Fun Facts – Ethyl Merman
What’s in a name?
Anyone who has read Urban Mermaid will know that I gave the residents surnames with an aquatic connection. (Tench, Bass, Sturgeon, Fishman, Boatwright, Chandler, etc.) The reason is as follows:
“… Most merfolk in the sea only have one name, and it’s usually a Greek one; at least in our corner of the ocean, that’s the way it is. When our ancestors settled here on Colony Island, they wanted to blend in with the humans… I mean mainlanders. Everyone chose a last name derived from what they knew best; fish, boats, etc. Peter voluntarily changed his middle name because George and Ilene Tench adopted him as their son.” Syrena, Chapter 6
I mainly used names that could be found in most any phone book. On occasion, I will use the name of a real person. When it came time to find names for Penelope’s maternal grandparents, I decided the family name should be Merman and the grandmother’s given name should be Ethyl.
A spelling mixup
Sharp-eyed readers will notice a discrepancy in the first name of my character. She’s named ‘Ethyl’ instead of ‘Ethel’. There is a reason for this – Harry Potter. You may remember the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. Older wizards coming to watch the event decided to ditch the standard wizard robes and remain incognito by wearing Muggle clothing. The problem with this is the items of Muggle clothing they chose made the wizards stick out like a sore thumb.
Swimming under the radar
The merfolk of Colony Island were trying to fit in and remain undetectable to Mainlanders by their choices of given and/or family names. In Ethyl’s case, her parents didn’t know the difference between the chemical term ‘Ethyl’ and the feminine name ‘Ethel’. Since Ethyl attended both elementary and high school on the island, and seldom went to the mainland, the mistake went undetected for a good part of her life.
And now you know the rest of the story.
 I realise that this may be an unfamiliar term for some of you who are below a certain age. Back in the day, telephone companies would issue an annual paper-bound book containing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone in town. These ‘phone books’ were an invaluable source of information.
 In Life on Colony Island, the town’s mayor, Bill Marlin, will take some time off to go visit his younger brother, Sterling. Stirling is a funny duck. He used to drive race cars. His father said he’s Coo Coo. If you like NASCAR, you’ll immediately get the joke.
 Ethyl refers to:
- Ethyl group, a functional group in organic chemistry
- Ethyl Corporation, a fuel additive company headquartered in Richmond, VA
- Ethyl Sinclair, a character in the 90’s TV sitcom Dinosaurs
 Mainlander is a PC term for a human.
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