Monday, April 2, 2012

What's in a name?

I recently wrote an article for On Wisconsin magazine about bubblers.

Bubblers are what Badgers of a certain age (vintage, apparently) call drinking fountains. I was in college before I learned that bubbler (and actually, like Kleenex it's a brand name, so it should be Bubbler) was not the universally accepted term for a drinking fountain. See what you find out when you attend a public, land grant institution?

Anyway, for publications I use my full name, Barbara Belzer Adams. A friend of mine from elementary school, who earned her PhD at the University of Wisconsin, read the Bubbler article, figured from context that the author was her childhood pal and was able to track me down. We've been carrying on a lively internet conversation since.

It appears she'd been trying to locate me for four years and was surprised to learn there are at least two other Barb Belzers in the world. Which means there are at least two other sets of parents out there who didn't consider how often that name can be morphed into Barbells-er, thusly consigning their daughters to all sorts of jock, dumbbell and locker room jokes that reek as much as day-old gym socks.

From childhood through college, I was beseiged by nicknames. My older sister decided when I was born that I was too tiny to carry the weight of the name Barbara (which, sadly, I have more than grown into), so she called me Barcie. I hated that name, which my family and most of my relatives adopted, and refused to answer to it after I went to kindergarten and found out it wasn't my real name (again, the benefits of public education). My mother's sister called me Barcelona (thus apparently explaining my affinity to Spain's Duchess of Alba). I have a Hebrew name, Bat Sheva (yes, like Bathsheba, whom I resemble in oh so many ways), which my mother's family Yiddish-ized to Batshevela, which one cousin on my father's side reduced to Bashie (pronounced like Kashi, the company). Which sounds a lot like Barcie to me.

I went to high school during the Nixon administration, which resulted in several politically astute friends referring to me as B. B. Rebelzo. In college, I was known simply as Bun, a moniker given to me by one of my best friends, whom I still refer to as Jake, even though his name is John. It's funny how many people didn't realize Bun was a nickname. Bun Belzer? Really? My parents may have been careless in my naming, but they weren't evil.

As my dad used to say, you can call me anything but late for dinner.

Quilters are encouraged to name their quilts and label them with their own name, and where and when  the quilt was made. This provides a sort of cloth archive that contributes to the history of quiltmaking as a whole. If you've ever found an older quilt, it is sort of fun to see when it was made and by whom, and to try to figure out how it traveled from, say, New York to New Mexico.

I always label quilts I give as gifts, but I don't  the ones I donate or sell -- I'm just not convinced it's appropriate. (I'd like to hear your thoughts about this.) I'm also a tad lazy when it comes to labeling the quilts I've made for myself. I need to go back and tag them all, as they will be part of my legacy.

When I entered this in the JoAnn Fabric quilt contest
I intended to call it De Colores, after the song. I thought it looked like Spanish dancers seen from above, twirling their skirts. Because I didn't hear from JoAnn by March 18, I know that I have not made it into the top 20, so I've hung the quilt in my dining room. The other day, I was showing it to a woman who has commissioned me to make a queen-size version of the Kona and batik quilt (which needs a better name, by the way). She touched a black cotton border and said she was surprised it wasn't velvet, because that's the way it appeared to her. Black velvet? Say hello to the newly named, "Elvis."

I'm taking suggestions for a few other quilts, starting with this one. Kind of looks like icicles, doesn't it? Or stalactites and stalagmites. Or maybe even daggers, although I'm not convinced dagger lends itself to a quilt name.

Over the weekend, I completed a raggy flannel baby quilt for the shop. I also started a wallhanging that is meant to represent cherry blossoms. And I learned about an organization that is looking for quilts, so I'll report on that tomorrow.


  1. I thought of fingers rather than icicles which led me to think of Wolverine and his steel spikes! So perhaps Wolverine? I could picture Hugh Jackman under that quilt too!

  2. I like the idea of Hugh Jackman under one of my quilts!