Sunday, October 25, 2009
What's in a name? A lot of Fury
One night in Fargo, a long-haired young employee at a gas station looked at a check I wrote and said, "Man. Fury. That's an awesome name. I'd kill for that name. You must get all the chicks."
I smiled and nodded politely, refusing to confirm or deny. "Why, what's your name," I asked.
Anyway, I agreed with his general point. I've always loved my name, first and last. Shawn Fury. It has a great ring to it, much better than something like, say, Tom Fury. Especially with Shawn being spelled the correct way. If my name was Joe Smith, Shawn Fury is the type of name I'd take as a pseudonym when I published my first mystery thriller and didn't want longtime readers of my poetry to know I was dabbling in popular fiction.
A lot of people back home in Janesville still pronounce it "furry." Maddening. And robs the name of any cool factor. An old teacher of mine always pronounced it that way, until I wrote a note one day reminding him that it was pronounced as if it was spelled f-e-a-r-y.
Or, as Louise pronounces it - and others who speak English with more grace than we do - fury as in fur(y)ious.
Every time I see Fury - or fury - mentioned in a movie or in a headline or a book or a new product, I get a bit of a thrill out of it. It's the little things in life.
The latest comes from the Mad Max movies. The new one - which won't star Mel Gibson, Tina Turner or a Thunderdome - is likely to be called Fury Road. The plot remains unknown. But it will almost certainly involve violence, post-apocalyptic wars, heroes, midgets, dust, villains and a kick-ass chase involving cars and cycles on something called...Fury Road.
The New York Post is known for its creative headlines - "Headless Body in Topless Bar", "Ho No" (Spitzer scandal), "Stinko de Mayo" (Yankees loss on May 5). But from a selfish standpoint, the ones I enjoy most are when they throw a fury into a headline, which seems to happen two or three times a week. It's a perfect tabloid-headline word, like thug or perv. "Fury fueled by emptiness." "Britney's Fury" (accompanied by Britney Spears attacking a car with an umbrella). "Hill Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned." (Hillary Clinton story).
For Christmas one year my mom ordered "Fury Basketball" sweatshirts from the CBA's Fort Wayne Fury, likely setting the team's one-day record for merchandise sales. She passed them out to all the big basketball fans in the family, meaning pretty much everyone. As far as I know, no major professional sports teams have been nicknamed the Fury, but the Detroit Fury played Arena football. In classic Arena League trying-too-hard fashion, the team's logo probably produced more seizures than cheers.
If an expansion team in any major pro league ever takes the nickname, maybe the franchise will give me lifetime season tickets to all the games, in some type of ill-conceived goofy promotion.
Perhaps the most famous Fury in the culture is William Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury. Not sure how many people have actually read the classic book, but that particular phrase has worked itself into popular culture and the minds of newspaper copy editors everywhere. It's particularly handy when writing about loudmouth wide receivers who are also angry with their role in the offense.
Salman Rushdie wrote Fury. Thankfully, no Fatwa's were issued after its publication. According to an anonymous editor at Wikipedia, "this is considered to be the least known Rushdie novel." Hey, don't blame the title.
The Fury by John Farris is a famous novel that Brian de Palma turned into a movie.
There's a heavy metal band from Australia called the Fury.
The most dangerous Fury in history was the killer Plymouth Fury in the movie Christine, based on the Stephen King novel.
And everyone knows Lassie, but how many baby-boomers remember another heroic animal? Fury was a beloved stallion starring in a show of the same name from 1955-1960. Featuring Peter Graves, pre-Mission: Impossible, the show's plot usually "involved a guest star who got into mischief, was rebellious or disorderly and got into trouble because of it, and subsequently was rescued by Fury."
I never saw the show. But just from that description - and the name - I have no doubt that Fury the beloved stallion would have kicked Mr. Ed's ass.
There are Furies everywhere you look, but in its plural form, the word and name loses some of its edge. Even if Furies were mythical creatures.
Military forces understand the word's ability to intimidate. The British had something called the Hawker Fury, an aircraft and apparent partner of the Hawker Sea Fury. The U.S.'s invasion of Grenada in 1983 was called Operation Urgent Fury. They could have saved the word for a takeover of a larger country.
It's not like I picked Fury for a name, so I can't take any type of credit for it. But I still enjoy it, the way it sounds and the images the word sparks. If I was an angry person it'd be an even cooler last name. Or perhaps people would say I was just the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy, that my inner rage and outward hostility were the fault of my last name. And I credit my parents for the Shawn portion of the name, and thank them for not going the e-a-n route.
Fury. Still sounds cool.
In fact, Louise claims she married me just for the last name. Guess the Fargo gas-station attendant was right.