Lesson Two from Sailor Bob

The fact that Sailor Bob didn’t know how to spell my name, Tammy, puzzled me. When we got home, I asked my mother why.

“There is more than one way to spell Tammy.”

This was a total shock to me. How could there be more than one way to spell Tammy? Many Southern women fell in love with the Tammy movies, so in the South, the name boasted immense popularity for at least thirty years. I went by Tammy until my freshman year in college, when I realized another Tammy lived on our small dorm hall. “I give up,” I said. “I’m going to be Tamela.” Tamela is my given name.

But as a child, I figured everyone spelled the name like the movie character.

Apparently not. “You can spell it T-a-m-m-i-e,” my mother explained.

Really! Had I possessed such a vocabulary, I might have said, “Eureka! What a revelation!”

I thought of all the ways I could spell Tammy:





I decided “Tami” was the most cool way to spell my name.

“I want to spell my name T-a-m-i,” I declared to my mother.

She didn’t miss a stroke in wiping down the stove. “No. You are NOT going to change the spelling of your name. Your name is spelled T-a-m-m-y.”

So there. I had learned something else from Sailor Bob. That there is more than one way to do things. And second, I had learned that there is no arguing with my mother.

Your turn:

When did you learn there is more than one way to do something?

What is the best story you can share of doing something differently or better?

Can you offer writing tips that may be unique to yourself?

34 Responses to Lesson Two from Sailor Bob

  1. Avatar
    Shirlee Abbott December 13, 2018 at 3:44 am #

    I spent my childhood defending the spelling of my name. I learned early on that I was different, even when others tried to make me the same. All in all, it was a good lesson.

  2. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver December 13, 2018 at 6:06 am #

    I learned in high school that I use a different writing process than the one our teacher suggested. She told us to make an outline first, then write the book report. That didn’t work for me. I wrote the report first, then constructed the outline. The lesson? Be yourself.

  3. Avatar
    Carla G Pollard December 13, 2018 at 6:16 am #

    I loved Saturday mornings with Sailor Bob. I saw him once at Sothside Plaza.

    I learned in 3rd grade I could look at a problem from all angles before deciding the course I should take to solve it. This manifested itself in my relentless array of questions: Who? What? Where? When? How? And, of course, Why? It also appeared as strategic planning, If I do this, what will be the results? If this happens, or that happens, what can I do to move forward?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 13, 2018 at 11:58 am #

      Ohhh, you lived in the big city! I remember well shopping there happily when I was a teenager. Your questions sound like my Journalism classes. Was that your major?

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 13, 2018 at 8:26 am #

    A cat can be skinned in myriad ways
    and every answer’s right;
    diversity! the wide world says
    will keep society bright.
    Now I don’t hold with skinnin’ cats
    except the dozer kind,
    and I don’t hold with an answer that’s
    not Biblical…so we’d better mind
    that wisdom born of old:
    “If at first you don’t succeed,
    do like you was f***ing told!”
    But it does seem that we have a need
    to preserve our Christian nation
    with studied faith, not innovation.

  5. Avatar
    Nick K December 13, 2018 at 9:14 am #

    I feel your pain with spelling your name. My given name is ridiculously spelled. The thing I was surprised about when I first started writing fiction was that there is more than one way to plot. I assumed there was a formula. However, my one trick – maybe it’s just a tool – is I love the paper you can write on in the shower… my best ideas seem to happen when I’m asleep (notepad by bed works) or when I’m in the shower.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm #

      I get great ideas in the shower, too. Wonder if I’d get more at the beach…

  6. Avatar
    Norma Brumbaugh December 13, 2018 at 9:27 am #

    My mother gave my sisters and me Tammy dolls for Christmas one year (as an alternative to Barbie). She sewed a complete wardrobe for our dolls. A shoebox was covered with contact paper and made into a wardrobe to store their clothing. Mother also crocheted a blue with white trim suit for each doll: vest, skirt, and jacket. I loved my Tammy and played with her often. My sisters with their dolls, less so. I still have my Tammy. This is my happy memory from yesteryear that came while reading your post.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 13, 2018 at 12:01 pm #

      Awww, thanks for sharing. When I was little, I loved when people sewed clothes for dolls because that meant you had a one-of-a-kind outfit!

      • Avatar
        Shirlee Abbott December 13, 2018 at 1:17 pm #

        I had a Tammy doll, with orange glasses. One more thing we have in common, Norma.

  7. Avatar
    Tamelia Aday December 13, 2018 at 9:32 am #


    I’m a Tammy also! And a Tamela, but my mother spelled it Tamelia and it is always pronounced wrong and requires explanation every time I use it. I decided to try to use my real name once at a work place but it was too confusing and once someone shortened it to Tam, I gave up and went by Tammy. I use Tamelia in query letters I send out, but once used an email address Tam Elia on accident and got a letter “Dear Ms. Elia”. I explained but after she didn’t connect with the manuscript it was still “Dear Ms. Elia.” Haha – perhaps this should be my pen name.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm #

      I used to be called “Tamelia” all the time, but less so now. I think it may be because the Internet has revealed “Tamela” as a more common name than we all thought. I used to have it all to myself! Or at least I thought I did. I think “Tamelia” is beautiful, by the way. I grew up near Amelia county so that may be one reason why I like the sound.

  8. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson December 13, 2018 at 10:00 am #

    My parents named me Loretta Jean. They always called me Jean unless I was in trouble, then both names spilled from their lips. I thought J-e-a-n was the only way i could be spelled until I received a printed name tag at a school program that had my name spelled G-e-n-e. What? That wasn’t me. After questioning and searching, I discovered that Gene was the male version of my name. Then, every time I received a document with the misspelling I was offended that they didn’t take the time to make sure it was spelled correctly. When I started writing, I opted to use my first name Loretta. Now, I use Loretta all the time and I like it better, although my husband can’t seem to make the switch. Ha!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 13, 2018 at 12:07 pm #

      What a great story! When honorifics were still fashionable, I used to get junk mail addressed to “Mr. Tamela…” Ummm, huh?

  9. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca December 13, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    My maiden name was Kay Carpenter. No need to worry about spelling — everybody knew how to spell those two names.

    Then I married Frank DiBianca. Goodness. I had no idea there were so many ways to interpret four syllables.

    Introductions are always fun, especially over the phone.

    “Hi. My name is Kay DiBianca.”
    “Katy Bianca?”
    “No, actually it’s Kay” [long pause] “DiBianca.”
    “interesting name. How do you spell it?”
    “No, no. D as in Delta. Then i. Then capital B as in Bravo…”

    You get the picture. Not only did I marry a wonderful man, I got a lovely name and great opportunities to practice patience.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 13, 2018 at 12:10 pm #

      It’s so funny what people hear! When my husband and I were choosing first names for our children, he said, “It HAS to be something people can understand over the PHONE!”

      Yes, I’ll answer to Pamela.

      And yes, your name is beautiful!

      • Avatar
        Laura December 20, 2018 at 8:03 am #

        Where I work there is a lot of exposure to unusual names. My personal favorite is La-a, pronounced Ladasha.

        We also have quite a few people from India and other countries, so a few times I’ve avoided the use of pronouns altogether, if I’ve never met the person. That way I don’t have to say things like “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know so and so was a woman,” because I referred to her as him. And then there’s the woman who chain smokes and the man with the tenor voice you’ve only talked to on the phone and their name could be male or female. Add to that the horrifying emails sent out by the HR department regarding the many new genders that have appeared recently.

        Not only can you offend people by saying or spelling their name wrong, but there are so many other landmines as well nowadays. When you don’t know the person, it’s a lot of fun. Gotta love technology!

  10. Avatar
    Carol Van Gorp December 13, 2018 at 12:30 pm #

    My dad, born in Italy, wanted to impart his love for eating healthy food. While growing up, my four brothers and I had to eat a bowl/serving of the fresh vegetable at dinner before we could eat the rest of our meal. It wasn’t until third grade that I learned everyone didn’t eat veggies first.

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    claire o'sullivan December 13, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

    Great post! I don’t have any personal names to quack about, however I met a young woman with an unusual name. I glanced at the tag on her shirt and kept my mouth shut. Her mom should have checked first to make sure her daughter’s name wasn’t the name of an infection.

    That perhaps was the weirdest name I’ve come across.

    I honestly can’t recall when I realized to reach the same end with a different method. I do recall learning from my sister’s mistakes. She did everything against my folks, became a hippie, smoked a lot of dope, you name it, she probably did it. I simply saw my folks distraught at her attempts to get attention (which she did) and opted to try listening to my folks and doing the exact opposite.

    Interestingly enough, I did not get the attention I wanted. If my sis stayed in school, she’d be praised for getting a D+. I got bupkis for getting straight A’s. But before I knew the Lord, I was quite proud of my own accomplishments. When I became a Christian and my identity I found to be in Christ, the road is hard to shake off that pride and realize that pride (praise) wasn’t mine. My sister gave up her drugs and wild living long before I gave up complete pride in self. So same goals, different methods, yet different outcomes.

  12. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D December 13, 2018 at 2:36 pm #

    How do you spell Sheri? Sherry? Shari? Sherrie? Then we add “Lynn” to the mix. Lynnie? Lyn? Lin? Then we add “Parmelee.” Oh, my, don’t even get me started on that one! (Par for the course, Me as in not you, and Lee as in jeans.)
    Sheri Parmelee

  13. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage December 13, 2018 at 6:46 pm #

    Fun topic. It’s nice to see Sailor Bob back again!

    I gave my kids very conventional names that make it clear what their birth sex is and that use conventional spellings. I figure, if they want to be unique and different, there are other ways to do it. I don’t want to add an extra layer of confusion to every interaction they have with a salesperson or bureaucrat. Their last name is kind of tricky, too.

    I did once know a guy whose name, when you introduced him, sounded like you were saying, “An old man.”

    As for doing things your own way, I’ve always been a pantser. I am constitutionally incapable of writing out an outline beforehand. If I do, it will be wooden, lifeless, and I will abandon or completely revise it after a few chapters. Or worse, get into the middle of the book and discover that my characters are a bunch of lifeless dolls.

    This doesn’t mean I don’t plan out my plots, just that I do it in an intuitive, iterative way. With the kind of books I write – heavy on character development – this turns out a perfectly good plot. I’m not sure I could use this method to write a detective procedural or a tightly woven thriller. I have seen books by both plotters and pantsers that are absolutely brilliant. It annoys me when people speak/write as though pantsing means you end up with an inferior plot.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray December 14, 2018 at 10:40 am #

      I don’t think pantsing means an inferior plot!

      • Avatar
        Jennifer Mugrage December 14, 2018 at 11:42 am #

        Oops, foot in mouth. I didn’t mean you, Tamela. I was thinking of another blog.

        • Avatar
          Tamela Hancock Murray December 14, 2018 at 11:58 am #

          Oh, thanks for that, although I am hoping no one thought I was implying that in any way. So thanks for expressing yourself to give me the chance to be crystal clear!

  14. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage December 13, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

    PS Forgot to say, wanting to change your name to a cuter spelling is a thing that I remember a lot of girls doing around middle school.

  15. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver December 14, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    Tamela, Commenting on the people who have to live with unusual names or spellings: When I married my husband, I had no idea people would have such trouble with the simple name “Sarver.” Especially over the phone, I get called Mrs. Farber, Mrs. Farver, Mrs. Starver, And when we meet people in person they can’t seem to pronounce Sarver. So my husband will say, finally, “You ever heard of George Washington Carver? Well, drop the C on the front and substitute an S and you’ll have it.” And–usually that works.

    Over the phone I usually end up spelling, “S as in snow…ar…v as in victory…er.” Sometimes I wish my name were simpler. I said to a friend whose last name was Clark, “I wish I had your last name.” Her daughter said, “Uh-uh. People always ask if there’s an e on the end.”

  16. Avatar
    Ann Coker December 17, 2018 at 10:12 am #

    Perhaps I’m on a different track. But your name reminds me of a client I had at a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Her name was Tamera and she told me she had a twin sister with the same name only pronounced differently: Ta-me-ra and Ta-mer-a. Later my staff helped me discover that she was making up her story so she could get more supplies. We had files on “both girls.” Spelling and pronunciation are both important. Also telling the truth.

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