What's In A Name?
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Stinky von Peterwhacker The Third had a problem.
It wasn't his name, though his unique nomenclature had
caused him considerable trauma during his childhood years. With
fists and shouts he had stomped out any chance of lifelong
teasing caused by his parents lack of judgement in selecting his
name. But he was older now, wiser. His whole life was ahead of
And that was Stinky’s problem. He had no idea what to do
with his life. He took risks, tried new things, experimenting
with anything that could be construed as a career. But when he
failed, some “nonparticipating observer of life” would invariably
shake his head and comment, “You're a Peterwhacker. Why don't you
just accept who you are?”
He expressed his concerns to his mother.
“Don't worry too much about it, Dear,” she replied. “After
all, you're only eleven.”
But Stinky did worry about it. He was losing sleep over his
cloudy future. He asked his friends if they knew what they'd be
when they grew up.
“A baker,” his best friend, Baxter Bakerson replied
instantly. “Like my father.”
“What's so great about baking?” Stinky asked.
“Think, Stink. All day, surrounded by sweets. Cake frosting,
pastries of all kinds within reach. And, you get to sample them.
Any time! After all, you can't let a customer eat a bad
Stinky's mouth watered as he imagined the scene. Baxter had
a great future. “Do you think I could be a baker, too?” This
could be the solution to his problem.
Baxter shrugged. “Let's go find out.”
Baxter's father was not pleased with the idea, but the
combined whining of two eleven-year-old’s could make even the
most stern adult choose a less painful path.
“Enough!” he shouted. “I'll teach you baking skills. But I
doubt if you'll be able to learn.”
It was hot in the kitchen. Stinky worked hard. After a few
hours the sweet smells he thought he couldn't get enough of began
to nauseate him.
His first assignment was a single layer cake. Simple. He
managed to get most of the ingredients into the mixing bowl
instead of on the floor--until he started the mixer.
“Let's start from the beginning,” Baxter's father sighed.
When he finally completed his cake the three of them
examined the product. It was a mousy, grayish color. It had
oddly formed corners which seemed to defy the rules of geometry,
especially since the baking tray had been round.
“Icing will improve it,” Stinky said defensively. As he
applied icing the cake crumbled into tiny pieces.
He was about to try again when Baxter's father put a knowing
hand on his shoulder.
“You're not a Bakerson,” he said simply.
A disturbing flash of insight struck Stinky’s analytical
brain. He had been looking for an area of interest to select his
life-long career. Maybe his career had already chosen him. Maybe
it was all in his name. He pondered over the names of his friends
and their parents’ careers.
Sherman Shumaker planned to take over his father's shoe
business, Stinky reasoned. Alan Firestone was going to be a coal
miner (or a tire salesman). Alma Nightingale was looking forward
to her nursing career, “To help the sick in their time of need,”
she’d said with compassion in her voice.
People were named for what they were going to do. Or maybe
they did what they were named. A theory evolved in Stinky's agile
brain. All he had to do was change his name and he'd be whatever
He hurried home to meditate on this profound thought.
On the way he stopped by his neighbor's house to test his
theory. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked Leda
“Come up to my room and I'll show you,” she replied. Stinky
had never before realized what an intriguing smile she had.
When he got home he excitedly explained his name theory to
his mother, complete with real-life examples. She was not
“Don't be silly, Dear.” She patted his head. “Stop worrying
so much.” She also gave him explicit orders never to play at
Leda’s house anymore.
Stinky went to his father instead. “I want to change my
name,” he announced. He explained his reasons.
His father was not pleased. “You come from a long line of
Peterwhackers,” he said to Stinky. “Be proud.”
Which only proved another of Stinky's theories. When parents
disagreed with you, they always said things that had nothing to
do with the subject under discussion.
His father sighed and his eyes lost focus. “Why, when I was
your age ...”
Stinky beat a hasty retreat before his father's past could
become his own.
He went to his best friend instead.
“I'm changing my name to ‘~’,” he told Baxter.
“@?” Baxter asked, confused,
Baxter gave him a funny look. “Why?”
Stinky's brow wrinkled in thought. He spoke slowly, choosing
his words with care.
“The world thinks that names are who we are, but names are
only a reference, a symbol. So I'm changing my name to ‘~’ until
I know who I am.”
“That,” Baxter said, “is the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
But Stinky persisted. He had a point and it seemed to be a
good one this time. He wanted his friend to think for himself.
“Haven't you ever wanted to be something other than a
“Well,” Baxter admitted, “sometimes, late at night, I think
of preparing entres. Prime rib! Roast duck in sweet sauce!”
Baxter sighed. “But that's only a dream. I'm a Bakerson. Baked
confections are in my blood.”
Stinky shook his head, irritated. Did everyone just accept
who they were expected to be? Did no one have dreams of their
own? He asked around.
“A doctor,” was Alma Nightingale's hidden desire. She was
practicing CPR on a stuffed lion, pressing down on its little
chest. “Patients yell at nurses all the time and nurses just have
to take it. But do you ever hear a patient talk back to a
doctor? Nooo! If I were a doctor, I'd show them who’s God!”
Stuffing began to leak out of the lion's seams.
Stinky went down to the bureau of Name-Occupation Waivers,
And Yin. After several hours of being directed to different
offices in the N.O. W.A.Y. building and filling out mounds of
paperwork, he was finally admitted to see the person in charge,
Ms. Victoria Stonewall.
“You're a Peterwhacker!” Ms. Stonewall pointed an accusing
finger at him. “You were born a Peterwhacker and you'll always be
a Peterwhacker. Forever will you be Stinky!”
His face turned red. He felt guilty, though he was sure he’d
done nothing wrong. Not recently, anyway. His goal was stopped
But Stinky didn't give up. Playing by the rules wasn't
working. It was time to change the rules, to do something
underhanded and, well, stinky. Three days later he returned to
“Oh, the Peterwhacker,” Ms. Stonewall said with a look of
“Wrong!” Stinky yelled, shoving his newly minted ID card
under her nose.
“Hammer. Jack Hammer, undercover agent,” Ms. Stonewall read
with a tremor in her voice. “Bureau Against Abusive Management.”
“B.A.A.M.!” Stinky shouted, shattering her stony composure.
“We know all about you.” His glare was penetrating.
Cracks began to appear on Ms. Stonewall's visage. She
stuttered and rambled some apology, crumbling to a small fragment
of her former self.
But Stinky was relentless and kept hammering away. He threw
her out of the office. She bounced twice, then disappeared.
He placed his new nameplate on the desk. “Pierson N.
Charge”. And he was. No one questioned his authority, nor
wondered how it was possible an eleven year old could be head of
a government bureau.
He changed the name of the office to Nomenclatures Engender
Workchoice, Idealistic Division.
In the months that followed, Stinky, aka Pierson, helped
many people, young and old alike, unhappy with their labels.
Using his N.E.W.I.D. position he ruthlessly cut through mounds of
red tape and stomped on any bureaucrat that got in his way. “What
a stinkin’ jerk,” they said behind his back. Stinky smiled at the
Their opinions didn't matter to him. He was content with his
new, well-earned career, right up to the day he reached puberty.
But that is another story.