My Email to NPR’s Good Words To You!

Last weekend the hosts talked about how the word ‘nickname’ was originally ”an eke name”, meaning an extra name. The wanted listeners to send in odd nicknames. That rang my bell:

My Eke Name

From: Mary Wall <flintspringsroad…

To:”words@waywordradio.org” <words@waywordradio.org

Sent: Mon, Jan 11, 2021 04:38 PM

Hello!

I’m a dedicated listener who has been fascinated by words since I first chewed on my Golden Book ‘Three Little Kittens’ while teething. I’ve written a dozen Science Fiction books and several others since. I have a library of over 7500 books in my forest cabin in Western Kentucky and also have an online bookstore at ABE Books (I’m Old lady Who?)and I try to sell as many as I can!

To wit: I have bitten the hook you cast out last weekend for nicknames. From the first I can remember, I was called Hoot and Hootenanny. I thought my name was Hoot and told it to anyone I met. We were poor and isolated on a gravel road that deadended at Slop Ditch, all this in the Louisville city limits. My parents never got past 9th grade. Thus I got no preschool or kindergarten, but went straight into first grade. In my Dollar Store t-shirt and high-water pants and smiling with my crooked teeth, I proudly wrote ‘Hootenanny’ on my name tag neatly and as I’d taught myself to read all the books at home including Gone with the Wind, the Wagner Encyclopedia (that I stole from a goodwill donation box) and any books I could borrow from the Bookmobile.

I received the first derision of the unending trail of it throughout school, however after that first occurrence, I learned how to spell Mary Ellen Wall. And after winning the 8th grade Science Fair and using the $50 prize to buy a sewing machine, I learned how to sew my own and my Mama’s and Sisters’ clothes. I was personally proud of them (particularly of my floor-length, low cut waist, purple brushed denim flared jeans) whether anyone else liked them or not. I became indelibly independent and introspective.

I finally relearned real confidence by joining the US Navy in my late teens as a nuclear mechanic tasked with maintaining nuclear submarines; they made me speak up and look the judges in the eyes while getting my initial qualifications on the USS Dixon that was docked at Point Loma in San Diego when not cruising the Pacific. That two years extensive training and experience, a Bachelors degree, a Masters degree as well as multiple professional certifications got me a Nuke Engineer position at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. I worked there ten years to be able to buy 100 acres of gorgeous Kentucky woodland where I built my own log cabin. Full circle, eh? Sorry for the long letter; when I start writing it’s tough to stop!

Thanks for this opportunity to participate!

Mary Ellen ‘Hootenanny’ Wall

P.S.  In my 10 volume Sci-Fi adventure series, the lead character is Elise t’Hoot Dutch refugee 105 years from now. She made her illegal way to her aunt’s cabin in Western Kentucky, went to WKU, signed up for an interplanetary trip to supply the colony planets, met tree-like aliens along the way and smuggled them to the first colony called Tenembras. Adventures ensue, including saving Earth from climate change with her alien friends’ aid and from mighty aliens that dislike fusion reactors. Ha! MEW

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