A man by any other name
The summer of my high school graduation, I took to running with a wisp of a girl named Margot. I don’t suppose there was anything particularly remarkable about our relationship, other than we had an affinity for each other that only lost souls could understand. I’ll never forget her petite figure and tan legs, nor will I ever forget that she began calling me “Tony Spumoni the Ice Cream Man” the moment we hooked up.Names are us, basically, but what do they really mean? In my younger years, I was called Tony Baloney, T-Bone, Woody Creek Wop, Lover Boy, A. J., and the one we all get at some point – Hey You, with or without accompanying expletives!More than once on a group expedition, I’ve necessarily bivouacked within earshot of an amorous couple and feel foolish repeating the names they’ve used in reference to each other or their genitalia. Suffice it to say that Wookums, Diddlewunt and Patootie are totally meaningless to everyone but those using them (over and over again), thinking their tent provides the same level of privacy as their own bedrooms.The most unforgettable horse I’ve ever had, Tudor’s Prince, will forever be just Willie, and my current big horse, Easy Money Driftwood, sent to me with the reasonable moniker, Drifter, has somehow become Big Dog. Donald, whom many of you know to be the twin of Daisy, and whose name I tried for years to change to Jingles, has always been Dr. D when he and I’ve had a personal conversation. And Billy, a tall paint horse we’re trying out with an eye to buying, has inexplicably become Little Duck.As a college sophomore, my daughter informed me that she was going to get a dog and name him Earl. Well, hell, why not. Make the dog fit the name. In this case, it worked remarkably well, and it’s impossible to imagine that Earl could be named anything else. Lauren’s already named her next dog, but we’ll save that one as a surprise, if and when he shows up.Dads have the distinction (as do Moms) of completely generic names. I’m still a sucker for a tiny voice hollering, “Dad,” and feel foolish when I instinctively turn toward the sound. However, if my daughter (as a young ‘un) couldn’t get my attention in a crowd, she would call for me using my first name, or that failing, used my entire name. It worked incredibly well, although sometimes, after hearing my full name used, someone a few persons away could be overheard to say, “Is that SOB here?”Back in my corporate days, a sexy young lady from the regional office and I danced naked on the Woody Creek Tavern bar during an after-hours party (OK, we kept our boots on). I didn’t see her again until a couple of months later at a gathering of several hundred in Minneapolis, whereupon she confidently hooked her arm in mine, clearly glad to see me. Blame it on what you will – bad memory, confusion in the crowd – but however momentary, the look in my eyes revealed that I didn’t exactly remember who she was. There was some whispered name-calling, a hurt look on her face that I can still see, and that was that. With an uneasiness that’s too easily explained, I recognize that I will never be able to forget her name, not again.My ski patrol nickname was, from the beginning, “TV,” thanks to Robin Perry. Nothing could be simpler and immune to variation, I thought, until fellow patrolman Ed Cross started calling me “Tubes.” Go figure.Tony Vagneur has been called a lot of names, some he doesn’t even understand. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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