Name Tags

While searching for a scissor in a sewing kit, I discovered my name.

Jeffrey Slater Name Tags from 1961

Actually, what I discovered were old name tags. As a child, my mother would sew my name tag into my summer camp clothing, since we all wore the same blue or white uniforms. I have a feeling she bought these name tags from Saks Fifth Avenue. With hundreds of kids all with Camp Winadu whites (for the Sabbath) and Camp Winadu blues for the rest of the week, it would be easy for an article of clothing to get lost among the avalanche of dirty laundry.

Seeing this 50 year old string of name tags from 1961 really brought a smile to my face but starting me thinking about my name and my namesake.

My namesake- J.L. (my father's grandfather)
I was named for my grandmother’s father, who was known as Isadore Levy, or Yitzhak in Hebrew. When I was in utero, my grandfather, Poppa Joey, referred to me as little Izzy, but my mother didn’t want a baby named Isadore or Izzy.  (Thank you mom)

Luckily, everyone called my future namesake by the initials J.L. 

No one remembers what the J stood for, but the L was for Levy.  I obviously didn’t know him but I learned that he was in the schmatta business (Hebrew for clothing). He also liked the ponies, which is a polite way of saying he was a gambler. I think he might have been a bookie, which is funny since I haven’t a gambling bone in me, although my father loved Las Vegas and Atlantic City and my mother hasn't met a lottery ticket she could resist. 

Jeffrey Lynn- The Actor
Coincidentally, my mother always loved the actor Jeffrey Lynn who she thought was so handsome and dashing.  He was a B level actor but shows up in some great movies like Butterfield 8 with Elizabeth Taylor and with the Lane Sisters and Claude Rains in Four Daughters. Since Ra El and I watch a lot of old movies, Jeffrey Lynn often shows up as the lead actor’s best friend, as in All This and Heaven Too with Bette Davis. 

So I was named Jeffrey Lynn Slater

My Hebrew name is Yitzhak, which means laughter. Knowing my Hebrew name means laughter makes me smile since I love to find the happy in every hour.

My birth announcement January 23, 1954 

Announcement in the Newark Star Ledger
A name is like your brand.

If you were marketing yourself to the world, which we all do every day, your name positions you to everyone you meet.  It represents how people see you and what you stand for in their mind.

Our name carries all sorts of implications about who we are and how we are perceived. On the most fundamental level, there is the spelling of our name. I am Jeffrey, not Jeffery or Geoffrey. My last name has one T and you get in the habit of explaining yourself as Jeffrey Slater….that is Jeffrey with a J and Slater with one T.  Poppa George always misspelled my name as Jeffery on cards, letters, and checks, but I don’t think I ever corrected him.  What he lacked in spelling ability, he made up in love.

From the local Springfield, New Jersey paper
It could be worse.

Originally my grandfather’s family name was Slutsky, which was later changed to Smith and then eventually to Slater. Jeffrey Slutsky. Oy Vey.  Not sure I would want that name.   

Can you imagine the name Jeffrey Lynn Slutsky? 

Our name has all the characteristics of a personal brand conjuring up images, impressions and emotions. Have you ever met someone whose name is the same as a person you dislike?  Even though it is illogical and unfair, it can be hard not to associate the second person with the unfavorable qualities of the other person. 

I’m not a Howard or Edward or Neil or Louis. Those names have associations that don’t feel right. I’m not a Sandy, Seth, Gary or Bruce.  Truth be told, I have always liked my name and felt that it was a good fit for my personality.

Hello. My name is Jeffrey Slater but please call me Jeff. 

Childhood Nicknames
Growing up on Warwick Circle in New Jersey, I had a neighbor, David Chetkin, who used to taunt me and call me Slaterbugs. I hated that nickname and I don’t know why he felt the need to do this. Looking back, I can’t even tell you why it troubled me but it did.

David Chetkin and me (Slaterbugs)
Ironically that moniker became a nickname for my daughter Fanny and it was her email address for many years,

Somehow by using that nickname over time for Fanny, it was stripped of its meanness and made into an expression of joy and laughter. David Chetkin, if you are out there reading this blog…I forgive you. I think I called him Chet and occasionally David Check Mom. 

As an eight year old, I will admit to having some sensitivity to my middle name Lynn because it sounded like a girl’s name. But I eventually stopped worrying about it and I haven’t really thought much about it since.

                            SLATS: The Early Years

Slats at Winadu

During summer camp, when I wore shorts with the afore-mentioned name tags, I was Slats. It was a nickname that came from an earlier generation of Slaters who attended Winadu, my dad and my Uncle Robbie. They were called Slats in their day and it always stuck with me. I can look through old photos of myself sitting on the steps of Bunk 23 at Winadu and I hear someone say, “Hey Slats- let’s go play stickball”.

I wish I had spell check back in 1962

Tateeze in the center and Chauncy to the right
My Springfield friends (Jamie, Larry, et al) called me various nicknames including Slats and Tateeze. I have no idea where Tateeze came from but I do recall Sam Farber always referring to me as Jeppers because it was an occasional name my best friend (his son) Jamie would use. 

Somehow we used to call Jamie by the delightful name Chauncy which still slips into an email or two. Chauncy is such an English name and Jamie is not in the least bit British. Larry became L Roy since L was the initial for his first name and Roy was his middle name. Or so the legend goes...
L Roy and Chauncy

SLATE: The College Years
When I went to college, my nickname became Slate. I don’t know if The Blatt first labeled me as Slate, but it too felt like a good fit with my college persona. Somehow Slats went away and I answered to Slate.  We had all these world class linguistics professors at Annenberg - should I have asked them about this name game and what all of this meant?

Reflections of Duzio, Slate and The Blatt

Twenty-Five Jeffrey Slaters
I don’t run across many Jeffrey Slaters but like most of us, I will occasionally Google myself. There are twenty-five Jeffrey Slaters on Linkedin. Somehow I am the first on the list- probably because I am big on networking and connected to lots of people. On Facebook I have found several hundred Jeffrey Slaters or variations of our name. (Note to self: Start a Jeffrey Slater Facebook page where you must have that name to join)

There is a famous Jeffrey Slater who writes a lot of textbooks on mathematics. (I am glad one of us got a mathematical gene). There is a Jeffrey Slater who takes photos of models and celebrities in LA. (Funny that he is a photographer). There is the Jeff Slater character that Bill Murray played in the movie Tootsie. He was Dustin Hoffman’s best friend. There is a scene where you see the movie theatre where Jeff’s play is being produced and the name Jeff Slater is seen on the screen.
In Tootsie, Bill Murray plays Jeff Slater, a playwright

Bill Murray as Jeff Slater in Tootsie 
You might infer from my last name that I have some connections with slate or stones.  I think that in a past life I may have been a sculptor but it is my wife Ra El who is the collectors of stones and rocks, not me. She is the galactic rock star in our family.

It is also odd that for someone who prides himself on being so punctual and who comes from a family of compulsive timekeepers, that the word LATER is embedded in our last name. It just doesn’t make sense but is probably some kind of message about balance. It might even make a clever play on words for a blog someday like

Bea and Jack Slater - I was just a glimmer in their eyes
If I could have gone back in time and given advice to my parents about the name they were about to give to me, I really would not have had much to say.  I am grateful that I am who I am and that my name is Jeff.

I wear my name proudly
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare has Juliet say: 

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

I am glad I was tagged with the name Jeffrey Slater.  

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