Monday, June 8, 2009

My Pet Name

A Lesson in Humility 

When I first arrived on these shores, they called me "John Sensei" (Master John). That was when I used to teach English in a public junior high that sat in the shadow of one of Kanagawa prefecture's tallest snow-capped mountains. Invariably at the end of each first class of the new school year one of the girls would come up to me at the end of the period all a jitter with nervous excitement. The first thing that came to my mind, the first time one of these kid's approached me was, "Oh she wants my autograph," for such is the rock star status of English teachers in Japanese junior high schools (or so they believe). Writing instrument in hand I waited for the trembling adolescent to stutter out her anxious request. 

Then she spoke: "I have a dog named John."
Oh man! If that's not enough to knock any rocker off the stage, I don't know what is. It was at that moment I suddenly realized that I wasn’t exactly a “rock star” in everyone’s eyes. It was a real lesson in humility for me.

Well it's time for me to go for my walk now.

More on John

I’ve been thinking about my name a lot these days. I recently discovered an excellent tome entitled, “Verbatim.” It’s a compilation of some outstanding articles from the magazine of the same name featuring “the best writing on language for word lovers, grammar mavens, and armchair linguists.” While reading the book I stumbled upon a chapter on names. Oh serendipity! This I thought would reveal the true and most glorious meaning behind my appellation extraordinaire. In his article, Onomastica Nervosa, Laurence Urdang notes certain names that “have acquired meanings of their own or that, by association, have acquired special connotations.” Among the names on the list is John as cited below:

  1. prostitute’s customer.
  2. toilet.
  3. Dear John letter, a note to a former lover or spouse.
  4. any male.
Now as if that wasn’t bad enough, there is an entry for John plus my middle moniker, Thomas, that reads:
John Thomas: penis
What the hell were my parents thinking????????

By the way:

Edited by Erin McKean, Verbatim is an excellent romp of a read through the back alleys of English and other languages. Look for it at your local book emporium.
You might even acquire a new meaning for your name. I sure did.

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