Archive for Thursday, March 28, 2002

What’s in a name

Constant confusion a source of frustration

March 28, 2002

My byline is Elvyn J. Jones. The J. isn't a pretentious attempt at a power initial.

Pat Sangimino, one of my predecessors in this job, started using the J. when he was my editor at another newspaper. He shortened John to J. and resumed the practice when we were reunited. I routinely used my middle name in an attempt to end awkward silences when readers called asking for Evelyn.

I can't account for the inexplicable confusion between Elvyn and Evelyn I have encountered my whole life. I'll admit Elvyn isn't a common name. I came by it when my Mom's preferred name, John, was moved to the right to honor my Dad's best friend who was killed shortly before my birth. Unlike their children who tagged their babies with 15 different spelling variants of Alissa, babyboomers' parents apparently didn't spend a lot of time perusing books for unusual names. I grew up amid Mikes, Craigs, Kennys and Bobs.

And that was OK, except for the persistent confusion with Evelyn.

Several decades ago I was a truck driver. That career ended when I was injured while riding in the sleeper during a truck accident. In the hospital I learned the guy I was working for didn't have worker's compensation. My recovery and later surgery left me with considerable medical bills I wouldn't be able to pay until the state settled with my employer.

I was eventually taken to court by one hospital's lawyer who was said to have gained court order to remove the pacemaker from an elderly man shortly before Christmas. Anyway, I was hauled before some judge, where I was found in default my assertion that I was the true victim falling on blind and deaf justice.

Every four months until I received my settlement, I had to go to deadbeat court to explain why I couldn't increase the pitiful monthly pittance that wouldn't pay off the hospital in my lifetime. The judge always read my name as Evelyn, which I dismissed the first time with the comment I'd heard it before. After that, the judge always corrected his mistake with a chuckle and the joke, "I bet that isn't the first time you've heard that." Finally, the last time I went before him after the gears of justice had ground out my settlement, my reply to the judge's lame joke was, "I've heard it every time I've been here." The judge was suddenly less jovial. His expression told me he didn't think that was very funny.

So, I'm a little sensitive to the Evelyn thing. That is probably a good thing for a journalist who is supposed to get names right. But can't we decide on one spelling for Alicia.

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