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VOL. 127 | NO. 42 | Thursday, March 1, 2012

Vic Fleming

By Any Other Name …

By Vic Fleming

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A couple of weeks ago, I devoted almost an entire column to one item of viewer mail. No one complained, so I might as well do it again. Less than a week after hearing from Carole Hanna of Memphis, I heard from Daphine Craig:

“I have always enjoyed your crossword puzzles, which appear in The Memphis News,” Daphine wrote. “Olive Branch, Miss., my hometown, is a suburb of Memphis. I’m glad to see you have Mississippi roots.”

Daphine was inspired to write by my mention of my grandmother in a column a few weeks back. In said column, I mused a bit on the name Fleming and introduced my grandmother, the late, great Leo Cranford, of Mt. Olive, Miss. – no relation to Olive Branch.

I learned the word “oleo” from Leo, who was called “Mama Dedo” by all 19 of her grandchildren. My mother – in Jackson, Miss., where I was born – had taught me the word “margarine.” We called it butter, even though it wasn’t.

Back to Daphine’s note: “I have found that crossword-puzzle creators love multi-voweled words. … I grew up on a farm where I enjoyed ‘real butter.’ I was unaware of oleo until I went away to college. When I married a ‘city boy,’ I didn’t realize that people could prefer oleo to butter.”

The email from Olive Branch continued: “My first name is Daphine, which rhymes with caffeine. There are constant misspellings and mispronunciations, but I live with them. At least you have a noteworthy ancestor, Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin and Nobel Prize winner. To my knowledge, there are no famous or infamous Daphines.”

I can’t say that I’ve ever known a Daphine, but I think it’s a cool name, especially since it rhymes with caffeine and isn’t a three-syllable version of Daphne. One in 50,000 women is named Daphine. By comparison, one in 450 males is named Victor. But … only one in 100,000 females is named Victor. So, in a sense, Daphine’s name is more common than mine.

My sister, Nancy Lucile Fleming Sloan, died in 2009 at the age of 64. Way too young. She was the second of Mama Dedo’s 19 grands to pass. These first cousins were produced by Mama Dedo’s six children, who themselves were born between 1917 and 1929: Norfleet (my mother), Lucile, Don, Mary Jon, Peggy and Lynn (male).

In addition to yours truly and sister Nancy, those cousins include seven Cranfords: Bruce, Clay, Don (deceased), Mark, David, Patty, Martha Carol and Lynette; four Battes: O.K. Jr., Margaret (“Marty”), Martha O’Shella (“Shellie”) and Richard; three Martins: Stanley (female), Sydney (female) and Jeff; and two Butlers: Raymond and Paul David. They’re scattered across at least five states.

It’s doubtful that all 19 of us will ever again get our names in the paper (which, once upon a time, was a really big deal) at the same time. But … it’s now happened once. So, Cuzes, if you want to write me a note, feel free.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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