November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Mark Levy/Casual Observer



by Mark Levy

As every precocious 8-year-old undoubtedly knows, a palindrome is a word or sentence that reads the same forward as it does backward. Among the many palindromes for nouns, like Mom and Dad, lurk some proper names: Anna, Eve, Hannah, and Otto, for example. The one I’d like to discuss now is Bob. You know, we’ve had five Jameses, four Williams, and even a Barack, but there has never been a U.S. president named Bob. Now Scotland had King Robert the Bruce in the early 14th century, about the time the fork was invented, but that’s an essay for another time.

Jon Bois, the Kentucky sports writer who spells his name   B O I S, recently made an interesting observation. It appeared on SB – as in “sports blog” “Across the histories of Major League Baseball,” he wrote, “the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and NCAA football and basketball, there have been a total of 1,884 athletes who primarily went by the name Bob. Not Robert, or Bobby, but Bob.” What Jon Bois found puzzling is that today there are precious few professional sports figures named Bob. But the name, Bob, comes up in many other places. LakeBob, for instance, is located just outside of Baker City,Oregon. In Africa, an entire country is called Zimbabwe, get it?

We don’t have Linda-heads or Donald-heads, do we? But we sure have a huge variety of spring-necked bobble heads. Socks named after Bobs are called bobby socks. And some hair pins are known as bobby pins. The Bob haircut comes and goes as a popular hairstyle for women. We also have the plumb bob, shish-ka-bob, the fishing bobber, apple bobbing, a carnivorous bobcat, a bobsled, a bobtail, and a bobstay for holding a ship’s bowsprit down – something you might wish to keep in mind if you chance upon one of those untamable bowsprits. We also have a sewing machine bobbin, of course, instructions to football players and boxers to bob and weave, the Bobbsey Twins series of books, and the North American bobolink blackbird, or Dolichonyx oryzivorus, for you ornithologists.

Bob and wheel is a type of alternative music rhyming pattern not too different from what you might see in a book of Ogden Nash poems. But back to Bobs. Bob’s gym, Bob’s Famous Roller Coaster in Chicago’s Riverview Park, Bob’s discount furniture, Bob’s skateboarding tricks website, and the chain of Bob’s stores that sell clothing and footwear – not necessarily made by Bobs – are just a few establishments that use Bob as a business name. Have you been in a Bob’s Steak & Chop House somewhere in the western states or in Australia, or the K-Bob Steakhouse in Albuquerque, or Billy Bob’s Texas in Ft. Worth, reputed to be the world’s largest honky-tonk? When you get there, say “howdy” to a Bob for me.

Bob Evans restaurants are not to be confused with Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant, which is a restaurant chain that Bob Wian founded inSouthern Californiain 1936. The oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy location – and here comes the trivia part of this discussion – is in Burbank, California and is now a historical landmark. As delicious as they sound, Barbecue Bob and the Spareribs serves up not food, but country songs. Hurricane Bob struck the northeast coast in 1991, but I don’t think it made quite the lasting impression the Bobbsey Twins did. Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa have a combined total of about 7,000 enrolled students. Of course, not all students are named Bob.

There are a few Robertas, too. The letters, B-O-B, as you world travelers must already know, form the three-letter ID code for the Bora Bora airport. Billy Bob’s Huntin’ & Fishin’ is a Nintendo Gameboy game, probably by now obsolete, or should I say, “bobsolete?” The bobwhite is an attractive, usually brown, ground-dwelling bird with a loud cheery song. It has great value as a destroyer of some 60 different species of weed seeds and 116 species of insects. So thank goodness, I think we can all agree, for the bobwhite.

In England, police are called Bobbies. And, “Bob’s Your Uncle” is British slang meaning “simple as that.” I happen to have an Uncle Bob who chews with his mouth open, but we call him Uncle Bawb, and you can tell he doesn’t really fit into many polite discussions, much less this one. This is a shout out to you, Uncle Bawb! See you at Thanksgiving. The BOB Motor Oil Recovery System is a handy garage gadget you’ll want, along with some towels, when you get around to changing the oil in your car. You turn oil cans upside down and drain them on this device. The BOB in the name stands for “bottom of the barrel.” And after a tough afternoon changing oil, you might want to relax with Bob’s Pickle Pops, made in Dallas, Texas. They’re frozen pickle juice treats that, I understand, taste incredibly and exactly like they sound.

Have you had a Bob’s burger in Washington State or tried BOB brand foods in Sweden? They make gourmet juices and jams. Bob’s Candies are claimed, by the company, at least, to be the world’s finest peppermints. A Beer Named Bob is brewed by the Bitter Creek Brewing Company in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Meanwhile, Bob Moore and his Oregon company, Bob’s Red Mill, offer vitamins and natural, whole grain products. In theU.S., there are estimated to be more than 86,000 people named Bob. The name, Bobby, belongs to another 362,000. And there are 20,000 Robs. If you look up Robert, you’ll find 4,941,502. That’s more like it. Almost five million of ‘em. In certain parts of the country, you can’t throw a pickle pop without hitting a Bob.

There seem to be a lot of Bobs in the music industry: Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Bob Seger, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, Bobby McFerrin, Bobby Darin, and Bobby Rydell. I know I’ve left out a few, but you get the idea. Only Bobs can join the exclusive Bob’s Club, whose goal is to create the world’s largest list of famous Bobs. Don’t even think about joining it, unless you’re one of the five million Bobs. In 2011, neither Bob nor its variants made the top five male names for babies in any state. In fact, nowadays, a boy is more likely to be named Mason or Jacob or Elijah or Liam.

And 25 years ago, in 1987, no Bobs made the top five list of male names, but there were a lot more Michaels and Christophers. Roberto showed up then, but its rank was 156, way below, oh, such popular appellations as Travis and Zachary. The name, Bob, didn’t make the list of the ten oldest people in the world, either. But then again, the oldest people in history were all women. The youngest Bob is, oh wait, another Bobby has just been born while I’m speaking. “Hi Bob!” was a college drinking game, in which TV viewers had to take a drink every time someone said, “Hi, Bob” on the Bob Newhart Show. Legend has it that no one ever completed the game before passing out. And now that I’ve shared so much more than you ever wanted to know about Bobs, feel free to pass out yourself.


About the author: Mark Levy is a Florida-based attorney with the Binghamton-based law firm of Hinman Howard and Kattell. He is a contributing editor to Ragazine.CC of “Feeding the Starving Artist,” and “Casual Observer.” Read more about Levy at “About Us.”