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Long Story: Teachers With Unfortunate Last Names

July 5, 2020

He can’t concentrate because some kid in the front row is picking his nose. (image via wikimedia)

When I was growing up, I had some teachers with funny last names.  In junior high I had a math teacher named Mrs. Butte.  She insisted her name was pronounced “Bee-Yute” like the word “beauty,” but she wasn’t attractive at all.  If she had been a hot chick with cleavage, we might have pronounced her name correctly.  But she wasn’t, so we didn’t.

There was also a social studies teacher named Mr. Dick (and his name was pronounced exactly like it was spelled).  Nobody made fun of Mr. Dick.  You would think a guy named Mr. Dick would stay out of teaching because of his last name, but nobody ever made fun of him.

Mr. Dick was an old man who had cool tattoos on his arm (none of them looked like his last name).  He had been teaching for decades, and everybody in town had grown up knowing Mr. Dick (or knowing about him), so nobody thought anything about his name anymore.  He was just an old man named Mr. Dick.

There’s no way to prove this, but my junior high was probably the only school that had both a Mrs. Butte and a Mr. Dick.

Then in high school I had an English teacher named Mr. Faggins.  Mr. Faggins announced on the first day of school that his name was to be pronounced as “Fay-guns.”  I knew my rules of pronunciation and how the double consonant causes the vowel in front of it to have the soft sound, but I was also polite enough not to argue with an adult about how to pronounce his last name.  I’ve always believed that a person should be able to choose how to pronounce his or her name.

Of course, somebody would have to test Mr. Fay-guns.

It was the second day of school, and there was this kid named Tucker who sat in the front middle desk of Mr. Fay-guns’ classroom.  I was in the third desk two rows closer to the door.  Tucker was an annoying kid who got beat up every once in a while (but he brought it on himself, so nobody felt sorry for him).  Mr. Fay-guns was going over classroom rules when Tucker asked a question.

“Can I go to the bathroom, Mr. Faggins?”

Mr. Fay-guns paused and said, “Not now.  And in the future please pronounce my name correctly.”

Mr. Fay-guns continued lecturing about his rules, but a few minutes later Tucker interrupted him.

“When can I go to the bathroom, Mr. Faggins?”

“You will not go to the bathroom as long as you are mispronouncing my name,” Mr. Fay-guns said slowly.

“I need to go to the bathroom, Faggins,” Tucker said.

Here is what everybody who was there agrees about. Mr. Fay-guns thwacked Tucker upside the head, grabbed him, and physically threw him out of the classroom.

Here’s where there is some disagreement.  I think Tucker left out the word “mister.”  Other students said that Tucker said “mister”,” but stressed the “Faggins” so much that it sounded like an insult.  Also, I think Mr. Fay-guns hit Tucker with a dictionary (not an unabridged dictionary, though that would have been really impressive and maybe deadly).  Others insisted it was just a paperback book that had been lying around.  A couple students said Fay-guns open-palmed Tucker, but I heard a clear THWACK, and a slap doesn’t make a THWACK sound.

I saw Mr. Fay-guns grab Tucker by his shirt collar and drag him out of the classroom.  Others said Mr. Fay-guns pulled Tucker by his arm, then armpit, and then threw him out.  A couple guys said Tucker ran out of the room crying like a baby.

Tucker maintained all-year long that he had done nothing wrong and that Mr. Fay-guns had attacked him for no reason.

There is no cell phone footage of the event (which took place in 1980, I think), so it shall forever remain a mystery what exactly happened.

If something like this occurred today, things would be handled a bit differently.  Nowadays if a teacher hit a kid with a dictionary (I stand by my version of the story), the teacher would get fired and probably get sued.  Nothing like that happened to Mr. Fay-guns.  Even better, Tucker got switched to another English teacher.  That was great because we didn’t like Tucker anyway.  But I was a little scared of Mr. Fay-guns after that.

I remember Mr. Fay-guns, not because of his last name (though that helps) and not because he beat up a kid in class (that helps too).  I remember Mr. Fay-guns because something happened in his class one day (nobody got beat up) that made me realize that I could be a pretty good writer.

But it’s a long story.

To be continued in Long Story: The Power of Mediocre Teachers .

This story originally appeared in Dysfunctional Literacy on November 11, 2012.

From → Long Story

2 Comments
  1. Tucker should watch out. His name could be altered for humorous purposes very easily. Just swap the T for an F.

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