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April 14, 2010
Posted at 11:43 pm
 

Why is there a "Bob" in every story?

Sometimes I get asked why there is a guy named Bob in every story. About half the time the inference is that I'm narcissistic, and so in love with myself that I can't stand for some other guy to get the girl.

Well, I hate to burst the bubble of all those who love to hate me, but that's not it at all.

I'm not even the only person to name everything Bob. Take the time to paste the following link into your web browser address box and listen to the story. Be patient, because you're going to think you're not interested in this story. But it has a bearing on this Bob phenomenon. Trust me. Once it loads, all you have to do is listen. It plays automatically.

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=125997095&m=125997483

There. I'm not the only one. There's just something about the name Bob that strums the strings in the chest, or wherever the strings are that make one feel homey and calm.

You're not buying this ... are you.

OK. Here's the real deal.

I used to think up new names for all the guys in my stories, but then, mid story, I'd slip from Dan to Don, or from Jim to John and suddenly I was getting mail from people saying things like "Who the hell is Malcolm and where did he come from? I thought Julie was going to get porked by Mortimer!"

So I had this brilliant idea that I'd just use "Bob" for the protagonist while I was writing the story, because that way I didn't have to try to remember what the guy's name was and then, after it was done, I'd use search and replace and make all the Bobs into Jims or Johns or Dudleys or whatever.

So I did that, and it was great, except that you have to be smarter than search and replace. Because while every Bob might become Beaumont, all the Bob's were still Bob's and all the "Ohhh Bobby, don't ever stops" were still ... well you get the idea. Readers notice stuff like that.

So one time I just got frustrated and left it Bob. That worked, and my motto is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," so I did it again. And Uncle Bob was born, and he was popular, and it was just so easy to keep doing it, and I didn't have to remember all those hard names like Tim and Joe and Jim. I mean they have three letters, like Bob, but they're all three different letters!

Of course that was all way back when, before I had editors who would notice that Peter had morphed into Paul and tell me what a dufus I am. But I'm old and set in my ways, and it wasn't broke, so I haven't fixed it.

So when you read about Bob in one of my stories, it isn't me you're reading about.

Well, unless he's handsome and hung like a bull. Then it's me, of course. But I'm much too humble to admit it, so we'll pretend it isn't me.

No, it's just some guy I dreamed up and was too lazy to give his own unique name to. My muse finds these guys, but she won't tell me their names.

That's why I call them Bob.

I loved that NPR story. I'm going to start calling all my friends Bob from now on.

Thanks for reading.
Bob