You can call me ‘Chris’

The profession of journalism has some odd quirks you should know about.

They are odd enough in print journalism; in television journalism they are downright bizarre. When I was a newspaper reporter in Greenville, S.C., I made friends with many of the TV reporters in our market. They told me about their generous “clothing allowances,” which was a stipend they were paid every month to keep them looking snappy.

But I was always most amused by their names. One reporter, Anthony, had come to South Carolina from an East Coast market. He had Italian blood, and his first employer was in an Italian market, so they told him his name was “Tony” and he was encouraged to talk and dress “more Italian.”

In South Carolina, the only Italian food is at Fazoli’s, and so they told him to be “Anthony” and to “drop the ethnic stuff.”

After a couple years Anthony left South Carolina for a job in Chicago. One of the first questions at the interview: “Can you be a Hispanic?”

So Anthony had to go by a different on-air name. This time something “Hispanic.”

Over on the print side, we are more boring, but we do have a thing about our names.

I started training for the profession in eighth grade. Getting a spot in the journalism class was tough because if you were admitted, you got to skip Spanish classes. (Wow, was that short-sighted on the school’s part.)

To get in, you had to have good grades (my grades were OK), and you needed the recommendation of your English teacher. Lucky for me, Mrs. Hatfield liked me. Though I was a mediocre student, I read voraciously. And so did she.

In Arkansas, this is the nice way of saying "kinda slow."

So I squeaked by (a common theme in my life) and was admitted to the journalism class. As part of the class, we published the school’s paper, The Cougar Print, and the students did everything: writing, editing, layout, composition, paste-up and photography.

I was pegged as a writer and photographer, so I was sent to the darkroom to learn the lab processes and was trained to write. The first piece I ever did was probably the most ethically suspect story I’ve ever put my name to, but it turned out to be an important bit of writing in my career.

It was a feature on the editor, Stephanie, who was a candidate in the school’s beauty/scholarship pageant. The story was a total puff piece designed to catch the eye of the pageant judges. I didn’t know better, and I played along.

When I turned in the story to the teacher, she sat me down to have a conversation about my byline. I was told that this was the time when I had to pick my byline, and it would be something I should stick with for the rest of my life, even if I changed my birth name.

I had to carefully consider if I should use my middle name, “Martin,” as my first name. Or if I should use “Christopher M. Schwarz” to look more pretentious grown-up. At the time, everyone called me “Chris,” and they still do. But there was a problem with “Chris.” My voice hadn’t changed yet, and it was really high-pitched. So high, in fact, that people on the phone thought I was a girl.

So I wanted to appear less girly in every way. “Chris” was a girl’s name, so I chose “Christopher.”

But no one calls me “Christopher;” it’s a terrible mouthful of consonants. So when you write, call or see me at a woodworking show, just call me “Chris.”

But whatever you do, don’t ask me if I’m Chinese – another weird and scarring event from my childhood.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to You can call me ‘Chris’

  1. megan says:

    Some call me…Tim.

  2. Chris says:

    I have the same name Christopher, and also go by Chris. There are benefits – whenever someone calls at home or work and asks for Christoper I know they are a solicitor and hangup.
    4 People have called me Christopher
    1) My mom and dad when they were not happy with me. When they added my middle and last name I knew I was up for a whoopping.
    2) My maternal grandmother, always called me Christopher until she passed. It never seemed to bother me and I always responded.
    3) My MIL calls me Christopher 90% of the time even though my wife calls me Chris – This is probably becuase my wife, Kristin was called Kris when she was young.

    For some reason I cant convey we named my son Jr. but call him Christopher to preclude confusion in the house and “big chris” “little chris” moniker. I hate that!

    It is a mouthfull but it is my real name! – Just dont call me francis…

  3. Niels says:

    Oh yeah, its business time!
    Haha- That’s a hilarious photo. It’s amazing, they captured the pure essence of maximum pubescence!

  4. Pingback: My tool chest | Mansfield Fine Furniture

  5. Jeff says:

    Same here, I am Jeffrey only when Momma and Daddy (mostly Momma ) were well and truly upset with me and a pants warming was a’commin… and to the in laws…
    OK now we HAVE to know about look’n Chinese….
    What is going to take Chris… more money? I have already all the books you sell AND a tee shirt…
    (my dog loves it)

  6. Chris says:

    My mother called me Christopher once. Once.

  7. R says:

    When the subject of bylines came up on the first day of my first newspaper photography job, I was told that I should have a middle initial. I’ve been address by my middle name since I was born. My only real option was to go with a leading initial. Twenty-three years later I’m still using that byline. C. Martin Schwarz does have a nice ring I think.

    • Scott S. says:

      I am double cursed. I am left handed and my family used middle names, not first names.

      I’m a sinister lousy woodworker who doesn’t answer to his own name.

  8. Tom Knighton says:

    You know, I wish we print journalists got a clothing stipend, but alas. Of course, I own my newspaper, so I guess I could swing that 😉

  9. Dan says:

    I’m most impressed by the movie quotes. I think it shows advanced intelligence, but I’m am a bit unsure of the first as Johnny Dangerously or Stripes

  10. Lane says:

    …just don’t call me late for supper.

  11. Christopher Fitch says:

    I prefer Christopher…(that’s actually my middle name)….there are enough people named Chris in the world

    I actually don’t answer to Chris. It’s somewhat amusing at work when someone new comes in and calls me Chris for the first time. I politely tell them that I prefer Christopher.

  12. Colin Hayward says:

    Photos like that are why I emigrated.

  13. Don Schwartz says:

    My name’s not Chris. It’s Don. And it’s Schwartz not Schwarz. Talk about a a surfeit of consonants!
    I enjoyed your discolsure. and it gives me the opening I wanted to write and say how much I enjoined (sorry) “The Joiner and Cabinetmaker”. It was great fun!

    You said therein that your father had a chest problem. Me too! And that you are familiar with Regency chests in particular. Me not so much, but I’m trying to catch up. My chest problem is a bow-fronted mahogany chest of drawers which I aim to restore. I believe the bow-front chest is archetypal. And this one seems special to me. It appears to date to the English Regency period (1809-1820 more or less), but was much altered (abused, actually) by Victorians. I bought it at auction years ago because it spoke to me (HELP! it cried). Now I’m retired, and I have time to do something about its many problems. It is pictured here in detail on Galoot Image Central

    It’s a good old chest, not the best, but better than many. I see that in the crotch-grain veneer, the cock-beading on the drawers, the 1/2 inch solid mahogany top, the generosity of its curves, and the attention given to some of its details. But much is missing from the chest, and that is the source of most of my problems with this project. Engaged colonettes once adorned its front corners, but I have no idea how they might have been detailed – Empire inspired? Original brasses are likewise missing. The Arts & Crafts pressed plates once removed, revealed that the original hardware was actually replaced twice – leaving few clues as to what it may have looked like – brass knobs on stems I believe, but ornamented how? Nor are the feet original, being particularly Victorian in style, I gather. What was there before? Columns need something to rest upon, which suggest a ‘stool’ or plinth, possibly with ears like the top, but there may also have been feet below that, perhaps turned bun feet. I have scoured all of the many sources available to me and have yet to find a chest which resembles what I imagine. Have I got it wrong? Nor have I found a source for the 5/64 inch mahogany veneer to replace the missing bits of crossband. So how can I proceed? Any suggestions or ideas welcome at this point, as the project is stalling before it’s really got going!

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