What Fred Said

By John Hertz:  I’ve been trying to give Cat Eldridge a hand with birthday notices.  As an SF character whose name rhymes with grok used to say, fascinating.

A few weeks ago was the birthday of a graphic artist who gave us Cheech Wizard and lizards.

What a genius. 

What was his name?

How should we pronounce it?  How should we write it?

How did he?

Another man who strained our orthoepy promised to teach us about his own name at a Lunacon once.  For a while I was able to attend this New York convention (hosted by local club the Lunarians) so regularly that some thought I lived in New York.  I had, but not then.  I was obliged to say I do not have that honor.  I was even Fan Guest of Honor one year.

Anyhow, at Lunacon XXXVIII Poul Anderson was Writer Guest of Honor.  Our Gracious Host was Fan Guest of Honor.  Mark Blackman, who now and then appears here, was Chairman.  As he has elsewhere remarked, this year silvers the memory of that weekend.

Mr. Anderson (or in Danish Hr. for Herre), addressing a crowd of us, graciously said “I’ll teach you all how to pronounce my name.”

We waited eagerly.

He said, slowly and distinctly, “ANN-der-son.”

Some time after I met the Wizard and lizards I happened to be re-reading Heinlein’s Space Cadet.  I was told, as its readers are, of Tex Jarman’s Uncle Bodie.  Must be the same name! I thought.  

The spelling was different.  That happens in English, particularly with names.

I still didn’t know what to say.

The unassisted letters for this Wizard artist are VAUGHN BODE.  I felt sure his surname was bisyllabic; it didn’t rhyme with showed or hoed or Mr. Toad.

In a birthday notice here I wrote Bodé and explained,

The equipment won’t show his name as he wrote it; over the “e” shouldn’t be an accent acute (which is what you see), but a macron (horizontal line), i.e. indicating a long vowel, not emphasis: it doesn’t rhyme with “okay”.  I never heard him say it; I spent years thinking it was like body, but maybe it’s like Commando Cody

This drew comment.  I replied,

You probably know Wikipedia, the great and terrible, says

As explained by Bod?’s friend Fred A. Levy Haskell, in the collection Vaughn Bod?’s Poem Toons (Tundra Publishing, 1989),”the line over the ‘e’ in Vaughn’s signature is not an acute accent, it is a long mark.  That is, it is not part of the family name, and is not pronounced as if it were a long ‘a’ – he added it to his signature to indicate that you are supposed to pronounce the long ‘e’ at the end of his name.”

I wrote to Fred today by real mail before I saw your comment.

Maybe we’ll all learn something.

Here’s what Fred said. 

Vaughn’s legal surname.  It is my understanding and recollection that it is “Bode”, without accent or other marking, pronounced “Boh-dee”, and that “Bod?” (with, as you say, a macron) is the form he settled on for signing his art; although he had experimented with a number of different forms before settling on that.  I believe he told me once that it was because he got tired of people calling him “Baahd” and “Bohd”.

Wikipedia cites me?  Li’l ol’ me?  Gawrsh.

Those, as a friend of my father’s used to say, are the conditions that prevail.

8 thoughts on “What Fred Said

  1. Vaughn’s son Mark is around, and probably the current living expert on this topic.

  2. Thanks. It’s good to remember Vaughn Bode, who left us too soon, and did amazing storytelling. And thanks for the pronunciation story. I never had a clue.

  3. I never met him, but got letters and art from him, which I published in ALGOL. Sold off what I still had via Jerry Weist in, I think, 2007.

    And I always thought it was Bo-Day.

  4. Vaughn was a mentor to me, we both lived around Syracuse, NY. I met him in 1970 and saw him for the last time a couple of months before his death in 1975. As Fred wrote, he pronounced his last name as BOW-DEE. He had trouble with people mispronouncing his last name for his entire life and adding the accent mark was just one of his failed attempts to get them to say the name with a hard E, instead of “Bow-day” or “Boad” or “Bod.” Early in his career he tried to go by the nickname “Von,” because some people had trouble with his first name, too.

    He was a fascinating man who was waaay ahead of his time in so many ways. I miss him.

  5. Mark’s own website seems to use an unadorned “e”. Even in the graphic at the top of the page.

    I used to game with Mark when I was young, and we’re still in contact via social media, even though I haven’t seen him in years. I could probably ask him, though my guess is that if he really cared, he would have tried to clarify things long ago, especially since Wikipedia is fairly public and prominent.

  6. He was a fascinating man who was waaay ahead of his time in so many ways. And behind even his own time in others.

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