Most of us go through life and when someone asks, “What’s your name?” and you tell them, immediate reaction is to say “Nice to meet you.” My name leads to other issues.
First published in June 2021.
When folks ask my name I typically respond, “B. Jay Cooper.” Now that is easier to pronounce, say, than Georgeanne Pauladunkus, but it’s what happens after that gets more complicated.
For decades some folks call me “Jay” because, I guess, when they hear or see “B. Jay” they immediately think the “B” is silent and I become “Jay.” (“Jay” actually is a name I do not like on its own. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. I just don’t like “Jay” out there naked and alone – no offense to the Jays out there. Though I did like all the Jays in Jay and the Americans.) Most who call me Jay don’t know me well or see me often so I don’t correct them.
Others may hear my name and, if they write me an email or letter, it becomes “B.J. Cooper.” Now, in my 71 years of life – actually in my first 12 years of life – I’ve heard everything that B. J. can possibly stand for. Yes, that too. It’s an immature reaction to a name but then again I guess that’s what 12-year-olds do, or those whose intelligence stopped growing at the age of 12.
That’s the reason I spell out “Jay” and my nickname is “B. Jay.”
I also often get (this happened again just last week, in fact), “Oh, ha-ha, are you related to D.B. Cooper?” (For those too young to remember, look him up. Briefly though, D.B. Cooper was a name the media gave to Dan Cooper who in the 1970s hijacked a plane, was given $200,000 in ransom money and who proceeded to parachute out of the plane never to be seen again. He was presumed dead. But his body was never found. Thus he became a folk legend.)
The history of how I became “B. Jay” is brief but not simple. My full name is “Barry Jay Cooper.” When I was like 3 or 4 years old my mother nicknamed me B. Jay because, family lore has it, she had a friend who was called JB (John B.) and she liked the sound of it so I became “B. Jay.” (Interestingly decades later I reconnected with the daughter of “JB” who told me he wasn’t called JB at all. )
Most of my childhood friends call me “B. Jay.” When I’d move to new areas where no one knew me, I often briefly became “Barry,” my legal first name. Like in college because that is the name the prof would use. Then again in my golf club identity, guys call me “B. Jay” and a few call me “Barry” because I originally gave them that name. Of course, when I sign anything legal, my name is “Barry.” I normally can tell where people know me from by what they call me. Or actually, really don’t know me.
When I worked for a newspaper and a story I wrote was going to earn me my first byline, the city editor nicely came by and asked what I wanted my byline to read. I said, well, my name is Barry so I guess Barry Cooper. He said, “Yeah, but everyone calls you ‘B. Jay’, and that’s a way cooler byline.” Thus, my name professionally from that day on became “B. Jay Cooper.”
(Well, except for that one time that I wrote that I thought was a cute feature story on a bee hive that took up residence in a gift shop named “The Bee’s Nest.” To be extra cute, in the lede of the story I changed every “B” word to start with “bee-” instead of “B.” To be overly cute the fella who edited that story proceeded to change every “B” word in the entire story to start with “bee-.” Unbeknownst to me until I saw the paper the next day, he also changed my byline to “Bee Jay Cooper.” I said, too cute didn’t I?)
How’d I get the name “Barry?” Family lore (again) has it that my mother was going to name me Gary but ultimately decided that there already was a Gary Cooper (again, young folks, look him up) in the world and she didn’t want me teased about it my entire life. Yes, the same woman who dubbed me “B. Jay/BJ.”
There’s really no end to this story nor any point.
Just struck me as bee-musing.
— AUTHOR —
▫ B. Jay Cooper, former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
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[This piece was originally published in The Screaming Moderate and re-published in PMP Magazine on 24 June 2021, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]
(Cover: Pxhere. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)