Thursday, January 19, 2012

playing the name game in this week's column

Another week, another newspaper column. I had a little bit of fun with this one — which, I suppose, is the whole point. As always, please visit the St. Clair Times website, find me on Twitter or leave your comments here. And thank you for caring. Even if you don't.
Careful with the name; it could be tricky

I don’t consider my own name to be particularly difficult. It’s just two syllables — three if you’re a real Southerner and like to draw out words (“Weeuhhhlll”).

Nevertheless, I go lots of places and find that people tend to confuse my given name and my family name.

“Heath,” I often hear. “Get over here.”

Eventually, people will realize their mistake and apologize.

“I just realize I’ve been calling you by your last name. Sorry about that, Bill.”

I learned to live with it. After all, I played football in high school and there’s a certain camaraderie in being addressed only by your surname.

“Gawdamighty knows, Heath. You can’t do no better than that?”

There are worse things to be called, I suppose. Only last week in New Orleans, I was called everything from “Tiger Bait” to “Crimson” to “redneck,” to a bunch of other words I can’t print (and can barely pronounce). It was a welcome change when we made it back so I could pick up my shirts from the cleaners, and received a new name from the lady behind the counter.

“Just one minute, sweetheart … What can I help you with, sweetheart? … Is this all you need, sweetheart? … You have a nice day, sweetheart.”

A pleasant change, if only for a few minutes.

Most everyone I know has, at some point in life, dealt with an unflattering nickname, or just a name they got stuck with.

The head football coach at Clemson University, for example, is an Alabama kid whose given name is William Christopher Swinney. At some point in his youth, however, his brother referred to him simply as “That Boy,” only when he said it, it came out “Dabo.” And so now, he holds a high-profile job and makes seven figures every year … and most of the world knows him only as “Dabo.”

As familiar to local football fans is young Quintorris Jones, from Foley. You probably think his name is “Julio.” I don’t blame you — and, in all likelihood, neither does he — for not knowing that; Julio is much easier to spell.

And now that I’m in the business of writing for a living — meager though it is — I’m apparently as guilty of giving out false names as anyone else. Not so long ago, I was at a meeting where a lady from St. Vincent’s Health System came up to shake my hand.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to do this,” she said. “I’m the PR gerbil for St. Vincent’s.”

Oops. Guess that one’s on me.

“Um … nice to meet you?”

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