Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How Bluetooth Got His Nickname

Before there was Bluetooth, there was… Blue tooth!

Several years ago, a splendid book was published, which was a reaction to the overprotective culture that the authors saw as stifling the healthy development of the masculine character.  It was called The Dangerous Book for Boys (Iggulden, Conn, and Hal Iggulden. 2007. New York: Collins. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/76167817 )   The book includes stories of historical adventure, instructions for using tools and devices that may be – well, sharp – and directions for doing things that, a generation earlier, had been common activities for young men.  A desire to keep children safe is understandable, but, at the same time, it is by experience that a child learns how to assess uncertain situations so they can make the risky decisions of adulthood.  Eagles forbidden from jumping out of the eyrie will never learn to fly.  And a leap into the unknown can sometimes lead to bruises.

Most of Rush Gook’s friends have nicknames based on some physical characteristic.  Rooster Davis, presumably, reminds innocent bystanders of a rooster.  Smelly Clark – well, that name speaks for itself.  And then there’s Bluetooth Johnson.  These days, the lad could have a cellphone receiver attached to his ear, but, in the 1930s and 40s, it’s most likely that he had a blue tooth.  Although the name may date from some noteworthy incident with blueberry pie, or an unfortunate reaction to medicine in childhood, it’s most likely that he had a bruised tooth.  After long consultation with a dental hygienist, she confirmed something my mother had always said about this nickname: that a tooth can be injured in such a way that blood gets in it, and it eventually turns blue or black.   In these days of sophisticated tooth care techniques and insurance, such dental discolorations are easily hidden with a cap.  During the Depression, when a nickel phosphate at the Candy Kitchen was a luxury, a tooth abnormality that was merely cosmetic would simply have to be borne.  So Bluetooth did bear it: in both his mouth and his moniker.

A regular event in the 'Vic and Sade' episodes was for Rush to receive a call from Bluetooth.  If Vic was in the scene, he would rattle off a list of cliches, descriptive of Blue tooth’s excellent character and sturdy young manhood.  Although Vic was joking, he was right. Bluetooth did appear to be a friend Rush could rely on, and one who wasn’t afraid to face the risks of life.  After all, he could never nave injured his jaw sitting around merely reading Third Lieutenant Stanley stories.  He made his own adventures, along with the other boys who waited under the streetlight on the corner.  His blue badge of distinction was proof he didn’t need any Dangerous Books to show him how to take a risk, and triumph.  -- Sarah Cole

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