Godbey: What’s in a name, and who decides it?

Published 11:39 am Monday, May 22, 2023

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By Jack Godbey


One of the things that humans do is to give everything around us a name. Every animal, plant or rock has a named assigned to it. I gave my dog a name, although it does little good as he ignores me to the best of his ability. Many of the things around us that we name may actually be called something different entirely. For example, I have called my chest of drawers a “Chester drawers” my entire life. To this day, I have no idea the difference between it and my dresser. They both do the same job, so in my mind they are the same.

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I have a co-worker who was upset about getting a bad review and she said, “I could care less.” I’m sure she meant that she “couldn’t care less.” She said that she was being the “escape goat” instead of “scapegoat.” I was going to correct her, but thought that there might be a goat that has escaped. Who knows?

My wife, who was born in New York, often has trouble deciphering my country twang, but she does her best to translate. For example, the look on her face when I asked her for a “warsh rag” was priceless. She finally figured out I was asking for a washcloth.

My boss said once that I needed to look at the problem and “nip it in the butt.” I believe that’s supposed to be “nip it in the bud.”

I went to the doctor for a physical, and when I got home, I said, I was “fit as a fiddle.” No one knew what I was talking about. Finally, I gave in and said, “I’m healthy. Don’t you people speak English?” Despite the American education system doing its best to teach me better, I still tend to not pronounce all the letters in some words. For example, I give my truck an “ole change” instead of oil. I “bole my cabbage” instead of boiling it. I know better, but I figure if it’s not broke then why fix it.

I overheard a conversation while taking my lunch break at work. The women was showing pictures of her new baby. The other women said, “Oh, it’s the spitting image of its father.” So, the father looks like spit? Maybe he does. Who knows? Still, I kept my mouth shut and kept eating my pinto beans. Then the person said, “The baby’s so cute I could literally explode.” By then, I was literally wishing that she would.

The rest of the day was spent lost in thought thinking about the names of things that are not correct. For example, The firefly isn’t a fly at all but a beetle. Besides, they are called lightning bugs anyway.

We can’t even get our own names right. I can understand someone named Barbara being called Barb, but what kind of sense does it make for someone named William to be shortened to Bill? Will, I could understand, but Bill? Somehow, we get Bobby from Robert, Jim for James and Dick for Richard. I think we are just making stuff up. How exactly does it make sense to get Tony from Anthony? When I was young, a lady at our church continually called me John. I told her many times that my name was Jack, but just like clockwork the next Sunday, she called me John again. Finally, I gave up. I’ve been called worse things I suppose.

So, before I go, I will say don’t take any wooden nickels. I could just say it’s time go. But where’s the fun in that?