May 8, 2004

Opportunities pursued elsewhere.

Gordon has a post on the Forbes article about Madison, in which he spells my first name both correctly and incorrectly, which leads me into the sort of discussion that exemplifies the kind of thing (other than extra photographs) that I house on my other blog. Even though I don't resist digressions and odd ramblings on this blog, I actually do have standards here. So go to that link if you want to know the travails of a lifetime of saying "no e," the subject of "no e-mail," the Simpsons episode with no "e" key on the typewriter, my mother's answer to the question of "Where do babies come from?" in its entirety, and speculation about the connection between my parents' practices and why I became a law professor.

ADDED: In the interest of preservation, 8 years after this post was published, I'm pasting in the material from the other blog:

The travails of having a name that's perfectly easy to spell and misspell.
I see Gordon linked to me on his blog and managed to spell my name correctly and incorrectly in the same post. There are people in the Law School who have known me for 20 years and still spell my name wrong. "Ann" is such a simple name, the plainest possible name, so plain that it seems people feel a pull to make it less plain. Surely, it can't just be "Ann." It seems to need the kind of fancying up that only an "e" can provide. There, now, doesn't it look so much more elegant, so much more anglophilically royal? I tried to use Google to trace down the reason for the two spellings. I had a theory that "Anne" related to various English queens in a way that led Americans to go for the "Ann" spelling, and a related theory that "Ann" was chosen by various severe Protestant groups who rejected adornment. (I note the Shaker leader Ann Lee.) It's very hard to write a Google search for this, and I was stymied by the tendency of "no e" to draw in "no e-mail." Well, at least that connected two of the banes of my existence: junk email and the "junk" e people want to put on my name--and how hard it is to stop both things. When telling my name to a stranger who is writing it down--such as when making an appointment or placing an order--if I anticipate the problem and say "Ann A-N-N...," the person frequently seems disturbed, as if I think they are an idiot because I'm spelling out such an easy to spell name. If I say "Ann, that's Ann with no e," they often don't hear what I'm saying. (As for my last name, I've learned to spell out the first three letters and then say "house," with no warning that I'm going to stop saying letters in a row, and people always get it. I used to try to say the first three letters, then say "and then just house," which people found puzzling, because of the intrusive "and then" which they just couldn't hear straight. There's no similar solution for spelling "Ann.")

(Hmmm.... my little Google search turned up this episode of The Simpsons, in which Ann Landers is a character and Homer has trouble writing on a typewriter because it has no "e" key. Maybe I'm too lazy to read enough about this episode to see if the answer is on this page, but did Ann steal the "e" key as a protest? Kinda like that "w" key vandalism by the outgoing Clinton people?)

But why did my parents choose "Ann" and spell it that way? My parents thought avoiding nicknames was important and deliberately gave all three children one syllable names so they were unshortenable. They chose "Ann" to produce all As--my middle initial is A too. They liked the idea of "triple A" for some reason, and maybe it helped me be a good student by giving me the sense that I had a special relationship with "A." But why did they pick Ann and not Anne? Why give me the plainest possible name and deprive me of even the last morsel of decoration? Were they interested in rejecting anglophilia? Did they think it was more Protestant? Or was it some concept about being modern? My parents were great at leaving me to figure out things for myself, even if I asked a direct question. For example, the answer to the question "Where do babies come from?" was, in its entirety, "You know how men and women are physically built." So even if you asked, you could at best hope for a clue--oh and an implicit expression of confidence that you could figure it out for yourself or maybe only that you're better off with something to figure out than an answer handed to you on a plate. This may explain why I became a law professor. And it even suggests why they named me Ann in the first place: because it created the question, why Ann and not Anne, which I could wonder about for the rest of my life, without ever reaching an answer, but having various theories along that way that would give me something to think about. That thought reminded me of something my mother used to say, her favorite answer, and possibly her only answer, to the childish habit of asking why: "That's so little girls like you can ask questions." Hmmmm.... that reminds me to try to use the Socratic method more in class, in honor of my mysterious mother, who is no longer in a position even to deflect my questions.
That post contained a couple links, but clicking them now gets me nowhere, which reinforces my commitment to preservation.