Category Archives: Words

What’s in a Name

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Most people cheerfully accept the name their parents gave them. But not all. Some folks have strong emotions their given names . . . strongly positive or strongly negative emotions.

A Jewish friend had a teenaged daughter named Sarah. For some reason that chose not to share, Sarah came to despise her name. My guess was that she decided it was too Jewish and old fashioned. Sarah began identifying as “Daisy.” That put her in conflict with her teachers, for they knew her given name and felt compelled to use it. After months of moods and conflicts, Sarah proved she would only respond teachers called her Daisy. The teachers caved in.

Names can be difficult in several ways. My mother’s name—Charmion—was a problem all her life. The name sounded vaguely French and was a challenge to spell or pronounce. People assumed it should be pronounced with a hard “ch” sound, like the word “charm.” But my mother grew up thinking the only correct pronunciation began with a “sh” sound like the word “shard.” Later in her life my mother began spelling her name Sharm, hoping that would be less confusing. Then, in her seventies, she went back to the original spelling. She was Charmion, dammit, and if other people couldn’t deal with that it was not her problem.

I have had issues with my name, which is Stephen. While I always knew that was my name, nobody called me that. As a kid, I was “Stevie” until the day I demanded that my parents and friends call me Steve. I have been Steve almost all my life, although some people—like bankers, lawyers and doctors—insisted on calling me Stephen, for that is my name on official papers.

After I moved to Michigan about a year ago, I acquired a new team of doctors and nurses who call me Stephen. Sometimes I ask them to call me Steve, but they don’t always comply. It really shouldn’t matter if the phlebotomist about to draw my blood calls me by my formal name. And yet it does matter. When people call me Stephen a little voice in my head notes, “You don’t know me, do you?”

When I became a writer I had to choose the name I would use on published work. A writer friend who lived in Boston was Steve to friends and yet the author name on his books was Stephen. I’ve always been amused and slightly put off by that decision. And actually, he is a somewhat vain fellow who tries hard to impress others. But then, many writers present themselves in print as being more accomplished than they actually are.

I decided to publish under the name of Steve Grooms. It was an easy decision. I am a thoroughly Midwestern guy, and the core of being Midwestern is humility. My mother raised me to be modest, optimistic and unpretentious. The persona I used in print was that of a guy who was often amused by his own incompetence. For me, this Steve/Stephen thing is not trivial. I have feelings about it. In my heart, I am Steve, not Stephen.

I haven’t mentioned my middle name, and that was another easy choice. I hate my middle name. It was “given” to me by my father in a foolish attempt to flatter his father. But his father (my grandfather) was a bigot and misogynist who was disliked by most people in his family. I never mention my middle name.

Do you have any issues or thoughts about your name?

Legislative Grammar

I am a member of a state board that licenses and regulates a mental health profession. We are bound by an administrative code that spells out everything having to do with the profession as practiced in our state, such as qualifications for licensure, rules and regulations for practice, fees, fines, and procedures for handling consumer complaints.  Every two years, we are mandated to have a meeting to take comments from the public regarding our functioning and issues with our administrative code. We then consider the comments, make any changes that are necessary, and then forward the changes to a legislative  committee that will approve (or not) the changes we suggest. Usually, public comments have to do with unclear language in the administrative code.

During a recent meeting, our Board attorney proposed the following clarification of an unclear section of the code:

(4) Provide endorsements of application from behavioral health professionals that possess a current license, certification, registration, or other written authorization to practice from a state or provincial regulatory body, as approved by the Board

I and another Board member commented that the statement was fine, except for the word “that” in the second line. We thought it should be “who”. The attorney agreed, and said we could change it if we wished, but that the Legislators would probably change it back to “that”.  He explained that the Legislators don’t like to use “who” or “whom” because they are never certain which to use, and use “that” as a safer alternative. I thought that was pretty funny, as well as a sad commentary on the lack of grammatical knowledge of the people who are writing state laws.

What aspects of writing or speaking are you fussy about?  What sort of reputation would you have if you were a member of a state legislature?

 

Optical Illusions

Husband and I were buying groceries when a magazine cover on display near the checkout gave me pause.  It was a magazine tribute to Billy Graham. The way the magazine rack was designed made it look as though the Reverend Graham had payot, those locks of hair  sported by Hasidic men near their ears.  I had to look twice to convince myself I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was seeing.  Whew! That would have really rocked my world had it been true!

I am the sort of person who sees fanciful designs and drawings in floor tiles.  I like administering the Rorschach Inkblot Test because I like to hear all the interesting things people tell me they see.  I know the person is in trouble when not even I can see what they see.

James Thurber writes about his poor vision and the interesting things he thought he saw, like an elderly admiral in dress uniform peddling  a bicycle next to a vehicle Thurber was sitting in.  The admiral wasn’t really there, of course.  Thurber thought it was probably a billboard or starlight shining through the trees.  He also writes of throwing stones at what he thought was a flock of white chickens that had invaded his neighbor’s vegetable garden, only to find they were newspapers placed on top of the plants as protection from frost.

I am going to pay more attention to the magazine racks next time I buy groceries. Who knows what I might see?

When have your eyes played tricks on you?

 

MONEY IS NOT THE ONLY MOTIVATION

Being an author whose books have “yet to achieve” major bestseller status isn’t particularly rewarding in the monetary sense. Currently, my greatest rewards come from meeting avid readers, advocating for literacy and the love of reading, and making friends with other writers around the world.

That being said, the biggest motivator for me is helping my favorite charity through sales of my books. All these perks are worth far more than any money I hope to someday earn from my book sales.

GIVING DAY

I recently had the privilege of making a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern MN for $297 generated from book sales in 2017. I donate one dollar to BBBS for every copy of Castle Danger I sell–print or eBook. I raised additional dollars by asking people to round up the purchase price of the print book to $20 when they buy a copy. I sold 190 books in 2017. Nearly every person who bought a book from me in person gladly rounded up the extra $1.80 to an even $20.

I’m pleased to announce my sales increased from 2016, so I was able to donate more money to BBBS this year. I hope to continue that upward sales trend in 2018. I expect sales will be boosted when Straight River is published (as soon as is humanly possible!!) With steady sales of Castle Danger continuing this year added to new sales of Straight River later this year, I hope to reach a $400 donation for 2018.

(Point of interest: even if I factor back in my BBBS donations, I’ve still only covered about 60% of the total cost of producing, editing, formatting, printing, and promoting Castle Danger. And I don’t even want to think about all the coffee and pastries I’ve purchased to fuel my writing energy! Warning: Think twice before becoming a writer for the income. 🙂 )

What do you do (or what have you done) that surprised you by generating more personal rewards than you expected than financial rewards?

P.S.–If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Big Brother, Big Sister, or Big Couple, check out the national BBBS website or click on the Southern MN link above.

Blatant self-promotion: Hey, Babooners, I’ve got several signing appearances scheduled in the Twin Cities and greater MN (and WI) this year. The first one is in Rosemount on Saturday, March 24. I’ll also be in Hudson, WI, and Hopkins, Morristown, Owatonna, Hackensack, and Mankato later this year. To get all the details, go to chrisnorbury.com or like my FB author page.

 

 

Turn of Phrase

On this date in the year 600, Pope Gregory the Great decreed that the proper thing to say when someone sneezed was “God bless you”. I told this to a friend, a practicing  Catholic, who said ” Who died and put him in charge!? Why are we still listening to him? We should find something new to say!” I was at a loss for her being somewhat offended by Pope Gregory, but I found her response delightful.

What are some of your favorite (or not so favorite turns of phrase)?  Make up a new one if you can.

 

What’s in a Name?

New seed catalog time has come, and Husband and I chose and ordered our selections for this year’s garden.  Husband always researches the varieties carefully and chooses based on length of growing season, disease resistance, past successes, and past failures. I don’t think he ever chooses based on the name of the variety. It seems like a lot of effort goes into finding catchy names to entice us to buy one variety over another.

I wonder how they arrive at the names?  I like it when a plant is named for a person-Big Jim Peppers  or Queen Elizabeth Hybrid Tea Roses.  Some names speak to productivity, such as Mortgage Lifter tomatoes or Lazy Housewife pole beans.   Why, though, would you name a variety of celeriac Mars? There isn’t anything particularly warlike about that humble root vegetable. Flower names get pretty fanciful, such as Double Scoop Bubble Gum Echinacea.

I wondered what names Baboons could come up with if they were to name some plants, so that is today’s challenge.

Come up with some clever names for varieties of flowers,  trees, vegetables, shrubs, or even  weeds  I will get us started with my choice of Dead Man Walking American Elm.

Reading Gems

Every now and then when I’m at the library, I find bookmarks made by kids. In addition to the fact that I always needs a bookmark, these creations are delightful.  Markers, stickers, ribbons, misspelled words – I love them and usually take one home with me.

One that I picked up last week has a quote on it. “No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure.”  L. Frank Baum

I started to think that there are quite a few quotes that would be good for bookmarks. Here are a couple more that I like:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”―Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  ― C.S. Lewis

Do you have a favorite quote about reading?