What’s in a name? Becoming SpongeBob

“Sticks and stones will break my bones/ But names will never hurt me.” (An old adage which is a bare-faced lie)


When I was barely eight years old and living in Georgetown, Ontario, an earth-shattering upheaval shook my identity to the core: I lost the name my parents gave me and was rebaptized as…Bob. Until then, my family called me Robbie or Rob, and hatched-faced elementary school teachers hammered me with the generic Robert, in keeping with an age of brutal instructional formality.


Then the unthinkable happened: an erstwhile friend by the name of John Blair informed me that the name Rob was for the birds and that Robbie was for babies. John was just the sort of wet-behind-the-ears expert that everybody has lurking in some cranny of their childhood, and his word was law. He had already persuaded me to abandon my dream of becoming a kid hockey goalie, thus undermining the pleasures of my short-lived hockey career by nipping my love of goaltending in the bud, like a malevolent gardener with razor-sharp scissors.


Of course, John had his own issues: he lived in a hovel along the railway tracks in the company of two bullying brothers who looked about 30 years old and with besotted parents who had recently stumbled into southern Ontario from the Scottish Highlands, bringing their love of whiskey with them, a protective ancestral spirit in a kilt. Their house was littered with half-empty Johnnie Walker bottles, and they scolded their sons non-stop in a blood-curdling Highland burr. The Blair residence reeked of booze and of dog poop, as they had a wee faithful beast in the form of a daschund, which we kids called a weenie dog. There were weenie dog pellets and amber liquid excretions besmirching their entire home, staining and littering the old newspapers that covered most of the decrepit carpets. Poor John! He was clearly a Johnny-come-lately unplanned child, perhaps conceived during a passionate flurry of Scotch binging, and duly ignored after unexpectantly popping out. Moreover, the combined fumes of whiskey and excrement infusing his hovel were enough to derail any child, or at least set him on the path of displaced aggressivity.


John also came by his concern with preferred nomenclature honestly, for one of his bristly adolescent brothers was named Alistair, known throughout the neighbourhood as “Turd,” a deformation of the second syllable of his Highland designation and a rather felicitous moniker given the excremental condition of their humble abode.


Notwithstanding his rather stinky circumstances, or perhaps because of them, John was one of those kids who enjoyed high status among the youngsters of our circle, so in Grade Three I informed my teacher, Miss Hunt, that I was no longer Rob or Robert, but Bob, in line with the other Bobs in the class, of which their several, Robert, transmuted into Bob, being the most popular boy’s name doled out in 1952, the year of my birth.  John had persuaded me that I should no longer stand out for my weird first name, especially given that I was already referred to most commonly as “Fatboy” and “Lardpile.”


So many people have shared with me their stories of identity fluidity reflected in the vast array of divergent first names, derogatory nicknames, and terms of endearment with which they’ve been blessed or lumbered and how context has determined their identities and responses. This is particularly true of recent arrivals from other lands, whose names are routinely massacred, with or without malice aforethought, by those who have preceded them.


In any case, my parents felt great chagrin concerning my surname slaughter and continued to call me Rob until their dying day, while most family members did the same, with a couple maintaining the sobriquet “Robbie,” including one delightful cousin, who revels in our own Scottish heritage –  hold the whiskey – and Aunty Bud, my father’s sister, who is turning 100 years old this year, and still thinks of me as a seven-year-old boy. The male branches of our family tree on the McBryde side display a burgeoning foliage of Roberts, and a few Bobs and Bobbys, but my father always leaned toward Robbie, in honour of the celebrated Scottish poet, Robbie Burns.


In adulthood, being known as Bob has become the bane of my existence. I often feel like a gas station attendant from 1971, wearing a little badge announcing “Bob.” Fill’er up, Sir!


In the college where I taught for nearly 35 years, for a time there were so many Bobs that if the name was uttered a whole brigade saluted. I used to host an annual school  awards ceremony with another Bob, where we would introduce each other with Bob patter, as in “He’s Bob…” and  “He’s Bob…” “We’re… [long pause]…Bob and Bob!”


Now, my wife’s name is Anne. When we’re introduced to certain wags as “Bob and Anne,” the person’s eyes light up and they sing a deformed version of the Beachboys’ refrain, i.e. “Bob. Bob. Bob, Bob, Bob, and Anne” and cackle wildly, proud of their musical prowess.


One of the most devastating blows to my nominal self-esteem came from the world of cartoons and took on a decidedly international dimension. During one of our many visits to Mexico, our friend Ricardo introduced me to his five-year-old son Emilio. Hearing the name Bob, the unilingual tyke beamed broadly with mischievous recognition, then screeched “Esponja Bob! The character SpongeBob sealed my fate as a bearer of bad titular Karma.

In response to being Bob and a bearer of so many nasty nicknames besides, as a child I turned my hurt outwards, bombarding my unfortunate younger sister with a deluge of cruel and ludicrous epithets, and applying the same sinister creativity to weaker classmates before they could do so to me.


However, there came a time when I was dying to be given a nickname.


When I attended Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland, as a somewhat scruffy scholarship student in 1969-70, there was a high status guy who doled out nicknames like delectable candy to worthy recipients, who were transformed by his bestowal of such a moniker from frogs into princes. All year long, I waited in vain to receive his blessing. My best friend Gary too. It was only as our final semester drew to a close that we entered the nickname pantheon, joining Aunt Bear, Spotty, Mongoose, Salty Dog, Elsie, and Horse, in my case as Baboon and in my friend’s as The Young Schmoltz. In subsequent university days, I became Bobolink, Bobo, B. McB., and the Bobster, as well as McBird, or McTurd, as a nod to my family name.


The splintered identity that comes with a lifetime of nominal bombardment is so common that it is practically a plank of the human condition. As I edge toward oblivion, I’m collecting and sorting all these monikers to pick the ones that seem most appropriate for my epitaph. Maybe I should just keep them all, stitched together like a motley patchwork quilt of ephemeral individuality.



P.S. I have already written about the identity issues that ensue from living one’s adult life as a member of a minority culture and the consequences for one’s sense of self and for the identity of one’s children.

Excuse my French – Robert McBryde (robertmcbrydeauthor.com)

There is a silly old song from the 1960s that also appears in the 2023 film Maestro called the name game. I have always felt that the title is a metaphor for one’s personal life.




For Victoria McBryde and Tammy MacBryde Farr


How to talk with a Scottish burr, like John Blair’s parents:




Lancement du livre  Book launch

Je suis ravi d’annoncer le lancement de la version française de mon livre. I’m thrilled to announce the launching of the French version of my book.

Recyclage du livre My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny

en français!

Titre du projet : Le temps passé avec vous fut bref mais tordant


Message de l’éditeur    Publisher’s message    (English to follow)


Nous vous félicitons ! Nous avons terminé la distribution de votre livre aux canaux suivants :


  • Ingramspark Paperback
  • Enhanced Amazon Distribution
  • Kindle Ebook
  • Kobo Ebook
  • Smashwords Ebook
  • Ingramspark Hardcover

Entire French Cover front and back for printing

Qu’est-ce que cela signifie ?

Votre livre sera bientôt disponible à la vente auprès des détaillants en ligne abonnés à ces canaux (tels que Barnes & Noble et Amazon). En règle générale, les livres électroniques sont disponibles au bout d’un jour ou deux, mais les listes de livres imprimés mettent souvent plus de temps à apparaître sur les sites web des détaillants.


Project Title: ‘Le temps passé avec vous fut bref mais tordant’

Hello Robert,

Congratulations! We have completed your book distribution to the following channels:

  • Ingramspark Paperback
  • Enhanced Amazon Distribution
  • Kindle Ebook
  • Kobo Ebook
  • Smashwords Ebook
  • Ingramspark Hardcover


What does this mean?

Your book will soon be available for sale through the online retailers that subscribe to these channels (such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon).Typically, eBooks become available in a day or two, but print book listings often take longer to appear on retail websites.

I’ve been recycled at long last!



Robert McBryde Author: IndieReader approved, adolescence, hippies, pop music, 1960s, 1970s, blogging, social media,  CBC radio, literary non-fiction, tales, short stories, vignettes, immigrant experience, sports, Quebec anglos, living in France,  childhood and animal stories, creative memoirs, satire, autobiography, family relations, fathers, raising children, aging, facing death, fear of death, travel, social commentary, love and marriage, translation: English-French; French-English

Publisher’s Note:  Funny, manic, and wistful… self-deprecating creative nonfiction…The author, Robert McBryde, a professional translator, has been compared to David Sedaris for the sometimes-snarky autobiographical satire characterizing his literary sketches. Many of the stories in his new book, titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, have been featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio network.


Author’s Note:

I’ve written a new book of creative non-fiction titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, recently published and now on the market. The book is based on stories that I told over the years as a writer/ broadcaster and host on CBC radio based in Quebec City, Canada.

The book is available via my website. The purchase links are at the bottom of the home page.


Normally I will post at least two blogs per week. Stay tuned…especially Wednesdays and Fridays.

If you purchase a book via the platform of your choice, please leave a review.

Here is an excerpt from my IndieReader review:

“[This] memoir is… an enjoyable and touching read. Radio listeners in Quebec are already familiar with the wit and wisdom of Robert McBryde. The non-fiction collection, MY TIME WITH YOU HAS BEEN SHORT BUT VERY FUNNY, gives the rest of the world access to the author’s inimitable style.”


“Please note that [this] book received a rating of 4 stars or above, making it “IndieReader Approved”, a designation we created to make it easier for readers and booksellers to identify quality indie titles. Post the sticker proudly, knowing that your title was judged by top industry professionals—not as merely a great indie book—but as great book, period.”

Here is a link to a cool group book review blog:

My Time With You Has Been Short But Very Funny, a review by Di



And this is a link to Goodreads. A great place to learn about new books and to read reviews.

Di’s review of My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny



And, finally, a review from Amazon…


A Spirited Dive into Life’s Laughter and Tears (amazon.com)

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Happy reading! 😊

Your friend,