Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rhymes with Purple

Purple. It’s one of that short list of words in the English language, like “monster” and “orange” for which there is no rhyme. Should you decide to write a poem, you should never end the line with the word “purple.” You’ll be stuck; trust me.
I, however, have a rhyme for “purple.” “My great aunt Myrple.”
Most people mishear this, and respond, “But ‘Myrtle’ doesn’t really rhyme with ‘purple.’”
“Not ‘Myrtle’,” I tell them. “It’s ‘Myrple,’ with a ‘P’.”
Objections of “That’s not a real name!” and “Do you really have an aunt Myrple?” fly at me immediately—which is understandable, I guess. It is a pretty unusual name.
Here’s the story. Great aunt Myrple is a very tall woman, and big-framed. She was always big for her age. In fact, when her mother was pregnant with her, everybody—her parents-to-be, included--assumed she was going to have twins. So naturally, instead of one baby name for each gender, her dad and mom came up with two. Myrple’s father was a forest ranger—later on, he taught forestry at the local vocational school—and he loved trees. Since the couple had met each other in the forest as well, it just seemed to make sense that they would name the twins after trees.
“If I had been two boys,” Myrple says, “they would have been named ‘Douglas’—like the douglas fir—and ‘Elmer’, for the elm tree. The girls’ names that Momma and Daddy had picked out were ‘Myrtle’ and ‘Maple’—which is close enough to ‘Mabel’ that no one would probably notice unless they saw it written down.
“Well, when I was born, there I was—just the one of me, and what were my poor folks s’pposed to do? Since they couldn’t decide on one name or the other, they decided to blend ’em together—and there ya’ have it! So, the name on my birth certificate is ‘Myrple’!”
“Just one question,” I said. “What if the twins had been one boy and one girl?”
“Huh,” said aunt Myrple, “I don’t s’ppose they ever considered that! Lord knows I never have!”
Now, I realize, of course, that great aunt Myrple may have been pulling my leg on that warm July afternoon when she told me this story. She’s always been a great one for story telling, and I’ve never asked her whether she was serious about it. Besides, it makes a much better story than, say, “My parents liked unique names,” or “I never liked the name Myrtle, so I changed it.”
I’ve often wondered, too, if perhaps this is a story that her parents told her when she was a little girl, and she asked them about her name. Maybe, with childlike faith, she took her parents’ story as the truth—even if they only meant it as a joke. Then again, maybe it really is the truth. Stranger things have happened!
The important thing is, I have a rhyme for “purple”—and a great excuse to tell great aunt Myrple’s story!

Listening to: local news on the radio--Ex-Gov George Ryan found guilty

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