What, exactly, IS in a name?

When I was about twelve, I complained to my dad. “My name is so short! It’s only got four letters and two of them are the same letter!”

My dad, ever the smartass, said, “Well, do you want me to give you one of those long African tribal names?”


“Fine. We’ll call you Zoomabalagadooga!”

Which I spell like this: Zooomahbahlahgahdooogah because it has more letters.

On one of our trips toMainefromKentucky, I decided we should all, like, totally play 20 Questions. Not to sound like an Old Person, but back in my day, car trips weren’t roving movie theaters meant to distract one from the actual traveling part. We entertained ourselves, dangit, and we LIKED it.

My sister just was not feeling 20 Questions. She resisted.

This becomes important in a minute.

Visiting family inPortland, I decided that I wanted to go to the Moxie Festival. Because it was my birthday.

Part of the Moxie Festival included a parade featuring none other than the famous traveling L.L. Bean duck boot. It’s probably 15 feet tall and they pull it behind a truck through the parade.

My sister goes, “LOOK AT THAT. THAT IS A BIG BOOT.”

You know how a word is suddenly just funny when you say it? That’s sort of what happened.

This is the same trip that we purchased a small plush stuffed lobster as a gift for the dog sitter, which my sister had christened “Larry.” She consulted Larry like one might consult a Magic 8 Ball.

On the way home, 20 Questions went like this.

ME: Ok, I’m ready.

SISTER: What do you think Larry? (Pause to listen. Then to me:) Are you…A BOOT?

ME: Ha ha. Ok, guess, for real.

SISTER: Ummmm….are you….A BOOT??

She wasn’t resisting 20 Questions anymore.

And that is why we call her Boot. It’s blossomed even beyond a nickname. She’s “little Boot” (though she’s been taller than me for the last twenty years) and I’m sometimes “big Boot.”  There are boot-shaped items purchased as gifts. And Little Boot started this thing where we’ll call each other and if I/she don’t/doesn’t answer, the caller will take the voicemail opportunity to, using a variety of inflection and vocal modulation, repeat the words, ‘boot’ and ‘booty’ in a manner designed to reduce the listener to a tear-filled giggle-fit. Actually, the speaker usually has to hang up when she gets the giggles, too.

My parents haven’t escaped this naming. At some point, my sister started calling my mother “Mudra” and my father “Pudra.” People keep asking if we speak Spanish. A ‘mudra’ is a gesture usually made with the hands in Hinduism and Buddhism. And ‘pudra’…well, there’s this.



  1. On one of our family car trips a song that has the line ‘forever Tuesday morning’ was changed to ‘forever Tessa moaning’, due to her moaning for most of the trip can’t remember what about, but whenever we hear the song we all still sing those words.

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