What is in a name?
A lot I guess, but it's hard to figure out what. If my name was Steve instead of Mark would my life have turned out differently? Would I be a famous criminal? A busker? So many possibilities with Steve. I would of course insist on being call Stephen and correct everyone who called me Steve.
“It's pronounced Stefffffaan, the Swedish way,” I would say haughtily. I would not have been a popular Steve/Stephen, the cantankerous busker/pickpocket. Thank goodness I'm called Mark (although all my friends call me George, and one of my sisters calls me Henry—but that's another story).
Which brings me to Manchester By the Book. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat (or a hot sweat, or no sweat at all) a panic really, not a sweat, and think “what a ridiculous name for a book shop.” I really do. When I first opened the shop in June, 1998, I was planning on calling it “Cape Ann Renaissance Books,” thinking in my juvenile way that it would signal a cultural renaissance of sorts on Cape Ann. I kept that name a secret from all my friends and when I finally told them—they laughed in my face.
“No one will be able to spell it. George, that is so pretentious! People will think it's only old books—have another beer clown,” said Rack and Dcon, my two friends who I revealed the name to.
I withered under their criticism and asked them what a good alternative would be since I had not thought of a backup.
“Manchester By the Book,” Rack said without missing a beat.
“What a quick mind,” I thought! And we all laughed, so that's how it came about. The next day I was moving books and things in through the back door and the women at The Stock Exchange asked, “Do you have a name yet?” I told them Manchester By the Book. They gasped (and not in a funny way) … “Don't name it that! People will think your making fun of the town.”
Oh no, I didn't have a backup to my new name either, and people didn't like it. Maybe I'll just call it By the Book, I thought. But Ellen Degeneres had a sitcom at the time where she worked in a bookshop called By the Book, so I thought that wasn't too original. So, I thought, I'll put myself on a deadline, I'll call the phone company to set up service and think up a name on the spot, but what popped out of my mouth was Manchester By the Book.
And still when people walk by my store, they say the name to each other and laugh, and a little shiver of queasiness runs up my spine. But I have to stick with it now.
My only alternative would be, “George, Henry and Stephan's (not Steve's) Books.”