What’s In a Name?

Name plate

As it happens, I know where my name came from. James was my father’s middle name, and both my grandfathers were named John; Harry John Zellers and John Jacob Troutman, respectively. So I became James John Troutman. 

Probably about when I started school, my mother told me that I should use James J. Troutman for my official name on any documents, presumably to differentiate me from all those other bogus James Troutmans running around out there. 

Thus, when I got my first bank account, it was under that name, as were all my subsequent accounts. And when on my first day of work at the Defense Personnel Support Center many years later in 1980, when the Branch 1 secretary asked me what I wanted on my name plate, I answered without giving it a thought. There it is at the top of this post.

Of course, everyone in my family has always called me Jimmy, but throughout school, most of my teachers called me James. Classmates varied between Jim and James, except for a few like Randy Klopp and Bobby Weinhold who had gotten to know me via my family; they always called me Jimmy.

I didn’t mind any of those names, but somewhere along the line I decided I preferred to be called James. What happened was one time I introduced myself to an adult as James, which I had done many times before, I usually randomly alternated between Jim and James, but on this occasion the fellow to whom I had introduced myself to came back right away with something like, “Pleased to meet you, Jimmy” and that really rubbed me the wrong way.

In the late 70s I went to work at Channel Home Center in Harrisburg, and when I was promoted to Group Manager there were lots of inventory forms to be filled out on a regular basis, and on every line you were supposed to sign your name to indicate you had counted the stock yourself. For some reason I was the only person who started initialing each line and signing at the bottom of the form, and because of this, Mr. Straub began to call me JT. And seemingly overnight everyone in the store was calling me JT. Some nicknames have a way of catching on.

When I got the job at DPSC in Philly, I was assigned to an office where there was already another Jim.

Who was a lot taller than I was.

As visions of Big Jim and Little Jim danced through my head, I told everyone that I was used to being called JT, and what had just been a local nickname, suddenly became my preferred nickname.

I began using it everywhere.

But not consistently.

In fact, over the next 30-odd years it was hit or miss whether people knew me as James, Jim, or JT. Until about ten years ago I made a firm decision to always use JT. And since then I’ve been pretty consistent.

Oh, I also realized that my aversion to Jimmy really only extended to casual acquaintances. With family members or longtime friends it’s fine.

Anyway, to back up a bit, while I was still living in State College in 1971, I had occasion to take the bus to visit my parents. This required a layover at the Harrisburg station, and as I was waiting for the the connecting bus to take me on the final leg of my journey, I found myself sitting next to a chatty person about the same age as I was.

He asked me my name, and I replied, “I’m Jim.” 

To which he came back with: “I’m Jim, too. Jim Troutman.” 

To be continued… 

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