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Jim Walker: Self-descriptions in seven letters or fewer

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: September 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Each of us has an innate need to be known by others, and others have an innate need to label us. It just helps organize the world.

For example, there was a time when your surname really meant something.

You know, like when “Johnson” meant the “son of John” and the world you interacted with was so small it knew only one John, so thereby knew only you as his son. (And, no, your idiot brother was not known as a Johnson, but, instead, as “Dolt.”)

Similarly, if you were called “Miller,” it was because you ground grain. Anyone called “Baker” baked bread and “Brewer” was, likewise, self-explanatory, but it also doubled for “friend” because, if you were one, everyone wanted to be yours.

“Hey, Johnson, you did remember to invite Brewer to the party, right?”

However, some surnames you received were less than complimentary. If you earned the names Broadgirdle, Hogbreath or, heaven forbid, Blackbottom, you pretty much had to move to a new village.

Of course, if you were wealthy, you could change your rep with PR. You could rent a minstrel to walk ahead of you and sing about your wondrous exploits as you moved to a new hamlet.

“Here arrives brave John, who slew a dragon yon — and was never called Blackbot-tom.”

Now, it would seem that Native Americans and their friends used to have this same sort of thing going on.

For example, we know Stands-with-a-Fist punched somebody out, and it is said Hawkeye was well-known for being the first to find, and hit on, the prettiest girl in any township.

But, somewhere along the way, the world got too large, and there were just too many people for short names to explain things. Should she live today, Stands-with-a-Fist might have to be called something like Stands-with-a-Fist-with-the-Droopy-Eye-and-Pierced-Lip-Who-Used-to-Live-on-Del-Monte-Drive-but-Recently-Suffered-Foreclosure.

It would be kind of cumbersome.

So, these days, a short name means nothing and, unless you commit a newsworthy crime or can afford the PR to make the world believe you are no longer Stefani Germanotta, but now Lady Gaga, you fade into the background completely.

But us poor folk do have one option to tell the world what we want it to know about us in a succinct and powerful way.

We get personalized license plates.

These plates say everything in seven letters or fewer. However, we have no control over how others interpret our plates.

So, just for fun, and with apologies to anyone who actually has any of the following license plates, consider:

STRGAZR:  The owner of this plate probably wants us to know he studies the heavens or — awww — has big dreams. However, we could mistakenly infer he watches celebrities through their bedroom windows.

DREMWVR: Could be a Hollywood agent, might interpret dreams for a living — or it’s Gary Wright, hoping someone remembers him.

WTLOSER: She might be a diet guru — but if WT gets interpreted as “what,” she’s really putting herself down.

JSUSLVN: Could be loving Jesus, or a guy with that name who’s a nurse.

ICRCKUP: A comedian, crack addict or a really bad diver. In any case, you’d better not follow too closely.

MUSCMAN: He might be a musician, but he might have graduated from USC, with the USCMAN plate already taken, or he might have a really musky odor — or all of the above.

OPTMIST: Could be a really positive person, or has chosen a new gender.

P84WRD: Might be passing on the help he has received in life or scratching out a living as a writer.

PRNSTAR: No, he works in Accounts Receivable at Princeton University.

I’m just sayin’, it’s easy to confuse things. So when you are choosing your vanity plate letters, your billboard to the world, so to speak, you might want to run your ideas by a few friends before you order.

Comment at or Twitter @DontSeriously.


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