Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"What's in a Name?" Redux

I really should have known better.

See, when I was a kid, there was little I dreaded more than my teacher taking attendance. Whether it was the first attendance of the year, or a substitute killing time, the conversation was always the same.

"Haynes, Brian?"


"Hinman, Maureen?"


"Holmes, Christopher?"

"Um, I'm here, but that's not my name."

The teacher, invariably, would scowl at his or her sheet a moment, perplexed. "But that's what it says here."

"I'm pretty sure it doesn't."

An eyeroll, an exasperated sigh. "All right, then, what does it say?"

"Holm, Chris."

"Ah," the teacher would declare, "it's Holm, not Holmes. I'll make a note. Christopher Holm."

"Actually, my name's not Christopher."

"Oh. Christian, then?"

"No, just Chris."

This is where things got dicey. "Really." Notice it wasn't a question.

"Yes, really."

"Your name is just Chris."


"Are you sure?"

Now, I know I was probably all of four or five the first time this happened, but when exactly did you all learn your names? Let's leave aside the fact that my sister called me Fish for a couple of years, there, and assume I was, in fact, relatively sure my name was Chris, only Chris, and nothing but the Chris. You think the conversation ended there? Nope. It never did. They always took it one step further (and God knows why I didn't just let them call me Christopher Holmes, but every time, I swear I took the bait):

"Is that what it says on your birth certificate?"

The problem there is, no matter what you say, there is no earthly way you can convince the teacher in question that you are, in fact, telling the truth without producing the document in question, and I didn't exactly make a practice of carrying it, since my Empire Strikes Back lunchbox was chock-full of juiceboxes and sandwiches and whatnot, and it just wouldn't fit in my Kangaroos, no matter how small I folded it up. So instead I'd get an eyeroll, and the teacher would make a smug and thoroughly unconvincing show of humoring me, like I'd just tried to buy booze with a license reading 'Jerbingle Terwilliger, DOB 2/30/1908,' but she was gonna let it slide. And I gotta tell you, back then, there wasn't much that bugged me more.

That's all fine and good, but what the hell's it got to do with writing? Well, I'll tell you. Between the query process, and correspondence with friends and family and whatnot, I've come across the following:

The Angle Share
The Angel's Share
The Angels Share
The Ankles Bare
The English Hare

Okay, so I might have made up a couple there, but I doubtless left a few off of the list, as well. The problem is, none of those are my book. My book is called The Angels' Share, as in 'the share that belongs to the angels'. Only here's the thing: I kind of can't blame anybody for screwing it up. That there apostrophe is a bit of a pain in the ass. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've typed it wrong a time or two myself. And man, I should have known better.

The problem is, I really dig the name. It gets right at the central conceit of the book, and it's an evocative phrase to boot. I suppose I could have gone the way of DuPont, naming teflon and lycra in such a fashion that they could not be mispronounced (if anybody out there is as big a dork as I am, they're dying to point out that even DuPont screwed that plan up with dacron, which is supposed to be pronounced 'day-cron' but never is). Instead, I just resigned myself to the troublesome apostrophe, and we'll see how far it takes me. After all, they can't all be The Satan Strain, you know?

I leave you with a quote from Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney (italics mine):

Corin left a message for me one day saying that we would call ourselves "Sleater-Kinney". Up until that moment it had only been a road in a neighboring town. Now it was us. If band names were like baby names, we had picked a Gilbert or Sinclair or Beatrice. When we said, "We've picked out a name", we always got a "Hmm", or a head scratch, or a comment as soon as we left the room, like "that poor kid will be teased endlessly". Never listen to other people's advice about your band name. Otherwise, you will end up with an Ashley, or a Madison.

Now, one of these days, I may actually get around to explaining the name of this blog, aka The Story of Why My Wife has it Worse Than Me, Name-wise. And then there's the matter of the next book's title...