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2006-02-19 11:45
by Bob Timmermann

Lounging around on a Sunday morning, I got an email from my good friends at (they email me frequently, but I doubt they will want to contact me after next week), telling me that the winner of the women's 1000-meter speed skating was Marianne Timmer of the Netherlands.

Ms. Timmer has been a star in speed skating for many years and is quite famous in her native land. (And you can probably find better photos of her than through the link I included). Her biography states that she was briefly married to former gold medalist in speed skating for the U.S. Peter Mueller, but now she is married to a Dutch soccer goalkeeper named Henk Timmer. And no, this isn't anything incestuous as the name Timmer is fairly common among the Dutch.

Of course, if she had married someone with my name, she could have used a name that I would have found much more interesting: Marianne Timmer(mann). Personally, I would think a name with parentheses would really stand out. The hyphen has already been done and I think we need different forms of punctuation in names. Wouldn't you want to meet someone with a & in their name. "Hello, I'm John Gomez & Goldstein!"

This leads of course to my surname, Timmermann, which is misspelled more often than not. After the first nine letters, people seem to get bored with spelling the name and leave off the last n. I wonder if Keith Olbermann runs into this problem. Former big league pitcher Tom Timmermann is related to me in some way, but I haven't worked out exactly how yet as we all come from the same small town in Illinois where saying the name Timmermann is like a scene out of Being John Malkovich and there are a lot of people to sort through. Tom was referred to as "Timmerman" in newspapers when he was first called up to the majors in 1969.

When I was on a vacation in Germany about 10 years ago, I ran into the phenomenon of people spelling my name correctly without even asking how it was spelled. However, if I were in the Netherlands or Belgium, people would ask because the name has variations like Timmerman or Timmermans. And in Scandinavia, Timmerman shows up more often than Timmermann. So, there are plenty of Timmermans in the world and they might even outnumber the Timmermanns.

Once when I was in college and I corrected the spelling of my name on some form, a student who was working at the desk said to me, "Well, that spelling is just an affectation. Why should I bother?" I wanted to break into a lengthy story about the changes in German orthography in the 17th and 18th centuries when many of the surnames started using the double n.

As an aside, I was once in a bookstore in Denver in 2003, where columnist Rob Neyer was autographing copies of his book Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups in which my name appears as an acknowledgment. A woman in line was waiting for an autograph of a book (I forget which one there were several authors there including Michael Lewis) and I pointed out my name in Rob's book. She looked at Rob and then at me and asked, "So are you two brothers?" Using my typical skill with women I replied, "Yes, we're twins and my mother gave us the same first name, but changed our last names so we wouldn't get mixed up." She didn't really like that answer and stopped talking to me.

But today, we should all raise a glass of jenever or eat some French fries with mayonnaise on them in honor of the best speed skater in the world with a truncated version of my surname.

2006-02-19 12:20:46
1.   Sam DC
Someday, I'll take the time to figure out they story behind NY Times writer Jennifer 8. Lee's middle name. (I think it's got a period, but not certain on that.)
2006-02-19 12:24:42
2.   Bob Timmermann
I read that her parents wanted to come up with something that would stand out. I assume she is in her early or mid 30s which would put her birthday in the early 1970s when parents came up with all sorts of weird names for their kids.
2006-02-19 12:30:46
3.   Linkmeister
Try sharing a last name with Cameron Diaz's squeeze. Long before they were an item, our phone rang off the hook looking for him, particularly when the band had just done a major concert.

What that says about our education system's inability to explain geography I leave to your imagination. (Band plays in LA; of course the kid's in Hawai'i that night!)

2006-02-19 13:03:43
4.   King of the Hobos
According to Lee in a Aug 6, 1996 edition of the Boston Globe, the number 8 is highly revered among the Chinese as it represents good fortune. At least that's what she says...
2006-02-19 15:21:38
5.   Xeifrank
4. Very true. And this is why my home ph# is full of 8s.
2006-02-19 15:27:53
6.   Bob Timmermann
You would think that in Southern California more Chinese would want to live in the San Fernando Valley (818) than in the San Gabriel Valley (626).
2006-02-19 19:26:55
7.   das411
Wow, Timmer just ran an incredible race Bob, with that extra burst at the end she definitely earned that gold medal!
2006-02-19 21:03:32
8.   Bob Timmermann
In long track speed skating, pretty much everyone earns their gold medal as you really can't use tactics to beat the other skaters. The only tactic you can use is: don't run into the other skater when changing lanes.

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