following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the
November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please
understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not
gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try
to give all of the material posted on this site.
always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout
this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct
problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the
spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very
informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more
than 50,000 words by the end of November.
~ ~ ~
was about 15 years ago when, on an evening in March, Terry, Jay,
Justin and I took a car ride to pick up a new puppy.
don’t recall the exact timing… couldn’t tell you if he was in
the car and we were driving home, or if it happened on a different
evening… but I do recall all four of us debating names for this
little guy. If I really try to remember, I’d probably say that
we drove out to meet him twice… once to pick him out, and once
to pick him up. And, the discussion of names happened after we
had met him for the first time.
some point the song “Incommunicado” from Jimmy Buffett becomes
involved… which includes a reference to the great John MacDonald
character, Travis McGee. (Maybe that should read: “a reference
to the great John MacDonald’s great character”… hmm. Anyway…)
shortly thereafter, our little boy had a name… Travis.
thing names… they seem to mean something very different to different
people have a similar name to mine, and yet I’m not too fond of
answering to some of the nicknames that they love. (And I’m guessing
they might feel the same about the “Bob” and “Bobby” that I find
welcoming and personable as options for them. Again… anyway…)
of my sisters once called Travis by the name of Meatloaf… which
kind of fit. Monster was the nickname he usually got.
thing though… names.
night at work, Terry and I were talking about the youngster, and
someone expressed admiration that we would name our puppy after
our favorite country music star, Randy Travis. And… sure… of course…
against Randy Travis or his music, but even though we were familiar
with his name neither of us could tell you a single song he sang.
admission time… as I type this, I keep staggering through the
lyrics of a song. I don’t have it right, and I know I’m way off,
but a quick internet search seems to find that “Forever and Ever,
Amen” isn’t completely foreign to me. And sure, I can hear his
deep, very country-music-authentic voice.)
strange thing is, I never began this essay with the thoughts of
how Travis got his name. Instead, it was one of those funny “why
is the sky blue?” moments. You get the idea… why is the color
green called green and not wristwatch… where did language and
speaking and communicating come from?
I’ve seen history and research… such as developing alphabets,
and connections to a symbol for a bull or a shepherd’s hook and
so on. But that’s not really what I mean. I’m not looking for
the roots of the word, a use in a sentence, or the perfect pronunciation.
much more general and very fundamental.
is a tree known as a tree?
around 1983. Could have been a year earlier or later. Doesn’t
matter. What does matter is that, for reasons that we don’t need
to cover now, I am in Arkansas. I am part of a large group.
night, while walking from dinner back to the hotel, a friend of
mine and I spot something on the ground. (Hi Todd!)
the sake of description and creating imagery, picture an old pair
of roller skates. And on the front of the skate, there used to
be a brake of sorts… I think the actual term for it is a toe stop.
Anyway… round… hole in the middle… perhaps an inch for the basic
size… rubber or such. You get the idea.
Todd and I skipped it and kicked it down the sidewalk with us,
Mr. Skuce saw us and promptly joined in.
at that, it’s one of those things!” he said.
things?” we asked.
You got yourself a whatchamacallit there.”
right! One of those things.”
forward five or so years. I’m sitting with some friends watching
television. And the remote control was called the boofer. (You
know… because you change the channels with it… boof * boof * boof…
we never pushed the term whatchamacallit or doohickey or oneofthosethings
very far. And yes, I still ask if anyone knows where the boofer
is while I’m searching bookshelves and sofa cushions. The thing
is… the general concept of these ideas falls in line with the
name thing. Boofer caught on and stuck with me. Oneofthosethings
may not have stuck with me in frequent use, but when I hear that
term, or whatchamacallit, I remember a bus ride one summer to
Arkansas. (And now, roughly twenty years later, I can smile about
somewhat likewise, at some point there was a conversation, on
whatever level, where in an effort to communicate, there was a
label… a sound… a name given to a rock, and another to the sky,
and so on.
nice that people want to debate the development of a word like
orange… say whether the fruit or the color was referenced first
(most history seems to suggest the fruit of the orange tree got
the name first by two hundred or so years… and that for location,
the place “Orange” actually has references further back)… but
we digress. That isn’t the idea. Instead…
is the sky blue?
is water wet?
why are my puppies named Lady, Travis, Molly and Gus?
you have the time and want to look around, you’ll find something
very funny about Randy Travis as it relates to this essay. (Although…
given his history in the past couple of years, you’ll also find
some really funny stuff about him that has nothing to do with
Travis… that’s not his name.
actual name is Randy Traywick.
does it matter? I mean… what’s in a name?