Columns » Bob Lancaster

If he hollers

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The obituary page last week reported the death of a Cabot man by saying he'd gone fishing with Jesus. Another man was said to have lost his battle with cancer at the same time he won his war against Satan.

There were also obituaries for a man whose first name was Mildred and another whose first name was Laverne. There wasn't one for a boy named Sue, but I suppose it's the same principle.

And there was one for a Carlisle woman whose first name was Elmo. “A Girl named Elmo” would make as good a country song as “A Boy named Sue,” I would think, although Elmo wouldn't want to be down there a-kickin' and a-gouging' in the mud and the blood and the beer, which was much of Sue's charm.

All this got me thinking about the twins named Manny and Miney, long since passed, who used to hold forth at the old House of Dominoes. They were good-natured guys – not too bright and seldom 100 percent sober but always pleasant and very good domino players -- but they had a brother named Moe who was an old sorehead, no two ways about it.

I asked Moe one time if they'd ever had another brother named Ennie, and, disagreeagle as always, he said: “No, Why in the hell would you ask me something like that?”

“It just seemed logical,” I told him. “When you have a well-known name series like your family, especially a name quartet, it's not customary to start it in the middle.”

“Well, they wadn't no ‘nother brother,” Moe said. “And I don't appreciate you making a joke out of it. Nobody wants their family name made fun of.”

“Somebody whose first two names are Bobby and John don't go around making fun of other people's names, Moe,” I pointed out. “I was just curious.”

“Yeah, well, curiosity killed the cat,” he said.

A brief rather sullen silence ensued, then Moe volunteered this: “They was a sister.”

Moe wasn't one to elaborate so it was another morose half-hour or so before I ventured a guess: “'Annie'?”

He nodded grudgingly. “Named after our grandma,” he said.

My grandmother on the Lancaster side was named Annie, too. There were a lot of Annies in her day, hardly any Brittneys or Caitlyns. Moe's sister was the only Annie I'd heard of, however, whose name seemed deliberately chosen to launch a clan whose monikers would emulate a nursery rhyme.

I assumed Manny was short for Manfred, or maybe Mandrake, who was either a root or an old-time funny-papers magician in our bailiwick – and our second-most famous local shaped-note tenor had the first name of Manboy, and Manny might well have been named in tribute to him.

And I assumed further that Miney was short for Minor, an occasional if not exactly common boy's name back in the Annie Era, often bestowed upon the second son in a family whose eldest was named Major. So you had Major Applewhite, a football player, and Minor Millwee, a prominent judge.

But neither of my assumptions was warranted, it turned out.

Miney told me once that he thought he might have been named after Minnie Minoso, a baseball pitcher who was his Daddy's favorite player on TV. But his Daddy, while wanting to honor Minnie, thought Minnie was a girl's name, and named Miney Miney so the boy could pronounce the name different when he started to school if he wanted to, lest the other youngsters ridicule him for having the girlie handle.

This was very thoughtful of his Daddy, I thought – a consideration that parents too often neglect. Because at some point in your life, the other youngsters will make fun of you because of your name, even if it's a really cool one like Dash Riprock or Karl “The Mailman” Malone.

In my own case, when I was about six years old, my idiot brothers took to calling me Squob. This wasn't like squab, the young bird that's served to gourmet diners in fine restaurants, because those morons wouldn't have known about that kind of squab. “Squob” was merely a mispronunciation that they considered clever and thought would “get my goat,” which it generally did, despite Mother's secret assurances that they were just jealous because I was so much smarter than they were.

She was right, of course. I was vastly smarter than them, and still am. It's no contest, really, though I maintain the modest front.

Manny wasn't named for Manny Sistrunk, greatest of the gridiron Golden Lions, or Manny Sanguillen, Pirate backstop, or for one of the Pep Boys, and Moe wasn't named for another of the Pep Boys, or for Wily Mo Pena, or for Moe Howard, or for the barkeep in “The Simpsons.” They were just Manny and Moe, Annie's and Miney's bubbas, and while Manny was less grouchy than Moe in discussing the unusual family names, it wasn't exactly his favorite subject either.

I might also tell you about a Lancaster relative, a man, named Beverly, called Bev, a subject of considerable familial hilarity until George Beverly Shea became famous for his “How Great Thou Art” in the Billy Graham crusades. Ol' Bev went up in just about everyone's estimation after that, including his own.

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