrote it - "My name is Sue! How do you do?"

So all right, we have that settled. We aim to keep the peace by naming the children by gender-appropriate names; it's only fair.

And while we're on the subject, another piece of advice would be to avoid first names such as "Peter," "Richard" or "Johnson" if your last name is a representation of size, etc.
And nicknames seem to be going the way of the Hula Hoop and 15¢ hamburger. There was a time that every elementary school was filled with boys named "Flip," "Sparky," and "Buzz." You don't see that so often any more. And, were you to ask Flip, Sparky or Buzz where those names came from, you would have likely gotten a shrug and an "Idunno" for asking. Sometimes there was no need to ask. Just as J. Wellingford Wisenby III would usually be called "Trey," Roscoe "Snake Eyes" McHan II would answer to Junior. Those were givens.

Do you remember baseball great Jim "Catfish" Hunter? The great pitcher came out of Hertford, NC, to join the Kansas City Athletics, signed to a big contract by flamboyant A's owner Charles O. Finley. Finley, a shrewd promoter, figured he would make up all sorts of tales about this young man from "Noth Calina," so he hung the "Catfish" nickname on him, the better to suit the stories that Finley planned to weave about how Hunter would rather fish than eat, and whomp up a big mess of sausage and gravy for supper and so forth. Well, Hunter turned out to be such a great pitcher that he did not need press-agent puffery, but to the end (he passed away at 53 from ALS) he kept saying, "My name is Jim Hunter, not Catfish Hunter."

These things, nicknames, have to spring forth naturally. I see guys try to start them for themselves and it's sad. If no one else ever called you "Cornbread," "B-Rob" or "Diamond Jim," it's better to wait until they do.

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