Day 35. To a T

I dedicate this post to my dear friend, KJ Rabbit, whose last name is spelled with one T.

Last weekend, the duck-rabbit went to Vancouver for the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association. [1] I have not attended this meeting since the last time I applied for an academic job, which was in 2007. I was going now, not because I was delivering a paper, or serving on a committee. No, I was going for one reason and one reason alone: to attend the party that my awesome friend, the aforementioned KJ, was throwing me to celebrate the publication of my book.

Nothing could dampen my mood.

Except for one thing.

Earlier in the day, the duck-rabbit had proprietorially strolled into the book exhibit and sidled up to the exhibition booth for the press (let’s call it Bullockbridge University Press) that published its book. All of the latest titles were prominently displayed, but the duck-rabbit’s book wasn’t among them. Now, you might think, knowing the duck-rabbit as well as you do, that it would have experienced a momentary twinge of panic at this discovery; but if you did think this, you would be entirely mistaken. No, so confident was the duck-rabbit that its book must be stocked at this booth that it thought to itself, “My book has already sold out! And it’s only the first day of the convention! My book is so popular!” Puffed up with pride, the duck-rabbit confidently approached the very young man running Bullockbridge’s booth.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“I’m just here to see if you have my book!” announced the duck-rabbit cheerfully, still quite sure that the only plausible reason it could not be there would be due to overwhelming popular demand.

After the duck-rabbit provided the title, the very young man scanned his list of the books that the Bullockbridge marketing team had sent to the conference. There was a long silence. The duck-rabbit now did feel a little twinge of panic.

“Err … I’m afraid we don’t have it,” he said.

“What, none at all?” asked the duck-rabbit, aghast.

The very young man looked at the list again, and he looked almost as sad as the duck-rabbit when he looked up again.

“Sorry … they must not have sent it to this conference,” he said.

“Oh,” said the duck-rabbit, in its most crestfallen voice.

As it walked away, the duck-rabbit was besieged by questions. Can one even have a book party if there is no book? Why did Bullockbridge bother to publish my book if wasn’t going to bother to sell it to the one demographic that might plausibly be interested in its subject matter, that is, other literature professors? Could my book already be in the remainder bin? But it’s only been out in this country for seventeen days. Surely it can’t be past its sell-by date. I mean, it’s a book about the eighteenth century. It’s already four hundred years behind the times.

The duck-rabbit stomped around in a black mood for the rest of the day, grumbling to itself and anyone else it encountered about its book’s palpable absence from the convention.

Soon enough, though, the duck-rabbit’s ruffled feathers were smoothed. After all, there was still its party to look forward to! And dear, thoughtful KJ had in fact brought along a copy of the duck-rabbit’s book for the express purpose of displaying it at the party on a conveniently placed illuminated shelf. It was like a little shrine: a shrine to the duck-rabbit’s book. The duck-rabbit’s sense of amour-propre was swiftly restored.

Nothing could dampen my mood. Soon the gin and tonics would be flowing and I would be dancing to “London Queen,” while wearing my cracking party dress at my very own book party! Holloway to Hollywood! Huzzah! [2]

There was just one hitch. The hotel’s elevator only worked if you had a room key with you. While our more enterprising invitees just snuck into the elevator with a gaggle of legit hotel guests, other more obedient types thought to ask at the front desk. As a result, the front desk quickly sussed out that a party was being held in a guest’s room, which they were not happy about.

The guy from security who soon appeared at our room’s door was doing his best this-velvet-glove-conceals-an-iron-fist TV-cop impression. He didn’t actually say, “We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way,” but he might have done.

KJ and I stood in the doorway as he explained that the hotel had a “zero-tolerance party policy.”

“We’re just celebrating my friend’s book,” explained JK.

“Yes, I heard that,” said the security guy.

“That’s me!” the duck-rabbit piped up, rather pleased to hear that at least someone had heard of its book, “it’s my book!”

The security guy turned his gaze to me.

“Congratulations,” he said in a flat, affectless tone.

“Thanks!!!” exclaimed the duck-rabbit happily, fairly bobbing up and down with excitement.

The security guy conceded, in response to KJ’s enquiry, that there had “not yet” been any complaints about noise.

But he left us with a classic velvet-glove-iron-fist closing speech and I must say that his delivery was impeccable. It went something like this.

“Look … we want to work with you … so just consider this a friendly warning … but you just need to know that my manager [face grows grave], if she has to come up here …. I mean [shaking head while chuckling wryly], she is very serious about the zero-tolerance party policy, she will [abruptly stops chucklingshut. this. thing. down. [Note: “this thing,” to be clear, was about ten professors standing around sipping gin-and-tonics and talking sedately]

Because KJ and the duck-rabbit both are extremely obedient, well-disciplined subjects, this speech had a fairly hypnotic effect on us. The music was turned down; people were shushed; and we agreed that no more revelers would be allowed in. The duck-rabbit regretted that it had not seized the opportunity to dance to “London Queen” before the music had been turned off, but that aside, it was a quite delightful party.

Soon enough, we were down to four guests, which was, in fact, the Velvet Glove had informed us, the maximum number of people allowed in a room at one time. As we sat, KJ and I finally relaxed in the knowledge that our very small party was now perfectly in accordance with hotel rules, KJ leafed through my book, and I gazed at her fondly, musing upon how it’s those little acts of thoughtfulness, like thinking to bring a copy of one’s friend’s book to one’s friend’s book party, that are really the mark of true friendship.

KJ looked up from the book, frowning.

“You spelled my name wrong!” she blurted out.

“What?” murmured the duck-rabbit.

“You spelled my last name wrong … in your Acknowledgements. You spelled it with two Ts but it only has one T.”

It was truly mortifying to discover, at one’s book party, not only one’s first typo, but also that the one misspelled name in my book’s Acknowledgements was the name of the one person who was, uh, throwing me a book party. And, of course, the duck-rabbit apologized profusely and covered its face with its wings in shame, and was quite thoroughly abashed.

But then, after a moment’s reflection, and possibly due to the number of gin-and-tonics that it had consumed, it took a different tack.

“I will say,” the duck-rabbit began, “that I have always thought, whenever I read your last name, that it really should be spelled with another T. It just looks more natural with another T in it.”

KJ nearly spat out her vodka-tonic.

“Wait,” she said slowly, in a tone of disbelief, “your defense is that your mistaken way of spelling my name is better than the way it is actually spelt?”

The duck-rabbit paused for a moment and thought about it.

“Yes,” it said. “Yes it is.”


[1] The duck-rabbit must report, with regret, that this time there was no banter whatsoever with the Canadian Immigration officer. Montreal: 1, Vancouver: 0.

[2] Do you know this song? I know that Jonny does. If you don’t know it, you really must listen to it on your way to work tomorrow. I’m pretty confident that you’ll like it although, possibly, you won’t like it quite as much as I do because my special pleasure in it derives from the fact that I regard it as having been written especially for me (you’ll understand when you hear the lyrics, especially if you know that I grew up just down the street from Holloway road) for the express purpose of playing loudly at my book party.


6 thoughts on “Day 35. To a T

  1. marissaklopez says:

    But why didn’t they have your book? That is something to be genuinely pissed about; and not pissed in a fun British way, but in a loud, brash, tacky American way. ANGRY. Sorry!

  2. You are so right, Marissa. But, as you know, I am extremely poor at being loud OR angry. I did write to the Bullockbridge U.S. marketing rep, and she apologized and said that she suspected “the book was not yet in stock when we shipped our books, materials, etc to the MLA meeting.”

  3. J.O.K. Bearit says:

    J.O.K. Bearit forgives you: you are a hopeless metonymist, Ms. Namer. And, as for misnaming, I think you can’t beat George Puttenham’s description of it. By the way, Puttenham is published by Richard Field, dwelling in the black-Friers, neere Ludgate. He always brings his catalogue of titles, bound in the finest calf, to the MLA:

    … Now doth this vnderstanding or secret conceyt reach many times to the only nomination of persons or things in their names, as of men, or mountaines, seas, countries and such like, in which respect the wrong naming, or otherwise naming of them then is due, carieth not onely an alteration of sence but a necessitie of intendment figuratiuely, as when we cal loue by the name of Venus, fleshly lust by the name of Cupid, bicause they were supposed by the auncient poets to be authors and kindlers of loue and lust: Vulcane for fire, Ceres for bread: Bacchus for wine by the same reason. These and such other speaches, where ye take the name of the Author for the thing it selfe; or the thing conteining, for that which is contained, & in many other cases do as it were wrong name the person or the thing. So neuerthelesse as it may be vnderstood, it is by the figure metonymia, or misnamer.

  4. Ahh, catachresis, my old friend. Puttenham does find “the figure of abuse” to be justified on occasion. Surely you remember the example he gives in the paragraph preceding that which you quoted, J.O.K., in which he commends the application of the word “lend” to love, despite it being “utterly abused” in this application. He justifies this misnaming on the grounds that “he that loueth and is not beloued againe, hath no lesse wrong, than he that lendeth and is neuer repayde.” Now, it must be said that when you read about Puttenham’s relationships with women, his choice of this particular example as an acceptable form of “abuse” can’t help but disturb. So, do I want Puttenham’s validation? I’m not sure that I do, but I suppose I’ll just grin and bearit.

Leave a Reply