Friday, October 17, 2008

What's In Your Name?

I had a chance to chat up with Bruce Lansky, one of my favorite kids' humorists, at last month's trade show. Most years, Bruce introduces a new kid's book, filled with wacky illustrations and fun verse. This year he was featuring an updated version of his baby name book, and he had tons of fun luring people into his booth to tell us the good and the bad news about our names. Bruce is the #1 author of baby name books, and he is always looking for a fresh way to share his research. So, for The 5 Star Baby Name Advisor, Bruce rated names based on first impression, gender association, popularity and trend, spelling and pronunciation, and versatility.

I had *****'s worth of giggles with this book. I started with some store employee names (past and present): Jenny is sunny, fun-loving and perky; Brenda, which is Irish for "little raven," is extroverted and confident, while Terri is a fun gal who chatters nonstop. Emily is shy, soft spoken and poetic; Jacque - because of the association with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - is perceived to have poise and elegance, while Debbie is extremely social.

Considering that I am in the midst of some dental nastiness, I was hoping to discover that my dentist's name means "he who inflicts great pain." Nope, he's a dashing man of high moral character!

I can't forget the name shared by one of my favorite writers and my ultimate actor-crush...a partier who can be too irresponsible and immature.

Next I started thinking about friends' names. There's Susie, whose real name is Sylvia; three Lucinda's - one is always Lucinda, but the others are Cindy and Lucy; Chris' real name is Robert, and I have two friends who use only initials as names. Then there's Lyndsey; I have no clue what her real name is - she answers to Lindsey, Lynda, LuLu and Lynna. Who know?
Best of all, I have little customers named Garden, Gather, Hunter, Forest, Wolfie, and Mimi. Lola is expected in December.

Larry Ashmead puts an humerous spin on names in his collection of the odd, hilariously long and meaningless, somewhat embarrassing, and downright weird names in Bertha Venation. He swears all the names featured can be backed up with research. Here are a few: Hedda Lettice, Stan Dupp, and Sally Longbottom. The book goes far beyond simple list of unusual monikers. The author goes into great detail on how names, and name selection have changed throughout history, discusses the social significance of name perception, and provides literal translations for the names of history's most notorious characters.

Of course, owning a dog named Mrs. George Burns (GB), I was drawn to the chapter on funny and famous pet names. Ashmead writes, "According to the New York Post on Monday Nov. 7, 2005, 'Fido is no longer a chic name for a dog. An up-market Fido is now named Phydeux.'" George, by the way, is Greek for farmer. Perhaps I should be considering "Gracie" as her namesake instead, but "Graceful" simply doesn't fit a dog who clunks her head on the coffe table at least once a day, and falls out of bed with a degree of regularity. GB is a ShiTzu, and I can tell you with no reservations, that her breed name means "dog who poops on rug." This is confirmed by my friend, Kim, who owns G's brother, Diego.

In medieval days, it was common for people to be identified by their profession, hence we have surnames such as Baker and Woodman. When I was doing volunteer work at Head Start, the kids had a tough time remembering my name so they began to identify me with what I did when I visited. When I opened the classroom door, they would jump and holler, "It's reader, reader is here!" That worked just fine for me.

Special note: Patricia is Latin for noblewoman. Pats are perceived as calm and comforting. Michael...well, well, well....Hebrew for one who is like God. Mikes are thought to be sweet and caring.


A Few Friendly Notes

Mary reports having a grand time reading George Hamilton's Autobiography, Don't Mind if I Do. She says he was (still is?) quite a scoundrel.

I got a chance to see The Maldonado Miracle. Actress Salma Hyack produced the movie and my friend, GeorgeMihalopoulous, contributed several songs to the score. The plot was predictable, and the end was abrupt, but it was still worth watching. It is sort of the reverse of The Crucible, in which misinformation led to an hysteria that destroyed lives. In this case, misinformation led to the rejuvenation of a small Mexican village, and restored hope and faith in the lives of its residents. Great music!

Abby finished Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy in a little under three days. Way to go Abby!


Tuesday's my big night. I finally get to dig in and start the artistic direction of "A Taffeta Christmas." Many people think that play directors get a special script with all the moves supplied, and that s/he simply reads those to the cast, and viola- it's showtime! Quite the opposite is true. We get the same script the cast gets...just words. It's up to the director to transfer those words from page to stage in a creative, logical and believable manner. Directors consider the overall tone of the play, where the audience should focus at any given time, and the tempo at which the action should flow. Psychological aspects such as who is in control in a particular scene also must be considered, along with practical things like the locations of entrances and exits.

Blocking is a multi-layered task needing one pot of coffee and one bag of M&M's per act to prepare. Above you can see one of my prompt book pages for this show. It's not very clear, but maybe you can see that in this one song alone, I have about nine moves. Sometimes, if the show is complex, or if there are many characters in single scene, I gather ketchup bottles, soda bottles, flower pots...anything the can stand upright. I put name tags on them and move them around my desk to see how it fits the stage space. It's a jigsaw puzzle, really, except that the pieces keep moving. That's a simple of version of where it all begins. I have memories of putting students to sleep while I droned on about directing, drawing stick people and arrows all over the board and overhead projector. so, if I have just done the same for you, forgive me and...sleep tight.
What am I reading? Still working on The it and hate it! I believe I am past the unsettling gory parts, and into the crux of he story. The narrator, a car crash/burn victim, is being visited in the hospital by a mysterious woman who claims to have known him in a previous life. She is currently weaving brilliant tales of he life after being left on the steps of a convent.
I just stared Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. Bryson can do no wrong. This books assumes the reader has more than a passing interest in Shakespeare, and Elizabethan England. I keep wondering how the amount of research that obviously went into this did not consume his entire life. When Bryson mentions a contemporary of Shakespeare, he then takes a side trip into that person's life. He wrote at least five pages on the various spelling of Shakespeare's last name, with evidence to prove that the mentioned signatures were indeed that of the bard in question. The book might sound like a snoozer, but Bryson's style is friendly without being too breezy. His colorful depictions of the man and the time are fascinating, informative, and entertaining.