Writers are by definition obsessed with words. And when it comes down to it, unless you’re really plucky, there are two or three words you’re stuck with for life: your name. Every other week I’ll ask a different writer five or so questions on the subject. This week I talked with Steve Tuttle. His work has shown up in places like Black Warrior Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Normal School, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Crazyhorse. He lives in Provo, Utah with his wife and two children.
I gotta give credit where credit is due. At least half of the inspiration to do this column thing started when, years ago, back in the Taft administration, you and I discussed the oddities that were our names. We toyed with writing about it. Did we? I don’t think so. Anyway, you don’t have the most conspicuously weird name. What’s so wrong with Steve Tuttle?
Nothing. Not a thing. It’s totally, utterly, completely normal and name-y. But get this, there’s this town I’ve never been to on the eastern edge of Illinois. It’s called Moonshine and the population there is 2. And they’re all Tuttles (Roy Lee and Helen, no relation). But they have this store/restaurant and they sell Moonburgers, and I really want one.
Does the fact that you have a PhD help? Even though I always immediately feel the need to say, Yeah, but I’m not a real doctor, I kind of like it when my students call me Dr. Batt. What say you, Dr. Tuttle?
Sometimes I get mail for Dr. and Mrs. Tuttle and I feel slightly flattered as I make for the recycling bin.
Other than me, to what weird names–perhaps literary, perhaps not–do you find yourself attracted?
There are some names I just like to say (Yourgrau, Codrescu, Miyasaki), but in literature I sort of cling to the super-ordinary. Jake Barnes I love, and Josef K., too. And from Josef K. I can skip over to Michael K. and then I get to my favorite literary puzzle: J. M. Coetzee. What I wouldn’t give to pronounce that name without having other people tell me I’m doing it wrong.
I imagine there’s some anxiety about appearing to be related to that American Chopper family. Other than your now-missing handlebar mustache, there isn’t a family relation, is there? Do you have a favorite AC Tuttle?
Nope, no relation. I’ve got the non-German variant. But it’s interesting that my name (or things that appear to be my name) come through the TV now and again. Because I’m a terrible person, I like to judge people based on what they were watching when they thought of me. You’ve got your OC Chopper watchers, your Brazil watchers, and your M*A*S*H watchers. The third group is my favorite.
Lots of last names come from an occupation or a place name relation. Are there, in your lineage, those who tuttle? Is there an ancestral Tutt Hill somewhere?
No such thing a tuttling as far as I can tell, but there is a Tutt Hill. There are two, in fact: one in England, the other in Wales. Never been to either one, but my dad has these minutes from some family meeting (way back) where the patriarch of the clan (or some such) called out all the lazy relatives who’d started shortening the name to from Tutthill to Tuttle. So I guess that means I’m the offspring of lazy relatives, which might explain why I never have the energy to do any tuttling (such work, that).
And what about King Tut? Please tell me someone, somewhere has once reverentially referred to you as king.
I’m sorry to inform you that several hundred grade schoolers beat you to that particular punch about three decades ago. They also took care of all jokes and nicknames related to turtles. Hope you’re not disappointed.
“Stephen” or “Steve” or “Stephe” (is that a thing?)? We both seem to have one of those names where no matter how arduously we insist upon or articulate the full version, folks immediately truncate it. Do you let it get to you or do you have a handy coping mechanism I could borrow?
People sometimes ask me how to spell Steve, as though there were a second option. These are not the same people who call asking for Mr. Toodle. But the truth is, I’m a little bit jealous of Stefan Fatsis.