Thursday, June 8, 2017

Walter Emerges

“You’re a ‘Walter’.”

Thanks to both a conversation with and a post by my friend Benjamin, this story occurred to me.

I grew up as Wally Jost. Today, it kind of gives me the willies … truly … to say ‘Wally Jost.’ It reminds me now and reminded me then of ‘Wally Cox,’ also known as a milquetoast Mr Peepers from a sitcom of a long time ago. Or Wally Cleaver, the Beav’s big brother. Neither of these was the sort of person I wanted to be.

While I never did like the name ‘Wally,’ I didn’t like the alternatives, either. Walter sounded way too formal; who did I think I was, Walter Cronkite? Walt was OK but, along with my last name, seemed to get tangled up around my eye teeth when spoken. “Walt Jost
was too staccato. And if I wanted to be known as ‘Walt,’ I figured I had to introduce myself as Walt Jost. “Hi, I’m Wally Jost; call me Walt,” was lame. Or so it seemed to my sensitive teenage personage.

And so I lived as Wally for many years, through High School, College, Graduate School, and the first few years of working in my profession. Then I met the love of my life … we made beautiful music together
( figuratively speaking … as you know I’ve been taking voice lessons for about 15 years and have advanced only past raw beginner ). And she said to me, ‘You’re not a Wally.’

Tell me something I don’t know. I know that, but … “

“You’re a ‘Walter’,” she asserted, and assured me Walter was not too formal.

I tried it out; I liked it. I told people at work, my friends, “Please call me Walter. I never did like Wally and I’m doing something about it.”

At first there was a snicker or two, mostly swallowed ones. But it did not take very long; at age thirty-something I was “Walter Jost,” no longer “Wally Jost,” to mostly everyone.

As might be expected, or suspected, among the people I know, my family had both known me the longest as ‘Wally’ and was the hardest group of people to convert. My mother had a particularly difficult time … I frequently heard ‘Waltie’ come from between her lips when she was attempting to say my name. Eventually, however, even she used my preferred name … most of the time, at least.

According to, it is a strong name, “From a Germanic name meaning ‘ruler of the army’.” That is how I came to feel about it … a strong name, not a formal name. According to the same website, the popularity of the name peaked in the late eighteen hundreds and then waned, 

 becoming a rather unusual name today. That also suits me.

Now the most annoying thing that happens about this is when I’m in a large group. We’re milling around and one of the members looks at me and says, “Hi Walt. Thanks for coming.” ( Please note, “Wally” is not an option any more. )

I will, or might, say something polite, like, “Please … it’s ‘Walter.’ Nice to be here.”

And the response from the speaker, or perhaps another who’s witnessed the exchange, is, “Hey … it’s OK, but maybe you should be glad to be remembered at all.”

And, of course, that is correct. I am glad to be remembered … but I would still like to be remembered by my name, the one I strove so hard to own.

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