Archive for Thursday, February 12, 2004

The name game

By any similar name, towns still not as sweet

February 12, 2004

Most of us who have used the Internet for any period of time can probably concede to the admittedly-narcissistic practice of Googling ourselves. By that I mean typing your name in an Internet search engine and seeing what pops up.
For most of us, myself included, the results are pretty mundane. I have quite a few hits, but having written for newspapers for the last seven years -- in college, during internships and at The Eudora News -- contributes to that number significantly. But after having my name in print every week, the novelty kind of wears off.
Because of the rarity of the name, "Barcomb" produces results more intriguing to me than if my last name were common. For instance, I found a Barcomb who helps save wild horses in Nevada, and, more nefariously, that a Barcomb was apparently one of the Hillside Strangler's victims.
Such discoveries probably aren't as interesting to a Smith, Nguyen or Garcia, who have nearly-infinite affirmation of their existence in any phone book.
While in college, I found a fellow college student in New England -- where my dad's family hails from -- with the last name Barcomb who had her own Web site. I e-mailed her on a lark, as our name is about as common as its French predecessor, the nearly-unpronouncable and unspellable Berthiaume. Apparently this particular Barcomb didn't think it was that intriguing, as my e-mail was left unresponded.
Through my work at our sister publication, The Eudora News, I've often had to search for something about the city by typing "Eudora" into a search engine. Inevitably, I'll find one or two sites about Eudora, Kan., and a million and a half about the Eudora e-mail program.
Maybe this explains why our office has gotten e-mail asking a troubleshooting question about the program and a phone call from a frustrated Israeli trying to figure out his e-mail.
Proving names can be deceiving, our sister publication, The De Soto Explorer has attracted some unusual inquiries of its own. We were all quite surprised to hear that after one relatively-benevolent storm that the roof of a De Soto middle school building had been blown off. Turns out the storm was much worse in De Soto, Mo.
Likewise, I was put on the phone recently with a reporter from BBC-Scotland. Despite the caller's pleasing brogue, I couldn't understand why he was asking us about a "chap" who had ridden in a cargo crate from New York to Texas.
The BBC reporter kept insisting the man was from our town. Not knowing if he meant Eudora or De Soto didn't matter. Riding cross-country in a crate is generally something people tell the local newspaper.
I'm sure this man did tell the local newspaper -- in De Soto, Texas.
Such confusion isn't limited to our office, I'm sure. I recall one Eudora school board meeting where the superintendent informed us that bids for some project or another had been sent to Eureka, Kan. Close, but no cigar.
If Eudora and De Soto weren't such a common names it sure would make searching for information about our town on the Internet a whole lot easier and would probably produce more interesting and relevant results.
But at least Eudora and De Soto are common enough people know how to spell them. You can't say that for Barcomb.

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