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What's in a name?

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What's in a name?

This is what happens when you take hyphenating your last name a little too far.

Editor's Note: Scott is generally a challenge for my proofreading talents (and can shut down the computer if I try to run spell check) but this month's story tops them all. You'll see why as you read. There are two typos in this story, which I know about because Scott told me. But I can't remember what they are, and god only knows, I can't find them now. TG


Plenty, actually. I’ve been wantin’ to dwell on this for quite a while; ever since it became a fad to hyphenate last names. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against maintaining one’s lineage but I could see a problem or two right off the bat. Words are like numbers in that they all add up to something. So let me indulge in some “word math” for illustration purposes.

To start, simple combinations ain’t so bad as we’re kind of used to ‘em by now. Ann-Margret was the first one I remember catching my attention, say around 1965. Of course, I was more interested in her acting abilities than her hyphen. It might have been like a deer in the headlights sort of thing for a kid of thirteen. I thought it was kinda sexy, I guess. About ten years later, I met a hippie couple who actually tied the knot legal like and kept both last names. She was liberated (braless) and he was ‘stoned immaculate,’ but offered plenty of support in his own way. His last name was Bare, and hers happened to be Buttz.

This got me to thinkin’ about some interesting combinations that could arise down the timeline. What if (bear with me) Mr. and Ms. Bare-Buttz had a girl and she fell in love with a boy who’s parents just happen to be Luce-Nutts. No matter how you organize ‘em, the preacher is going to have fun at the wedding. Later, they won’t exactly lend themselves to a political career of any length either. Can you imagine havin’ that moniker on yer name tag and goin’ door to door introducing yourself and shakin’ hands of prospective voters or even potential customers with a line like, “Howdy, ma’am, I’m Harry Luce-Nutts-Bare-Buttz and I’m runnin’ fer Senate! Allow me to explain my platform.”

So, for those of you who are still with me, let’s carry it a but further. What if Harry and his lovely partner have a boy; an innocent little guy who will someday grow up and fall madly in love with an equally innocent little girl whose parents just happen to be Withall-Most-Aneff-Gutzs. Give this scenario enough generations and even our little phone book of the northern Idaho Panhandle will be too big to lift. On the other hand, it could become a major source of personal entertainment. One in every bathroom, so to speak.

Give it a couple centuries and family names could tell whole stories or even poems! One bright spot, I s’pose, would be Congress not being able to get beyond roll call, and thus not pass anything they manage to dream up.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Sunday evening before dinner, the power went out. After I lit a few candles and wound up the dog for something to listen to, I sat down with the “Black Book” for a little light reading. It was time to do this by reason of power failure if nothin’ else. My wife of 37 years (and should know better by now) thought it strange for even my behavior and asked our dog Sophie to keep a close eye on the ol’ man. I didn’t have any food in front of me, so she lost interest and trained her nose on the wood stove where dinner was simmering. Besides, she’s no more stable than I am and she knows it.

ANYWAYS, with pencil and grocery bag (I always specify paper) I started down page one. It began easy enough. Wow, right off I got Aasguard. That oughta be good for something! And so it went, until I found  Ziel. I was too exuberant even to stand up. Actually, my legs had gone to sleep three days prior. Two weeks, several thousand hours and probably a large spike in my ocular acuity score later and I’m still sittn’ here cross-eyed in front of ‘mac’ with a big pile of garbage bags covered in names. Now what? Without a super computer to categorize this gibberish into nouns, verbs, adverbs and the like, I’m kind of overwhelmed. Not only that, but I realized right off that I’m gonna need some names with conjunctive endings or beginnings in order to make some sense out of the infinite amount of possibilities that could be drawn from even our scrawny local book.

I ain’t as repugnant at rittin’ as I am at math but I immediately recognized a time constraint! Trish would no doubt be peeved. I’ve heard ya don’t wanna be ‘round when she peeves, so I’m desperate to make this deadline!

I wrote down roughly 1,600 ‘names of interest’ not counting those that might come in handy like Yotter, Izatt, Yoos, Frum and Havin that I’ve dug up since the first run-through. I didn’t have to make any up! They all belong to real folks. I’m just here to illustrate some possibilities so bear with me a bit. There also seems to be an exhorbitant amount of near misses. I nearly cried several times while trying to finish a phrase out with a name I knew should be in there but no banana. Ban-Amas is the best I can muster. Perhaps with Spokane or Seattle books and a few years of research, I could have the examples I’d be happiest with. Tufte-Eiter! U. Cant-Haven-Evey-Thun. See what I mean?

Let’s start off in first gear with Frost_Meye-Butt. Not bad on its own but follow it up with Endahl-Meye-Fehlings and it starts to sound like a hard-up country tune! Follow it up with another generation and this epilogue could possibly take shape: Butt-Albee-Allgood-Winn-Hell-Friesz-Over.Classic!

Shift to second and here’s a minister with the good fortune to have the legal conglomeration of Pray-Withall-Uher-Hart. Then he falls for one of his flock who just happens to be a Giggle-Tickle-Tee-Hei. It should be enough to make one go celibate somewheres. Well it could’ve been much more colorful, I assure you! Like if it was instead the prefix to Thunn-Sharon-Overly-High-Kalanic-Tart. I doubt if he’d even make bishop.

This practice could even get confusing at times with names like North-South-Easterly-West or Luse-Nuse-Lynch-Mobbs, Blacken-White, Duman-Smart and others I can’t even begin to print here.

But in the interest of time and getting on with my life (and my chores), I need to keep this short, relatively speaking. Relative to what, I do not know. So here’s a list of some of the ‘possibles’ that would inadvertently turn heads at any roll-call.

Howe-Auer-Yee-Feeling, Howitt-Hurt-Winn-Mabutt-Wendt-Down, Yotter-Fix-Thaut-Lause-Nutt, Lett-Mee-Upp-Plese, Baade-Nusz, Albee-Back, Morris-Onley_Wasti, Hankey-Pankey-Orcutt-Mee-Free, French-Fry-Frum-Yoder-Day, Baade-Habets-Dye-Hard, Pretty-Poteet-Butt-Still-Spitz, Smart-Aleck, Nosworthy-Picker, Slippy-Slorp-Slinger-Smerker, Duck-Down-Duffus_Durflinger-Stuck-Upp, Drum-Roll-Plese, Utter-Sweet-Nutting-Sinn-Maier, Pardon-Mee-Yow-Smails-Rank, Dart-Vader, Dorame-Fargo-Latta-Dow, Derry-Airey, Whealy-Wiley-Wooley-Winkle-Twidt, Whelp-Nope-Maybee(!), Bourbon-Wine-Erp, Fiellen-Crappo-Butt-Holden-Meye-Owen, Tryon-Asplint, Plante-Yher-Butt-Werry-Fitz, Blanc-Page, Burn-Mitale-Butt-Gentle, Wong-Way-White, Long-Day-Driver-Till-Yurek, Gold-Digre, Crabb-Foote, Sherwood-Love-Som-Giggle-Fitz, Auer-Klever-Kidd-Cant-Fix-Dacar, Humann-Barrier, Doolittle-Favor, Butt-Head-Aho, Frum-Deforest-Wendt-Dewolf, Cant-Buckle-Mee-Belt, Behring-Baade-Nuse, Little-Duce-Coop, Byars-Sellers, Albee-Back-Winn-Spring-Does, Mellon-Head, Yoder-Goforth-Haven-Aho-Laut-O’Hare, Izatt-Aneff, Spitz-Upp-Wionde, U.Bent-Meier, Bolten-Nutt, Kikkas-Bunn-Berner-Meaney-Reamer, Albee-Wright-Winn-Eightme-Wong, Howe-Dewey-Cheatam, Craven-Sain-Fees, Hey-Bubb-Shutt-Derr-Trapp, Yotter-Paay-Debill, Ogle-Mee-Wadel, Izatt-Yher-Best-Angle, Hardie-Hard-Harder, Argo-Flick-Uher-Neighbors (simply too many choices to mention here), Hay-Udink-Watts-Upp, Streich-Wong-Balfour, Baremore-Bunn, Eachon-Avery-Wannous-Worthy, Izatt-Anast-Tee-Book-Uher-Reading, Mee-Brain-Boyles-Over, and Onan-Onanon. Okay, I made that one up, but I had to stop somewhere!

Well, you get the idea. I don’t see it workin’ to anyone’s advantage. But it might be worth it just to see if this ever pops up: Shuck-Buck-Muck-Duck-Luck-Schmuck-Tucker-Click-Amen!

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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