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What's in a name?Posted Sunday, August 19, 2007, at 9:28 PM
Yesterday on the CBS Morning Show, they had a memory expert teaching the crowd how to remember names. As usual, I had pushed my favorite button on the remote ("pause"), so I missed most of it - which is too bad, because I need all the help I can get.
I've always been bad with names, but - like most things - it gets progressively worse with age.
When I was in high school, we had a sweet, dignified teacher who wore her hair in a thirties style, but she had the misfortune of having jowls like a bulldog. I lived in fear of calling her "Mrs. Bulldog."
Of course, having taught high school for 32 years should have given me plenty of opportunity to develop memory skills, but it doesn't seem to have done that. I was notorious for all the misnomers I gave the kids. Once I had one kid from any given family, all the rest of the siblings were hopelessly cast into that first name. They gave up trying to correct me and just went along with it.
The secretary in the office used to confer with the student worker when they got my absentee slips. They'd say, "Okay, who do you think Mrs. DeJournett means on this one? It says, 'Crystal Jones,' but she graduated last year."
Some communities are especially bad about naming kids alike - In my last school, we had two Terry Eftinks, two Jeff Eftinks, two Jason Harrises....etc... As if they're not hard enough to keep up with!
Over the years I came to develop an aversion for some names, like the "Jasons." This should have been a favorite name for me - "Jason and the Argonauts," you know. However, I had a cousin whose son Jason would push my just-walking son Todd down the stairs in their Seattle home. I came to associate the name "Jason" with evil.. And there was the year at school when I had six Jasons in my first hour mythology class... Dr. Seuss has a book called "Too Many Daves," and that's how I felt about Jasons. Each one had his own devious habits. On one, I had to stop class when he blew his nose. It sounded like a fog horn.
Absentee slips were a trial for me, for some reason. One day, I did what I knew I would do one day -- I filled out an absentee slip for a kid named Patrick Gilbert....only my mind did one of those little ridiculous skips -- and I put "Patrick Henry" instead.
Of course, the name game still plagues me in the newspaper business, as I never know what name I'll come up with in the cutlines for photos - or the stories, either. A first name will trigger an old memory, and without even knowing it, I'll put someone from the past into the story. I think the residents of Advance are beginning to get used to it. They must say, "Oh, there she goes again..." Good thing they know practically everyone in town....In a town this small, they don't really even need me to give them the names - They already know who they are.
I suspect that I may not be the only one with this problem. Question is - Anybody have a solution?
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.