Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Boy Named Ball

Like Sue, my surname is a tough one to carry, particularly for a kid, compounded for those of us who moved. Years ago at a party, a Harvard linguist and I mused over it. He was pretty sure that Ball is the most risible, easily ridiculed last name in the language.

I've heard whines from Shoemakers and Fuchs and so forth, but they are small beer. My name brings with it body parts, countless sports, far too many clich├ęs (get on the ball, behind the eight ball...), sexually explicit verbs, dancing allusions, and even fairy tale citations of Cinderella.

As a kid, I'd go to a new school only to have a new group of classmates run through the same set of jokes I'd just left behind in the last town. There'd always be the clown or two who'd gawk after an insult or bad pun and wait for me to appreciate his brilliance. In the end, it's an intelligence and etiquette test to see who says what, how innovative or clever, and if they pick up on the cues to cool it. All that written, I must add that every couple of years, someone comes up with a new one and I marvel at and enjoy it. There must still be good Ball jokes unverbalized.

By the time someone named Ball is a teenager, he's earned the name.

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