Hey, what's in a name anyway?


There were three identical-looking spaniels on the exam room floor. Coincidentally, there were three neatly folded patient records in my hand. (Let the games begin.)

There were three identical-looking spaniels on the exam room floor. Coincidentally,there were three neatly folded patient records in my hand. (Let the gamesbegin.)

"Who wants to go first?" I asked.

"Let's do the bad guy and get him over with," she said.

"O.K. Which one is that?"

"This one."

What's his name? "We call him Pooky."

A glance at the three records revealed no such name. I was forced tocontinue the interrogation.

"What name would we have for him on our records?"

"We rarely use their official names," Doctor. "Anyway,we're here today with several problems. Snooter has a terrible wheeze. Hemight need an X-ray."

"O.K." I said. "Let me see what it sounds like."I grabbed my stethoscope and began to listen.

"Doctor," she said. "That's not Snooter. Snooter is theone over there. The one on the table is Pooky, remember?"

I had an important question for her.

"Who's on first?" I asked.

She didn't get it.

Finally I showed her the three records and asked that she point to eachpooch when his name was called. It worked. Foolishly, I thought the communicationdifficulties were over.

"Let's just talk about the dogs one at a time as we look at them,"I suggested, and began the first exam as she continued to share information.

"The last time we were here, you gave us some medicine for thatcoughing. Do you remember? Well, it's only a little better. Could we getsome more medicine while we're here?"

The dog's record showed no history of a cough; a fact which I mentionedto the owner.

"Not this dog," she said. "Phlegmy is the one with thecough." (Here we go again.)

"Which one is he?"

"He's not here today. He's at home."

As the communication problems continued, the office call wound up takingthree full days to complete. (Actually, it was only an hour according tothe clock, but it sure felt like three days.)

As she left, I found myself hoping that I had entered the informationon the proper records, but there was no way to be sure. Anyway, there wasno time to worry about that, because according to my receptionist, therewas an important telephone call waiting.

"Doctor O," she said. "You have a call on line one froma guy named Ian. He says it's a personal call. He won't say what it's about."

Defying all rules of common sense, I picked up the phone.

"Hello, Dr. Obenski," he said. "This is Ian Congnito callingon behalf of the Retired Fruit Peelers Association. How are you today? Lastyear you helped us out with an ad in our annual booklet. I hope you canhelp us again. We have several categories you might be interested in. First,there is the full page ad. We call it the Golden Banana Sponsorship. That'sa thousand dollars. Then there is the half page. We call that the OrangeAppeal. The next level is blah, blah, blah "

As you might guess, I stopped paying attention shortly after his speechbegan. Finally, I opted for the lowest level, the one I call the Hang Upand Save option.

Let that be a lesson to you. Never pick up the phone when the callerwill not give your receptionist his or her name.

A little help here, please

My next phone call proved to be no less frustrating. It was Mr. Crypticcalling about his dog, Cipher.

"Well, doctor," he said. "He's at it again."

"You know, he's doing his thing again. His you-know-what."

Actually, I did not know what.

"And this time, Doctor," he said, "it's on the rug."

Now I had a hint. To quote Shakespeare: "What's in a name? Thatwhich we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

I had a feeling, though, that we weren't talking about roses. With alittle coaxing, I got him to switch to more scientific terminology. It seemsthat Cipher left a "jobby" on the rug. We agreed that he woulddrop off a sample of "number two."

Later, as I left for lunch, it dawned on me that names are not only important,but that they could be getting scarce. We keep changing the names of theviruses and diseases. Every time there is a new product on the market ora new company is formed, a new name is required. Pretty soon we could runout of combinations of letters and we would have to start recycling names.

I decided to stop by my old friend Arnie's clinic and tell him aboutmy fears. Forget about global warming. We should all worry about globalname depletion.

"Do you realize, Arnie," I said, "that you could go shoppingfor a new car and find that since they ran out of names, they had to startusing terms from other areas? Would you want to buy a new sports car calledthe Ford Fistula, or would you prefer something a bit more roomy like theChevy Adenoma?" (Personally, I have my eye on that new SUV, the ChryslerPyometra.)

Arnie laughed right in my face.

"As usual, your ideas are half-baked and half-assed," he said.He would have gone on mocking me, but we were interrupted by his secretary.

"Dr. Arnie," she said, "There is an important call foryou on line three. It's a man named Ian. He won't say what it's about, onlythat it's a personal call."

"You'd better get that, Arnie, "I said. "It sounds important."

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