Friday, August 25, 2017

Call Me Ishmael

Thought for the day:  I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. [Lily Tomlin]

[image from Morguefile]

No, of course, my name isn't Ishmael, but talk about a name that's known by most readers all over the world, right? Susan, on the other hand, is pretty darned generic. In fact, the last time I checked, a Google search turned up thirteen people named Susan Swiderski. Sheesh, talk about making a gal feel unique, eh?

It's been kinda fun picking and re-vamping some of my old blog posts. Hopefully, I didn't give you guys too many boogers. Just a few more, and then the summer re-runs will come to an end.

Today's oldie but not-a-booger originally appeared in June 2011 as The Name Game. I hope you enjoy it.








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Thought for the day:  It was a matter of destiny: the streaker's name was Seymour Cheeks.


Gildersleeve, Gildersleeve, wherefore art thou, Gildersleeve?

The fair Juliet declared, What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Easy for her to say. Do you think she would've been half as cavalier about the irrelevance of a name if she'd been saddled with an onerous moniker like Bertha or Broomhilda? And I ask you, could even the great Shakespeare himself have waxed poetic about a damsel in distress if her name were Boobs Galore? (Sincere apologies to any readers named Bertha, Broomhilda, or Boobs.)

Gertrude Stein said, A rose is a rose is a rose, and even good ol' Popeye said, I yam what I yam. If things ARE what they ARE, does it really matter a rat's derriere what you choose to CALL them?

Well, yeah. I think so.

Would a bouquet of roses bestow the same romantic connotation if they were called ... fartflowers? Or suppose that lovely bunch of mums your beloved gave you were called ...  ugly mamas?

Ahhhh ... Smell the Fartflowers!
True, the name or description of an object can't actually alter its essential substance, but it can ... and does ... alter our perception of it. Intellectually, we may adhere to the adage, Never judge a book by its cover, but in reality, we tend to do just that.

Consider this:

You're exhausted, and judging by the crowd in the doctor's anteroom, a long wait stretches in front of you. Standing on your aching feet is not an attractive option, and there are only two empty seats in the room. One is beside a shabbily-dressed old gentleman with shaggy hair and scruffy beard, who is slumped in his chair, muttering to himself. The other is next to a clean-cut, GQ-looking young man, who looks right at you and smiles. (Or for you men, a shapely young woman with a sexy smile.) Where would you sit? Not gonna pull any made-up statistics out of my (ahem) ear, but where do you think most people would sit?

It's human nature. And understanding that tidbit of human nature puts potential power into our hot little pen-holding hands. When a writer (or speaker) understands the basic concept of perception, he can use it to his advantage and manipulate the crap out of it. 

Take the example of the waiting room. Before a writer brings that poor unsuspecting foot-sore patient into that room, suppose he fleshes out the people sitting beside those empty chairs. Suppose the shabby-looking fellow is a sweet, gentle, lonely soul who's grieving deeply for his wife, and Mr. G.Q. (or Ms. Luscious) is an evil Jeffrey Daumer wannabe. How's that going to change the reader's response when the innocent newcomer considers sitting beside the Daumer copycat?

Titles, names, and appearances DO matter. All of them evoke involuntary psychological  responses, and when we have an active awareness and anticipation of those responses, we wield some control over them through the power of our words. A great book title has the potential to attract a casual browser. Ditto a great-looking cover. Character names carry a certain weight. Names can be perceived as weak, strong, silly, or whatever. Descriptions can be used to reinforce a stereotype, or to mask something shocking and unexpected. Subtle nuances of word choice evoke a huge difference in both perception and reaction.  

Or not. On one hand, I think word choice and title choice can make a big difference. But on the other, if the following book titles have been published (and they have!) maybe titles don't matter at all. Consider:

Beats exploding, I suppose.
Okeydoke, then.


About a master debater?

The only game our cats play is hide and go sleep.

the perfect gift for the grandkids?


guess you have to be Catholic first, right?

  The author's name should be Lucy Bowels.

ewwwww

there's a reason it's a lost art

um, why bother?

stool softener helps

no comment

not cuddly anymore, huh?

And here's some more actual book titles to consider:
  • The Pop-Up Book of Phobias
  • Scouts in Bondage
  • Be Bold With Bananas
  • 101 Uses for Tampon Applicators
  • Suture Self   (Now, I LIKE this one!)
  • How to Make Love While Conscious
  • Up Sh*t Creek: a collection of horrifying true wilderness toilet misadventures
  • The History of Sh*t
  • First You Take a Leek
  • The Romance of Proctology
  • Heave Ho: My Little Green Book of Seasickness
  • More Balls Than Hands  (ahem ... about juggling)
  • Postmortem Collectibles
  • Knitting With Dog Hair
  • Last Chance at Love: Terminal Romances
  • The Book of Lesbian Horse Stories
  • Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank and Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom
And finally, my own personal favorite:
  • Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Good-Bye

How about you? Do you think titles matter? Come across any doozies lately?

                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
















52 comments:

  1. There are some doozies there for sure. On the subject of Roses, if they'd been called fart-flowers since the beginning of time, would we still love them? If they had been used to counteract the smell of people farting, would a recipient of a bunch of fart-flowers be happy with them? Or would she feel insulted by the giver thinking she farts a lot?

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    1. :) I love that you used the word doozies.

      Interesting question about the fart-flowers. I'd say that if the male presenting the flowers to his lady friend was the most flatulent offender, he'd be doing her a favor. (Ladies don't fart... like Scarlet O'Hara, we get the vapors. HA!)

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  2. Hi Susan - honestly those are some incredible titles - thanks: I think I'll stay in my little world with few titles! Loved Pooh's image and title ... yup and don't bother with origami loo paper ... great fun ... have a very happy fun filled weekend ... amusing all around you and particularly the littlies with these great titles! Cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi-ya, Hilary. I'm glad you liked the titles. Yeah, not much point in doing origami with toilet paper. Not only is it not stiff enough to hold a shape very well, all I want to do with that particular kind of paper is use it as intended. Then again, if a roll of t.p. IS stiff enough to hold origami shapes, I amend my statement. Fold away!

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  3. I kind of like the towel origami. Isn't that what the housekeeping staff does on cruise ships? A nice towel swan sits on your bed when you come back to your room. :)

    The last two titles cracked me up!

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    1. I dunno, but I reckon towel origami might be a fancy perk of going on a cruise. We've never been. The biggest boat I've ever been on is a houseboat, and our friend wasn't into folding her towels. :)

      I like those two titles best, too.

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  4. Horny hands may get you in trouble is you aren't careful haha titles sure can be fun and stuff like these are usually meant to stick out indeed. That they do. One Doctor her is named Doctor Proctor and she's a bowel doctor lol there are Horne's around here too. Imagine the picking they got.

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    1. Um, I don't think it's the horny HANDS that cause the most problems... :)

      That's funny about the doc named Proctor. Years ago, my father's doctor when he had colon cancer was named Dr. Seymour Weiner...

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  5. I'd probably sit next to the old man because he won't talk to me and I can read in peace.

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  6. Love those titles. As a writer I think it's important to spend time and effort choosing names. I know people suggest sticking in a placeholder and getting on with the writing, but I find I can't write for long without having the right name filling in those blanks in a scene.

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    1. I know what you mean. I like to "know" my characters before fleshing them out, and part of knowing them is knowing their names.

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    2. Me too. I can't continue without a name for him or her or even a dog.

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  7. I'd most likely pick the old man and then talk to him, but human nature sure leads everyone the other direction.

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  8. The kid with his finger in his nose reminds me of my son standing in front of the church and picking his nose while his preschool class sang. The best book title is, obviously, Knitting With Dog Hair.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. HA! I know what you mean. Our kids were known to dig for gold at the most inappropriate times, too. (Um, not that there's an APPROPRIATE time...)

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  9. I think names of characters (and real people too, for that matter) do convey an image sometimes and need to be chosen carefully. Those titles are pretty wild. Haha! Although they got published, it's hard to believe very many people actually bought them!

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    1. I agree about choosing names carefully. The names some parents bestow on their poor innocent babies are downright unbelievable.

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  10. Titles/names do matter.
    Sadly I will admit to a personal prejudice. One of the children I went to school with ALWAYS had a runny nose which she pushed upwards over her face and hair when it bothered her. So there was a slime trail and a greasy, sticky fringe. And when someone is introduced to me by her name my first reaction is NOT positive.

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    1. Makes sense to me. If we have a strong negative reaction to someone with a certain name, it's only natural that hearing that same name afterwards is initially going to evoke the original reaction.

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  11. These book titles are so hilarious that it's impossible to pick a favorite. I luv "Toilet Paper Origami" (but I'm reluctant to try it) and "Knitting With Dog Hair" ( I have plenty of cat hair to knit with).
    "Lesbian Horse Stories" sounds kinda romantic...

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    1. Well, with the toilet paper origami, maybe you could fold the paper while you're taking care of business. You know, instead of reading a book or doing a puzzle...

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  13. OMG...those book titles are hilarious! Where do you find this stuff? First you take a leek...hahahaha.

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    1. I'm glad the book titles made you laugh. :)

      I find fodder for blog posts EVERYWHERE. (It's the curse of having a curious mind...)

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  14. Awesome, awesome post, friend Sue ... and so refreshingly funny ... I really appreciate each and every book title as well ... that was not always the case cuz after I came to Canada from Europe, my husband had to explain jokes and such to death for me, and after I finally got it, the only thing funny was that it took me o long to get it ... so we ended up laughing about that ... o, well ... smiles ... Love, cat.

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    1. PS: 35 years of Canadian married bliss coming up September 03 ... smiles ... Love, cat.

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    2. Thanks! Hey, don't feel bad... some people NEVER understand humor... especially my kind. :)

      P.S. Happy Anniversary, dear cat. I wish you a special day and many more years of happiness.

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  15. Hahaha! Hilarious titles! And yeah, what's in a name? is better said by someone who has a good sounding name!

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad they made you laugh.

      You're right. Nicknames can be real stinkers, too. Nothing like having a surgeon whose lifelong nickname is Klutz.

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  16. Some of those are hysterical :-) Book titles are so important. There are so many books out there, that those with catchy titles are more apt to get my attention.

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    1. Agreed! Given the choice between a book with a clever title or a book with a boring title, I'll pick clever every time.

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  17. I want the Gangsta Rap coloring book. And poor Pooh Gets Stuck. You hit us with a booger on that one. Too funny. Oh the name game - it's crucial. Good luck as always. You are the only Susan Swiderski I know- the others can't possibly be as funny.

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    1. No problem! If you do a Google search, you'll find "Gangsta Rap" coloring books from numerous sources. (Surprise!)

      Aw, thanks. That's really sweet.

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  18. It is a shame that towel art is not popular, except on cruise ships. My granddaughter, a very good artist, has done toilet paper origami. I don't think that will catch on either.

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    1. Wow! I'm impressed. Our daughter used to do origami, too, but with the more standard types of paper.

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  19. LOL! Wow, just imagine fart-flowers instead of roses!!!
    Quite mind boggling, especially as they always seem to have a message of love when you give roses!
    Some of those titles ...

    All the best Jan

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    1. I DID imagine fart-flowers! HA (It'd beat those big flowers that smell like rotting garbage...)

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  20. Very true. It's been said that the one way to stop people from wanting something like "freedom" is by removing it from their vocabulary.

    Which others say is nonsense, but when I was learning my third and fourth languages, I found Chinese especially challenging, because their culture is different from ours, and so they really have words that we don't have a word for, and as such, it's not reflected in our culture.

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    1. Hmmm, I'd have to disagree with those folks who think people would no longer crave freedom if they didn't have a word in their vocabulary for it. It doesn't seem as though the absence of a specific word to express something would eliminate the craving itself.

      Interesting about learning Chinese. (Yay, you!) I've heard that some Asian languages employ multiple words to describe minute nuances of some things which English covers with a single word. That must have been very challenging for you to learn.

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  21. I think if a book title is good enough the book will almost write itself! Mind you, I say that as a non-writer.....
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s feckless Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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    1. Ah-HA! So THAT'S why it takes me so long to write a book... I haven't come up with good enough titles! :) I'll try to keep that in mind next time...

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  22. I enjoyed reading, very humourous. I struggle sometimes with titles, as I forget easily with having hundreds of written pieces!

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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    1. If you've written hundreds of pieces, my guess is you're a real champ at coming up with terrific titles. :)

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  23. If a rose was called a fartflower, I would think that "farts" would mean something different. :)

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    1. HA! Could be. And maybe what we now call farts would end up being called roses. :)

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  24. I struggle sometimes with titles, as I forget easily with having hundreds of written pieces!


    หนังออนไลน์

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    1. That's a good "problem" to have. I'm pretty good at the titles, but it takes me waaaaaay too long to write.

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