Location: marengo, il, United States

Monday, February 07, 2005

Oh, Henry

As a youngster, while Jujubees caught the fancy of most normal kids, the candy did little to impressed poor me. And the alarmed guide that warned Tarzan, “No go, bwana! Men say Juju” only left me in stitches, so any exposure of my names that might be used by any potential enemy worries me none. After all, Mad Magazine’s very own Alfred E. led this child to see the futility in such morbid thoughts.

However, that being said, I do believe the author from Gone Away* has hit upon a common problem for some of us, and that is the insecurities that might latch onto the innards of a shortened human, at least until stature increases.

I was to be a girl, according to learned doctor of the era, so dear mother picked out the nice name Harriet, possibly from her admiration of Beecher Stowe. Alas, was she surprised. Then groggy from whatever drugs were used in the early 40’s, she shortened the chosen name to the masculine version, while a nurse held my nakedness up for the world to see. The second given name, I am told, came from Addison Hall, identified to me in later years as some well-known banker of Savannah.

So out set Harry Addison Tippins across the face of the earth to learn to deal with his three names. Here are three obvious facts. 1) All three have a double letter. 2) The initials are the same as my father, Hamilton Allen. 3) They also spell out what we both seldom fail to sport.

But trouble came early. Being raised beside a still millpond in southern Georgia, and surrounded by characters with titles such as Coon, Doc, Buster and Duke, as well as Etta, Daisy, Pearl and cousin Toosie, I became shy and reclusive. My common name made no impact.

Then we moved. The high-plains portions of my then-tender years I describe simply as geographical shock, and anyone familiar with those two divergent climes should well understand that term. The other fright was the language; forget about names.

Spanish, and a different sort of drawl coming from the natives, mixed in with healthy doses of brag and bluster from both races, had me backed into a cramped corner. A kid will gravitate to what he knows best, so I stayed home and fought with my sisters.

I soon began to forget how much I hated my name until my first job came along. If you have never caddied before, make a note to do so; it builds you right up, in both a cosmic sense and as a health benefit. I forget how much a bag full of clubs weigh exactly; let’s just say they are really heavy.

But I took this opportunity to change my identity. And why not? Being called Hairy-ass, or Harry-fairy had become a bit of a bore, and at 13 I craved genuine excitement, so when the first gentleman approached me, and after handing to me a leather bag filled with odd fathead sticks protruding from one end, and then asking me my name, I blurted out,


Halleluiah, what was I thinking?

By the sixth hole I had a few regrets. I admit, it wears well on that Henry Hawk cartoon character, but it soon began to grate on my immature ears. Tired out and sweating under my appointed load, totally confused over which stick was what (Henry, the five-iron. No Henry, the five; you have the six there. No, Henry. That is the putter. Hurry up, little Henry!) and wanting all the while to quit this business, I got cheered up back at the clubhouse when he flipped a shiny half-dollar my way.

“Thanks, Henry.” He looked even more relieved than his fumbling caddy.

But young Henry had just broke into the world of capitalism, so I smiled and caught it.



Blogger Gone Away said...

Ta for the link, mate. ;)

But I have discovered yet another thing we have in common, Harry. I was almost landed with a girl's name too. At the time I was born, in Coventry, England, my father was away in Cape Town, having a look at the place and deciding whether he should bring the family to South Africa. Now, there had been a lot of discussion about what I should be named, my mother fighting a desperate rearguard action against the atrocious Allen family names, and it had been through sheer exhaustion that she had agreed finally to the first reasonable name my father suggested - Clive. It was with some surprise, therefore, that my father received a telegram notifying him that Olive had been born...

5:22 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

OLIVE: now That is rich!

We've been talking about this whole subject since Ali got home. A few highlights: I do believe I still hate the sound of all haitch names to this day. Ali was an "only" Alicia until college, and peturbed at the new "imposter". We never considered the confusion between the two that might occurr from naming Eli "Elisha". A sister of mine, Maria, used "Maria Allen" as a stage name. I still have nickname-envy of the kid called Doc.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Harry said...


5:39 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

In the Midlands of England, where I was born, they always say "haitch", which is more sensible really, that it should start with the letter it describes. Having grown up in Africa, however, it is always "aitch" to me. It is a matter of some sadness to me that I was deprived of the chance to speak the dialect of my ancestors (I have theories on dialects in England but far too boring to blog). I worked in a factory when I returned to England in 1976 and, in true chameleon fashion, I learned the accent and dialect then. But it does not "stick" when learned in that way; I am already forgetting it and can only do the more extreme accents, such as Brummie.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Nickname envy! Now you're talking. Imagine the honor of being called Buddy or Bubba...

6:20 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

I have never known a "Harry" who was not affable, kind and charming. You may not have liked the name, but it fits like a glove.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Hear, hear. And Harry's have a great sense of humor too.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

I have never met a Harry in real life. If I were to do so, I believe this is the particular Harry I would choose.

I do not count my great-uncle Harry, as I never was officially introduced to him.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

It becomes a struggle to pinpoint just who, at this late hour, but over at the Pour More and be Gone Away Inn and Olde Coffee Shoppe, I overheard one of the regulars, a Josh or maybe a Keefe, going on about how words morph into new and meaningful things. But then all of a sudden, I just came to realize why the short sentence has gained ground over the longer version, after re-reading my first string. Felt I had something going there. Yes, I know I did. Absolutely.

And now the thing will harry me to no end. Tush! A pish and a pity.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

When I was born, there were no girl names in sight. It doesn't matter that I am a girl, I got named after my uncle. All my life, I have been cursed with the name Jamie...all the trophies I received had men on top (and boy did the presenters blush when it was me who stood to receive them), my mail comes addressed to Mr. so-and-so.

As he got older, my uncle Jamie became my uncle Jim. I don't think he was too impressed with sharing his name with me, either. So, in turn, my grandmother and some other family have taken to calling me Jim. Imagine the confused look on the faces of any boy I'd brought home...

I always thought I'd change my name as soon as I turned 18, but somewhere along the way, I realized that my name was the first gift my mother ever gave me. I've grown attached to it. Jamie I shall be.

1:44 AM  
Blogger glenniah said...

When I was six years old the boy next door used to walk me to school. He had bright red hair, blue eyes and wore glassess. His name was Harry Sunup, and my Dad insisted on calling him (yep you guessed it, Harry Sundown). Come to think of it maybe Harry did grow up to be the sundance kid, you never know.
My Mum always called me Bub, but I don't want to mention that to any Southern Americans ok.

And it is aitch. I know this because as a child I had more of an English upbringing than an English child, so it must be true. Unless you are an Aboriginal then you use 'h' in front of words that do not begin with H and don't use H in front of words that do begin with H. For example, 'Mrs -Ill hi've brought the heggs'


4:21 AM  

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