What Do You Visualize When You Think of a Person’s Last Name?

Surely something comes to mind, no matter who the person is.

Throughout my whole life, I have always visualized a noun or idea whenever I hear anyone’s last name.  Maybe it’s just me that does that.  But I felt that the habit was worth expanding on.  So I asked my facebook friends what they thought of when they hear my last name, which is Shell- the German adjective for “loud and noisy”, originally spelled “Schel”.  Their responses can be found at the very end of this post.

Then to demonstrate my thought process, I returned the favor:

Johnson- Johnsonville Brats

Rogers- a 1950’s milkman

York- the state, not the city

Clements- the Clampetts from the Beverly Hillbillies

Majer- the sitcom Major Dad

Kregenow- a city I made up in Michigan, that is only said best with a Midwestern accent

Hegar- Sammy Hagar

Alexander- Alexander the Great

McElhaney- Scottish people and GI Joe’s

Hardin- German people who love friend pickles

Welch- Welch’s grape juice

Creel- the Tori character from the final season of the original Saved by the Bell, played by actress Leanna Creel

Jenkins- Fat Albert and the Junkyard Band

Chapman- Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian singer

Britt- a member of a British glam-rock band from the Eighties

Wilder- Gene Wilder, the Jewish actor who played the original Willy Wonka

Gordon- the singer Gordon Lightfoot

Part of my writing style is that I almost always try to bring the topic to a close by ending with some sort of ironic twist.  So here it is:

How did we get last names in the first place?  There are basically three major ways.  First, the name could be referring to the town of where one of our ancestors lived: A common trait of Scottish last names is that they end in “ton”, which means town.  So “Pinkerton” means “from the town of Pinker”.  Second, the name could be recognizing an ancestral father or father figure: A common trait of English last names is that they end in “son”, which implies “son of”.  So “Davidson” means “David’s son”.  Similarly, Irish last names often begin “O’”, which also implies “son of”.  So “O’ Conner” means “son of Conner.”

Thirdly, and most interestingly, the last name is referring to an adjective or physical trait that an ancestor was known for.  Like the last names Short, Brown, Swift, Freeman, and Blessing.  Notice how many Jewish last names refer to monetary wealth: Goldberg, Silverman, Richman, Diamond, and Sachs (as in “sacks” of money- though the actual reference is to a city in Germany, it’s still an interesting coincidence).  With that being said, my habit of visualizing people’s last names is not a new thing at all.  People have been doing this since… well, since people have had last names.

Nick Shell New assignment for you, friends: “What do you visualize when you think of my last name?” (If you answer me, I will answer you regarding your last name, on your wall; as well as tag you in the post when I publish it.)

December 1 at 11:44pm ·  ·  

    • Brad Johnson I think of you and the gas station that my grandfather used to own.

      December 1 at 11:47pm · 
    • Debra Johnson A sea shell

      December 1 at 11:57pm via Facebook Mobile · 
    • Ashley Rogers Seashell…that always comes to my mind when someone has the last name Shell….and then I drift off thinking about how i”d love to be at the beach…. lol

      December 1 at 11:58pm · 
    • Crystal York Allen I think of the beach and the ocean. It is quiet calming.

      December 2 at 12:20am · 
    • Bobby Clements Sea shell (the smooth pretty kind) – then thoughts drift to the beach – then the waves – then the ocean – then to wonder why James Cameron is making a sequel to Avatar involving the ocean – then to why is James Cameron making a sequel at all.

      December 2 at 12:30am via Facebook Mobile ·  ·  1 person
    • Jessica Mager Toney i think of a sea shell…more specifically a conch shell.

      December 2 at 2:53am · 
    • Sarah Kregenow Issac Running out of gas and the color yellow.

      December 2 at 3:47am · 
    • Rebecca Hegar velveeta shells and cheese

      December 2 at 3:49am · 
    • Amanda Smith Alexander Not Shell gas station- they were too involved in the Holocaust. You’re a Jewish sea shell from the Sea of Galilee. Creative? 🙂

      December 2 at 5:47am via Facebook Mobile · 
    • Russell McElhaney The white sandy beach

      December 2 at 6:43am · 
    • Christy Perkins Hardin OK, so I’m different… I see that we are all start as just an empty shell, and the experiences of life fill us and mold us into the kind of person we become… ever-changing, as we add new experiences into our being. That shell may be filled with mostly good or mostly bad, and the choice is ours. Clearly, that shell is a God-shaped void…imagine what we would be if we actually filled that void with Him!

      December 2 at 6:44am · 
    • Jason Welch The “shell game” where there are three shells with a ball under one. You know, move them around and guess which has the ball.

      December 2 at 7:26am · 
    • Hjordis Maddock Creel Sea shells, any and all of them. I grew up in Florida and I love shells. I’ve got a collection of shells and I am always pondering what to do with them.

      December 2 at 7:54am · 
    • Will Jenkins a 70’s drawing of a little green turtle

      December 2 at 9:56am · 
    • Rita Gail Chapman I see seashells at the seashore…..three times, real fast!

      December 2 at 10:39am · 
    • Sherry Britt Shell I SEE A LONG WALK ON THE BEACH HUNTING SEASHELL

      December 2 at 3:27pm · 
    • Ben Wilder I think of you singing on stage. That’s the image of you I have in my head when your name comes up. And you laughing and shrugging your shoulders.

      Friday at 10:40am · 
The TMNT theme song. if you want the song, download it here: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=DYBVTBGD

December 2 at 1:20am ·  ·  · Share · See Friendship
    • Melinda Gordon in response to the question about your last name 🙂

      Friday at 4:30am · 


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Becoming a Different Person at Work: Does It Truly Always Pay to Be Yourself?

I wish the “real world” would just stop hassling me.

In theory, I am an actor for a living.  Given the generation I am a part of, I am overaware that I should never be ashamed of who I really am.  That it’s basically a sin to pretend to be someone I’m not.  And while I’ve done a pretty good job of living my life that way, there is one facet of life where I’ve learned it’s not really smart to be yourself- instead, you’re rewarded by being a different person- I’m referring to the work place.

I’ve explained my theory before that we all have a handful of different personalities that we share with different people in our lives.  But recently I realized that the personality I use at work is drastically different than any other of my personalities.  Here are just a few observances about me at work and how that’s not the real me:

-More aggressive and confrontational with people I don’t personally know

-Cautious to speak my mind or let my emotions show

-Don’t stand up for myself, even against co-workers

-Do my best to hide my true personality

-Constantly act as if I know all the answers

-Pretend I don’t have a life outside work

-Wear glasses, since I’m in front of a computer all day

-Tuck shirt into pants

"Work Chandler" is a prime example.

 

It’s sad for me to play this part of someone I’m not- but here’s the thing: By playing my “work role”, I am able to make a living.  Literally, it pays to be someone I’m not.  What is the real world?  To me, it’s my life outside of work.  But to many, it represents work, along with a lifestyle of chasing things that don’t actually matter- and that’s when I throw the phrase into sarcastic quotation marks like this: the “real world”.

When I go to work everyday, I enter an imaginary Avatar world where I care about policies, technicalities, the constant appearance of busyness, and being a guy who is not willing to rock the boat.  For me, that’s not the real world at all (though typically work and responsibility equals the “real world”) – but it pays the bills for the actual real world (my personal life), so I don’t complain.  Even now, I am simply making an observation that I’m sure many of us subconsciously know, but keep tucked away in the back of our minds, as to not seem ungrateful for our jobs.  I am extremely grateful for my employment, but the bottom line is, the version of me that people from work know is not me at all- and I’ve worked with them for years now.


Every place of employment has their own culture; their own unspoken rules.  Your first couple of weeks, you keep your head down and observe the code.  What matters there?  What doesn’t matter there?  Then once you get a good feel for it, you become the necessary person for that version of reality.  This is normal procedure.  The norm is not to be yourself- because if you did, you wouldn’t fit into the culture and would endanger yourself of… being voted off the island.

I work from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, with two 15 minute breaks and an hour lunch.  That’s 42.5 hours a week, which translates to ¼ of my life, and that’s including sleep.  By the time I factor in travel time (an hour a day), and time to cook dinner and then clean up, I only see my wife for a couple of hours before it’s time to time for bed.  And the weekends are obviously full of errands and chores we didn’t have time for during the weekdays.  Put into perspective, the time allotted for the actual real world (life outside of work) translates to crumbs from a huge meal.  I spend more waking hours with coworkers (who know a false version of me) than I do my own wife (who knows the real me).

The term “the real world” typically represents the hustle-and-bustle part of life.  But the irony is that for most of us (I hope), we recognize the real world and as the reality where we can truly be ourselves.  Because unless I worked at home as a full time writer, I will continue spending one quarter of my life acting as an aggressive, nerdy, robotic, no complaints yes-man.

Granted, the work place isn’t the only situation where it doesn’t pay to be yourself.  Anytime you have to “be on your best behavior”, you’re not really being yourself.  Like a first date.  You may be taking certain hidden traits of and qualities of yours and amplifying them for the right occasion, but still, in general, it’s a major stretch from your normal self.  It pays to be yourself most of the time, but to ignore the inevitable exceptions is a set up for failure.

“I find sometimes it’s easy to be myself. Sometimes I find it’s better to be somebody else.” -Dave Matthews Band (“So Much to Say”)


The Art and Irony of Trendsetting: Featuring Crocs, Hawaiian Shirts, Voss Water, and WWJD Bracelets

Trends are only truly cool when they’re not quite cool yet.  And by the time they are in style, they’re pretty much going out of style.

Recognizing the hilariousness of how in many offices in America, it is standard that everyone dresses professionally Monday through Thursday, but on Friday, everyone goes casual with jeans and often t-shirts, at the beginning of the summer I decided to start making Thursday a “buffer” day for how I dress in the office, encouraging everyone else to participate.  How do you transition from khakis and dress shirts to jeans and t-shirts?  Hawaiian shirts.

They are button-down shirts with collars.  Perfect, tacky transition.  At first, only one other coworker would join me in Hawaiian Shirt Thursday.  But then, if for no other reason they felt like they were missing out on something cool, one by one, others began joining us.  By the end of the summer, I had half of the office on my side.  Some people dug through their closets to find the shirt; some actually went out and bought one.  And now, even in autumn, many of us are keeping the tradition going.

Of course, this isn’t the first trend I’ve started at work.  In an effort to make sure I was drinking enough water everyday, I went to Whole Foods and bought a glass Voss water bottle that I refill several times throughout the day.  At first, coworkers joked with me, “Isn’t it a little early in the day for vodka?”  By now though, several of them have privately approached me to ask where they could get a water bottle like that.  And sure enough, the glass Voss water bottle is no longer weird in my office, but instead it’s the norm.

But the irony with trendsetting is that by successfully coming up with an original and unpopular idea, it eventually becomes unoriginal and popular.  Prime example: Crocs.  For the last couple of years, I’ve looked on from a distance at the weird plastic rainbow colored Birkenstock rip-offs.  They were so trendy.  You’d see moms and their kids out at the mall, all wearing Crocs.  Even though I wanted some, I refused to buy them.  Because they were too cool at the time.

However, this week I came to a realization.  The Birkenstocks I have been wearing were given to me by my parents Christmas 1999.  I had already paid $35 five years ago to have them resoled.  It was time for me to either have them repaired again, or pay $110 for new ones.  Or… pay $30 for some brown Crocs.

To entertain the idea of buying Crocs, I checked around Cool Springs during my lunch breaks while riding my mountain bike instead of driving (another office trend I’ve been trying to start since April), but sure enough, I had trouble finding any Crocs for sale.  Eventually, some girls behind the counter at a Hallmark told me to check out the Croc stand across from Fossil in the mall.

Needless to say, with yesterday being Thursday, I wore my Hawaiian shirt, with Crocs, while drinking water from a Voss water bottle.  And boy was I cool.  Yet I wouldn’t have been caught wearing Crocs if they were still trendy.  The trend of wearing Crocs is over; which is why it was more difficult than I had imagined to find them.  I’m not saying that Crocs aren’t cool anymore; they’re just no longer a fad.

And so an important rule for a trendsetter is to not get involved in a trend that is overly popular.  But once a trend is over, then it’s “game on” to participate.  Some fads, after their prime, become an outdated, yet timeless classic.  Like Hawaiian shirts.  And Chuck Taylor’s.  And the wondrous Rubik’s Cube.  WWWD bracelets?  Not so much.


The Paradox of Claiming to Be Humble and the Irony in Bragging on Your Integrity

While in college at Liberty University, I noticed that I literally walked past thousands of other students every day, most of whom I’d never stop to have a conversation with.  We would recognize each other in the cafeteria as a person who saw while walking to our 9:00 class, but there was no reason to know anything more about each other.  So I messed with the situation.  I started putting on a nametag each day with different information about myself.

Like one day it said “5’ 9”, and another day, “Alabama native”.  Eventually, I started running out of solid facts about myself, so would sometimes use dry humor.  One day, I wrote on my nametag, “VERY HUMBLE”.  Most of my classmates and friends got the joke.  But there were a few that responded, “You’re humble?  Oh…”

The obvious joke is that no one can truly proclaim they are humble and still be humble.  Being humble involves humility; so for a person tell others about positive attributes about themselves, especially being humble, and for no apparent reason, is far from being humble, if the action was meant to be serious.  It makes me think of political commercials where we see the word “INTEGRITY” flash up on the screen over the politician’s face, and at the end, the politician running for office, himself, states that he approves the message.

Any business that sells itself as a company that treats people right makes itself a target as soon as the first company comes along with a perceived injustice.  And that’s why every company has some sort of “complaints department”.   Like how the most religious person in the room’s actions are often looked at through a magnifying glass, then when they do the slightest crude thing, they are remembered for that one random act, making them sort version of a hypocrite.

Of course, that’s the tricky thing about honesty, integrity, and humility: There are extremes and in-betweens.  Not all politicians truly are sleazy.  Not all people in prison are horrible human beings.  Being that no one on Earth is currently perfect, no one is truly completely honest and humble, living in accordance with immaculate integrity.  A good reputation is made over a course of time, through actions.  But even a good reputation is negated once the person is the one to bring attention to it.  Like a man in a good suit, he’s instantly less cool if he brings up his suit in conversation- it’s someone else’s job to brag on him.

I am the Human Spell Check

Bring me your misspelled words and incomplete sentences.

In school, I never studied for spelling tests (at least I never needed to) and I always got a “104” (perfect score plus I got the “challenge words” right as well).  The English language, as random and pieced-together as it is, has always made sense to me.  I wasn’t too bothered with the fact that the word “know” has a silent “k” (originally it was pronounced).  Nor was I ever really annoyed with the “I before E except after C” rule.

Somehow I’ve made sense out of the consistent inconsistency of our junkyard Spumoni language, borrowed mainly from our European ancestors- and also surprisingly from Yiddish, the universal language of the Jews, being that there are almost exactly the same number of Jews living in America as there are in Israel; accordingly, the United States has the 2nd highest Jewish population in the world.  Examples of adopted Yiddish words – bagel, klutz, schlub, schmooze, schmuck, shtick, schnozzle, tush, schlong.

And I’m convinced that my love of words has a lot to do with why I don’t really have a Southern accent, despite only living in the South (AL, FL, VA, TN).  Because I know how words are supposed to sound.  It’s not “ahss”, it’s “ice”.  It’s not “Toeyohduh”, it’s “Toyota”.  To speak in any distinct accent would be to stray from the standard American way of speaking.  I’m overaware of the way I pronounce words- only in rare occasions does a hint of Alabama come out of me.

I am the person in any given room who people ask, “How do you spell ‘initiate’”?  Then immediately, the word pops up in a translucent white font outlined in black, in my head.  I am that guy.  That can always save the day in times of a spelling crisis.  In college, I was the guy that all my dorm mates would bring their papers to for me to correct them the night before they were due.  And not only was it fun for me, but I took pride it doing it.

The downside of being a human spell check: I’m horrible at math and science.

The irony of writing about being a human spell check: I misspelled the word “spell check” in the title for this post by combining two words as one.  The real spell check caught it for me.

For a similar post by a similar but different writer, read http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/05/12/99-grammar/.

Being Exotic Can Actually Mean Looking Generically Foreign

“Since many white people look alike, they are desperate to find ways to have a distinctive look.” -Stuff White People Like, by Christian Lander


What is something that’s exotic?  To me it evidently always translated as “Hawaiian” or “Asian” or “tropical”.  But when I predictably spent two summers teaching English in Thailand in 2002 and 2003 as Christian Lander, author of Stuff White People Like, said I would (“This is when they venture to Thailand… Some do it to one-up the white people who only go to Europe,” and “White men love Asian women so much that they will go to extremes… like teaching English in Asia…”), I learned pretty quickly that over there, I was the magical, exotic one.

However, I was constantly confused with the few other “white people” in the province I worked in; more than several times being confused with a guy about three inches shorter than me who had blonde hair and blue eyes (and was Canadian).

So the irony is that while my “big nose that comes out of your face” (as some of my Thai students informed me of), “light colored hair” (which is actually dark brown), “white skin”, and “hairy body” (I guess I can’t argue about those last two) were different to the Thai people, I ultimately looked like every other white guy in the world.  Despite the exciting mysteriousness, being exotic also means looking generically foreign.

Written as a guide to help non-Caucasian people to understand "white culture".

And despite the various shades of eye colors and hair colors that Caucasians can have, we are ultimately the minority skin color of the world.  On a global scale, “white people” are the minority; and to the majorities, we evidently all blend together, looking alike.

We most easily identify the physical differences of the people of our own race, whatever it is, since that’s the group of people we are most familiar with.  In the end, “exotic” becomes a pretty relative word.

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

 

 

Unlucky Numbers Like 666 and 13

I can only hold my own attention for so long at a time.

I noticed this several months ago, but now I’m going public with it.  My average post on Scenic Route Snapshots is right around 666 words long.  Sometimes 665 or 667.  Or if one day I write a short post that’s only 342 words, I’ll instinctly follow up the next day with one that’s 1008 words to average it out.  I never know how long it is until I finish and click the “publish” button.

What this means is that my mind is set on a predetermined default of how long it can focus on one subject, therefore, pacing me on finishing the thing without making it so long that I, myself, don’t get bored writing it, of course eventually reading it as well.  And the whole time incorporating enough personal stories and often driving it home with a unique ironic twist at the end.

If I could choose a different number for my default, I would.  Like 777.  But that’s the irony, that a guy who is not a Satan worshipper and that isn’t cool with Satan would by default write an average of 666 words per post.  And that, my friends, is a unique ironic twist.

And for another twist, this post isn’t even near 666 words long.  It’s just 218.