Would a Jane by any other name still be plain?

May 21, 2018 — Naming a child is one of the most important tasks parents have.

Think I’m being dramatic? Ask anyone with a name like Bernhard or Albertina, and they’ll confirm it for you. Something that sticks to you forever should not be taken lightly.

As a child, I found my given name rather dull. Not only did Jane sound boring, it only contained one syllable. What kind of impression could I make on people with a one-syllable name?

The variations of my name came from adults, who often said things like, “Me Tarzan, you Jane”, or who called me Plain Jane or Lady Jane, or referred to the children’s book characters “Dick and Jane”. I don’t recall kids teasing me about my name. There were many days I felt grateful that Jane didn’t rhyme with anything disgusting like Icky Vicky or Smelly Kelly because kids are relentless. “Jane the Pain” was the worst I got, and that came from my family.

Instead of Plain Jane or Jane the Pain, I imagined myself as an Angelique, just like the character in “Dark Shadows”, or as someone with a musical sounding name that ended with an “a” such as Melissa or Johanna. Both of my sisters’ names end with “a” and because mine did not, I believed I was destined to be a tomboy. Or a nun. Nun’s names, which were often masculine, rarely ended with an “a”.

In fifth grade, I decided to take on Angelique as my confirmation name. That would give me a little flair. My father told me if I shortened it to Ann, I might get a dollar from my grandfather, since that was my grandmother’s name. She had passed away years before, and I never knew her, so decided to go for it. The Bishop called me Ann, slapped my face as a reminder of the hardships I might face in my Christian life, and I became Jane Marie Ann McMaster. Notice none of those names end in an “a”, and I don’t recall getting that dollar.

Jane was also my mother’s name, although she confessed she never cared for it. She wanted to name me Diane and might have if my father hadn’t been persistent. The year I was born, Jane didn’t crack the top fifty for girls’ names, so my parents did not go the popular route. That privilege belonged to girls named Susan, Linda, Karen, Donna, Lisa, Patricia, Debra, Cynthia, Mary, and Diane, the top ten girls’ names that year. My sisters’ names are on that list, while Jane placed at #54.

Any baby name book will tell you that Jane is Hebrew in origin. As the feminine form of John, it means God is gracious. It’s not on the list of royal names, yet two English queens, Lady Jane Grey, who ruled for nine days before the king executed her for treason, and Jane Seymour, who died shortly after childbirth, giving Henry VIII his much-anticipated son, held it proudly.

Today, I am rather glad my parents did not name me Angelique. Jane fits me and I have grown accustomed to it. I like that it is not common, and it slides off the tongue easily when I have to introduce myself, especially in business situations. Angelique McMaster has an odd sound to it, and the six syllables it contains are a bit too much to get through.

On occasion, people still call me Lady Jane; however, gone are the days where people mention “Tarzan” or “Dick and Jane”. Sadly, they are characters from generations long gone. Just like Angelique.

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The Sounds of the Season

May 14, 2018 – Once the temperature rises, it’s a sure sign that the sounds of the Mister Softee jingle will be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

You’ll hear the familiar jingle in the distance at first, causing your heart to beat faster as it gets closer. You can’t help but smile; aside from the crack of a baseball bat, it’s one of the sweetest sounds of summer.

That simple jingle summons heartwarming childhood memories for many of us, and reminds me of our local driver who several years back rolled through the streets calling to children with such classics as “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World”. Those cherished holiday hits seem odd as they filtered through open windows with outside temperatures reaching 80 degrees.

Mr. Whippy as seen in the Beatles’ movie Help.

Instead of the Mister Softee , the driver — who wore a turban — operated a vehicle that looked like the Mr. Whippy truck from the Beatles’ movie “Help”. Not that I mind how he dressed, but his choice of headwear and music suggest that perhaps he is new to the U.S. and may not realize that although he’s playing seasonal music, it’s the wrong season.

Now that I’ve moved, I kinda miss him.

P.S. “Your famous Ringo is safe.”

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Place in the World

May 12, 2018 — This week’s challenge is “place in the world”.

I’ve lived in the Philadelphia for most of my life. Now that I’ve made the move to suburban life, the city remains one of my favorite places to photograph.

Boat House Row along Kelly Drive.
The Schuylkill River Boardwalk
City Hall
Part of the Skyline
Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in America

More Street Slang Added to The Official Scrabble Dictionary

May 7, 2018 – Remember the two old ladies playing dirty word Scrabble in the 1978 movie Foul Play?

Scrabble snobs like me may have a sense of humor when it comes to comedy scenes in movies, but in reality we would never accept those words if they didn’t appear in The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

Last month, Scrabble celebrated its 70th anniversary, and in its honor, The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary added 300 more words, marking the sixth edition of the game book.

Prior to this, the book was last updated in 2014, when 10 new street slang words were added, some more offensive than those words used by the old ladies. They include “thankx” (it’s not even shorter than the proper spelling, but the “k” and the “x” together can score plenty) and “bezzy”, (a term used to describe a “ho” is not particularly good-looking). Do we really need a slang term for this scenario? Not to mention, Scrabble only has one “z”, so you’d need a blank to spell the word.

The newest volume, which publishes this fall, includes 21st century slang words like “emoji,” “facepalm” and “puggle.” I’m familiar with the term emoji, but I just learned that facepalm is the act of bringing your hand up to you face to express disbelief, and puggle is a breed of dog with a beagle and a pug for parents, the latter of which seems acceptable.

Even better, the newest volume includes more of those elusive two letter words that can score big points for you at the end of the game when trying to use all of your letters. The expressions “ew” and “hm”, are now official, along with the strange slang term for pizza–“za”, which is simply disrespectful.

The latest edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary will be available in September 2018.

The Last Maypole

April 30, 2018 — Tomorrow we welcome the month of May. That can only mean it will be May 1, and time to dance around the Maypole to celebrate May Day.

OK, so the European spring tradition isn’t widely recognized in the states, but it is a national holiday in many countries. It’s also celebrated in Russia, Cuba and many other communist countries as International Worker’s Day,  but legend says its roots are right here in the United States, before we began celebrating Labor Day in September.

I have vivid memories of dancing around the Maypole in a kindergarten in the mid 1960s. It may be my first lasting memory since I can’t recall much before then. Right after, a boy named Billy who lived one block over chased me home from that celebration trying to steal my May Day balloon. I still think about that each May 1, and I wonder what happened to Billy. In jail for theft perhaps?

So, whether May Day is a spring celebration, a pagan festival, a day of political protests, or just another day closer to summer, find a Maypole or something that can pass for one tomorrow and boogie on down.