Regarding names: Please, boring is best | Robesonian


As a relative newcomer to the area, I thought I might pull back the curtain a little to reveal some of the magic that happens between my fingers hitting a keyboard and your eyeballs reading my thoughts.

Names have always been kind of a big deal in the news business and here at The Robesonian we do our best to pay attention to names. Mostly because we may confuse a point of fact once in a while and nobody will think much of it, but if we spell someone’s name wrong we’re really in for it.

If you want to test us, I urge you to peruse Chris Stiles’ sports section in today’s paper. Sports writers are hands down some of the hardest working journalists around. We, and by we I mean Mr. Stiles, covers five local high schools as well as keeps track of several regional colleges and a small handful of professional athletes that readers care about.

With each high school filling teams of athletes in football, volleyball, basketball, softball, etc., You can imagine the skill required to cover a game then rush back to the office and crank out a story that includes a dozen or so names — as well as the players notable stats — all before the pressroom starts barking about deadline.

I’ll be honest, we don’t always get all the names right, and once in a while we make the pressroom wait until we can confirm a detail or two.

It’s something editors like me sweat about every single day — because if I screw up the spelling of a young athlete’s name, you can be sure that I’m going to have a phone call waiting for me the next morning.

Note to new parents: Between Armondo and Zack, you can find some great names out there with common spellings. Consider this: if the “gh” or “tz” or any other letter in your child’s name is silent, just think twice before signing the birth certificate.

I’m pointing fingers at silly names, but I really am not one to talk.

My wife’s name is spelled Suesan and pronounced like any other Susan, it’s the e that throws people. And since most of her brothers and sisters call her Sue, it really is easy to see why the e just got jammed in there.

Suesan and I have four children, and like most parents, it took quite a bit of discussion to come up with a name for each one, but with our number three child, Noah we had the hardes time. Yes, we bought the books and looked at the most popular baby names online and listened to friends and grandparents, but in the end settled on Thomas John Kennard. Thomas came from my wife’s grandfather and John was my dad’s name.

When the boy arrived, we decided Thomas didn’t fit. In some kind of inspiration that probably came from all the debating during the previous nine months, Suesan said, “How about Noah?”

The editor in me quickly agreed — mostly because it’s easy to spell. I mean how many ways can you screw up four letters? I also figured that if Noah was too hard to remember, I could always call him T.J. for short. The funny thing is T.J. never really stuck and now he goes by simply “T” around the house; as in, “T, go take the garbage out.” Or, “T, get dressed for church.”

After we settled on Noah, we had to figure out how to break the news to one side of the family or the other that we were dropping their name from our newborn son.

To avoid the calamity, we simply kept all the names and now his middle name is Thomas John.

There have been a few problems of course. Many forms asking for a “full name” have a spot for only one middle name. If he ever becomes a writer — which I suspect won’t happen based on his love of math and science — he’ll have a difficult time fitting everything into a byline.

My maternal grandparents Bert and Dorothy Bourne had just one child. Because my mother is an only child, the Bourne name would have ended with her, so my parents gave me — their oldest son — the name as a middle name.

My wife and I passed the “Bourne identity” on to our oldest son just to keep it alive a little while longer. Although around the house he is known as Scooter or sometimes Scoot.

My grandmother Dorothy (who grew up in Kansas and saw her fair share of tornadoes and scarecrows) was known as Girly by everyone in her tiny wheat farming town.

My mother, Patricia, was Patty or Pat, and my father, John Robert (who I always said was the man with two first names) was Jack. My older sister’s husband’s name is Robert Gary Howard (the man with three first names).

The wackiness continued to my number two child, Ryley. My daughter, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina, has had her own explaining to do, “It’s Ryley, with a y … and another y.”

Be an Opinion Shaper

The Opinion Shaper column is written by readers from the greater Robeson County area. If you can commit to four columns of 800 words or less over the next year, you may have what it takes to be a Robesonian Opinion Shaper. Contact Executive Editor David Kennard and [email protected]

David Kennard, who forgot to mention his youngest child’s name was Samuel, is the executive editor of The Robesonian. Contact at [email protected]


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