Foxx meets Pigg: Random Observations on the Odd

An author’s name cited in a student’s paper jumped out at me as if it somehow didn’t belong in an academic context. Pigg. Names like Pigg and Hogg beg to belong to characters like the “rude mechanicals” in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, not Ph.D. psychologists.

Speaking of Bottom, a friend whose last name was Butt (I’m not making this up) married a man with the surname Broadass. They decided not to hyphenate.

I saw the name Ole Aass on an old gravestone in the cemetery of a simple white Norwegian Lutheran church in the town of Norge, Virginia. The setting was serene, spiritual, and idyllic but for a moment all I could think of was how his name would have looked in the phone book if he’d lived in a later century.

I’ve used some of my favorite off-beat names in my books. My protagonist Mae’s maternal grandmother was an Outlaw, a wonderful North Carolina moniker that is both realistic for the region and reflects the way some people treat Mae because of traits she gets from that Outlaw grandmother.

Strange coincidences can happen around names. I have two students with an unusual first name—I’ll change it to Cordelia to protect their privacy. One has the last name Casto, the other is Castorina. There are eight sections of this class and yet they both ended up in this section, sitting next to each other. They still find it weird.

A young man who took my yoga class a few years ago got an e-mail addressed to someone with the same name. I’ll call him Chase Merryman, a name about as odd as his real name. That other person must have had a dot or dash in his e-mail address which this fellow did not. The intended recipient Chase Merryman was being offered a job interview for an editorial position with a sailing magazine based in Australia. The wrong Chase Merryman was qualified for it. He answered the e-mail, explained the mistake, but added his resume nonetheless. He got invited for an interview.

The classic synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence. The Chase Merryman story is a good example. The instance of the two Cordelias is not. Only the synchronicity gives me an idea for a story. The Wrong Chase Merryman makes a pretty good title. I have the start of a plot I can work with—only the ending won’t be as simple as what happened in real life. (He didn’t end up taking the job, but he had a great trip to Australia.) When you read the story, whenever I get it written, know that it was based on fact. Strange coincidences can really happen.

So can strange names. Maybe Dr. Pigg and Ole Aass have places in some writer’s future work. If I come across them, I’ll wonder—did the author read this blog, or was that a coincidence?

 

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