A Fife By Any Other Name . . .

Growing up in New York, not everyone I met knew how to spell "Woodbury." Here in New England, everybody knows how to spell "Woodbury"! In fact, I worked a few years at USM which is home to The Woodbury Campus Center. I had to inform people that no, unfortunately, I am NOT related to THOSE Woodburys.

Thinking back, I will always remember the young man at a high school track meet who half-seriously, half-jokingly, asked if I was a "Woodberry" or a "Strawberry" or a "Raspberry."

Names make for interesting fodder in life; therefore, they make for interesting fodder in sitcoms--after all, jokes aren't funny if people can't relate to them.

Two contrasting examples:

The classic is Wojciehowicz (Wojo) from Barney Miller. The ongoing joke is his insistence that "you spell it the way it sounds!" In one episode, he helps a woman give birth. When she decides to name her baby after him, he gives her "Wojciehowicz." She settles instead on "Stan," his first name.

The second classic example is a twist on the first and reminds me of an Isaac Asimov story.

Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith show, played by the marvelous Don Knotts, is often annoyed because newspapers (mis)spell his name as anything but Fife (the easiest name to spell in the world!):  Fice, Fike . . .

The Isaac Asimov futuristic story revolves around two brothers who are embarrassed by their odd name. Why can't they have a name like Wojciehowicz or Kowalski: you know, a typical, ordinary name? But no, they are burdened with that unusual name . . .



  1. When we lived in Utah I rarely had to spell Woodbury. In Maryland I start speing it mmediatly. w-o-o-d-b-U-r-y. I pause on the U. I also have to spell Sobus (The road we live on) I mention this because it is named after the Sobus family. S (as in Sam)-O-B (as in boy)-U-S (as in Sam). I'll say "Sobus drive, I'll spell it for​ you."

  2. I get a big kick out of this website.

    We Americans are becoming very upper-class English (Watson rather than Joan; Jane rather than Patrick).