Thursday, November 19, 2009

A rose by any other name...

Name game: An acquaintance wrote this story about her name and nicknames, and that got me to thinking about both of those things. Hey, this is about words and names; I use those every day. Especially my own.

When I was a boy, most people called me Tommy. My aunt and her children called me Chub (I was a big kid; 50 years later, I still am), and some people called me Fatty or some other not-so-nice name.

A friend of mine called me T.G., T, G-Man or Big T. Another has consistently called me Big Tom. As I grew up, most people still called me Tommy, but the occasional person would sprinkle in Thomas or Tom. And that got me thinking. Now I'm Tom.

But, surprise to me, I've found that I'm not the only Tom Gillispie. I expected Tom Gillespies, and I've come across several. A Tom Gillespie and I lived in opposite wings of a big dorm in college, and we often got each other's mail. I always sent his along; sometimes he reciprocated.

A few years later, I went into a health clinic because of poison oak, and the nurse came out with a file for Tommy Gillispie. They realized immediately that I wasn't he. He was 5-8, 185, and I was 6-foot, 270.

And several years after that, the State of North Carolina called and wanted back taxes for a Tom Gillispie who died in 1947. I told them, "Yes, I know that I'm not that Tom Gillispie. I wasn't born in 1947, I'm not dead, and I was born in Virginia." After I moved to South Carolina, they called me again and demanded that I prove I am who I said I am. I had to get them a copy of my birth certificate.

I've come across several Tom Gillispies or Gillespies in journalism. There was a Tom Gillispie who wrote for a London newspaper, and I found a boxer with my name. At the local newspaper, folks read the zoo stories by Tom Gillespie and think it's me. They're always disappointed when it's not. One woman in the newspaper library asked if I was Tom Gillespie No. 2. I told her I was Tom Gillispie (emphasizing the "i") No. 1.

I've even thought of changing my last name, but my wife won't see it; she thinks Gillispie is unique, and it probably is.

Gillispie started out in Scotland as MacGillespie as a part of the Clan Campbell. It was changed to Gillespie during the move to the U.S., and my grandmother accidentally changed the "e" to "i" on, coincidentally, a birth certificate.

I just had a terrifying thought. I hope the folks from the State of North Carolina don't read this; they might call me again.

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(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
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More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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