What’s in a name? It’s who we are

What’s in a name? Sometimes a lot. Sometimes a surprise.

I recently wrote about John, Alice, Bert and Rose. Many folks told me they liked the column — but it had an error.

Bert wasn’t an Albert, he was a Burt. I’m not sure if he is a Burton or just plain Burt but he wasn’t Bert, as good a facsimile as that may have been. But isn’t Burt by any other name the same? Doesn’t the essential Burt remain?

Speaking of names: with a name like Pugh you become aware of name issues not limited to spelling. Pronunciation, inflection, and facial expression come into play, considerations not relevant to the Bert v Burt mixup.

“What did you call him? You didn’t mean that, did you?” Asked the lovely young lady in response to my friend’s calling me by my surname only.

Pugh is pronounced the same as Pew but it isn’t that, at least not from my perspective. But, obviously, the young lady had concerns.

To a name’s correct spelling, pronunciation, inflection and facial expression needs to be added meaning. Some names have meaning wrapped up inside them. On the farm our barn cat’s name was “Mange Whimple.” My favorite dog name was and still is, “Burel Squats.” Both names convey meaning along with a vivid image.

The complications don’t end there. Contaminations by association can occur such that Pugh becomes Pug which converts Doug to Dug yielding: Dug Pug.

My favorite name befuddlement story is the one my father told.

My Dad was a musician who in the 20s and 30s fronted his own dance band, ” Sid Pugh’s Six Matchless Masters of Rhythm.”

One evening prior to a dance my father was outside the dance hall and overhead one fellow remark to another: “I see Side Push’s band is playing this evening.”

This remains the standard against which all Pugh name abominations are compared.

Though we’re not to the level of, “A boy named Sue,” we Pughs have taken our share of name calling abuse over the years. In fact, my experience may serve as qualification for a new consulting business. I could provide conditioning training to people subjected to name calling to those: “Conniption fit induced, twitter barrages.”

But we Pughs can take comfort in knowing we are not alone.

How many pecks of apples have the Abledingers had to pick from their name’s pronunciation? Take a name like Anschuetz. It it weren’t regularly advertised how would anyone ever know? How can Glawe possibly be pronounced like it is?

How many spears did a youthful Bill Speer have to deflect before he mastered that important skill? Will Ron Young forever be?

My friend Dave Richard, a Frenchman, is really a “Ree-char”.

The Smiths and Joneses don’t worry about any of this stuff. My friend Dave Smith has gone through life oblivious to name challenges. Not having walked in a Pugh’s shoes how could he know?

The name Smith has its origin with the village “Smithy.” It’s a good noun name. But Jones can be a verb as in: “He was jonesing for a Pepsi.”

To spelling, pronunciation, inflection, facial expression, meaning, and image needs to be added parts of speech, tradition, nationality, and slang. Then the most important thing of all needs to be recognized — the soul of it. What is it that makes a Burt Wright a Burt, not a Bert?

Contrary to what I initially implied, I don’t think a Burt is a Burt by any other name; Bert isn’t Burt, only Burt is Burt. No other name will do to describe the essence of that fine fellow. He is who he is, not someone by another person’s name.

I wish I wouldn’t have referred to Burt as Bert. It wasn’t him.

Now, you know who I meant.

Doug Pugh’s Vignettes run bi-weekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached via email at pughda@gmail.com.