A column in search of a name

The last time I started writing a column, the first thing we had to do was come up with a name.

It was late in 1999 and my editors had proposed that my weekly column would debut in the Billings Gazette on the first Sunday in 2000. To find a name, I indulged in a blue-sky exercise, which involves coming up with as many ideas as you can as quickly as you can. You are supposed to turn off any filters, too, giving free rein to your unconscious mind.

The result was a lot of bad puns, some juvenile word associations, a few inside jokes and several rude or vaguely obscene titles.

And one keeper: City Lights. My editor Tom Tollefson and I both thought it had a nice ring to it. I was the city-beat reporter at the time, for one thing, and Billings was more or less this island of city lights on the vast prairie of Eastern Montana. And then there was “City Lights,” my favorite Charlie Chaplin movie, and the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, that incubator of the Beat movement and all its offshoots.


Not that any of these things had occurred to me when I scribbled down the name during my blue-sky exercise. And it wouldn’t matter if none of those associations occurred to readers. Tom and I simply liked it, which made for a unanimous vote.

I still have the hand-written list of possibilities, running down three pages of a pocket-size reporter’s notebook. Here they are, in the order in which I wrote them down, with explanations where they seem necessary:

From the Rims
Roughing It
War and Peace
The Bible
Montana Musings
Big Sky Baloney
All That Fits
Ladies and Gentlemen … Ed
Patter from Pari’s Pap (Pari being my youngest daughter.)
Variations on a Theme
Pits ‘n’ Feces (This was a play on Bits and Pieces, Roger Clawson’s long-running column in the Gazette.)
The Tattler
Random Ruminations
As I Was Saying
Miscellaneous Musings
Trivial Pursuits
Up North
A Place Called Home
A Guy from Minnesota
You Bet
The Last Best Space (A prescient nod to my current adventure!)
Flying Column
A Little Wisdom…
Miles from Mencken (That would be H.L. Mencken, the great newspaperman and critic.)
Out and About
Here and There
Now and Then
Yes and Know
Cease and Desist
Far and Wide
Ed the Word Blacksmith
Salutations, Pedophiles! (A reference to public radio’s Chrysti the Wordsmith, who would sometimes open her segment by saying, “Greetings, Verbophiles.”)
Hammers and Tongs
Each to His Own
One Man’s Beet
Wretched Wordplay (I was disappointed with myself, apparently.)
On the Loose
Loose Talk
Sturm und Drang
But Seriously, Folks
None but a Blockhead (A reference to Samuel Johnson’s famous dictum that “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”)
Secular Sermonizing
That’s All, Folks
Walk This Way
Follow Me
Believe You Me
Forgive Me
Pencil Shavings
Diary of a Half-Wit
Obiter Dicta
Not Bragg (A reference to Clawson’s predecessor, Gazette columnist and Billings institution Addison Bragg.)
Ed About Clawson (I think this was a lame attempt to play on the phrase “Man about town.”)
Clawson’s Humble Servant
The Big Bill
Magic City My Ass
Ink-Stained Wretch
From the Street
In the Gutter
City Lights
City Scene
A Bunch of Ditches Run Through It
Coarse Whisperer
No-Research Bullshit
Deadline Drivel
On My Mind
On My Butt
Views from the News
Ed’s-Eye View
Kemmickal Reaction
Bright Lights, Big City
Below the Rims

So there you have it. If I’m counting right, I had to come up with 63 ideas to reach “City Lights.” I don’t know that I have that many ideas in me at the moment, but I’m going to try blue-skying again to find a name for this new column.

Please let me know if you see a favorite in this list or the one above, or send in your own idea. I will select a name for this new column, which I propose to post once a week, on Sundays, in keeping with tradition. The choice will be completely arbitrary and will be made by me, unless the response is overwhelmingly in favor of one particular idea. And if I do choose a name suggested by a reader, I will come up with some kind of reward. I promise. Here we go:

Prairie Lights
Last Best Fulminations
Last Best Lights
Last Best Space
Last Best Column
Weekly Ed
Weakly Ed
Nearly Dead Ed
Montana Musings
Montana Murmurs
Montana Viewpoint
Big Sky, By and By
The Bakken’s Humble Servant
The Other Side of the Divide
Roche Jaune Jottings
Rimrock Rambles
Trailhead Trivialities
Treasure State Treatise
Treasure Trove
Pleasure Grove
High Plains Perspective
High Plains Patter
Plains Talk
Plain Talk
Thoughts from the Ancient Sea Floor
Rim Lights
Dim Lights
Yellowstone Connections
Yellowstone Meanders
Lewis and Clark … and Ed
Home on the Range
Where the Antelope Play
Elk River Revels
This Here’s Montana
Montucky Musings
Just Below Canada
North of Wyoming
West Dakoty
Oro y Plata y Ed
High, Wide, Handsome and Home
Just in from St. Paul
Trail Blazer
Trail Headings
High Plains Guidepost
High Plains Cairn

So let me know what you like, or what you’d suggest. You can leave a comment under this column, but if you don’t do Facebook or for some other reason want to keep your comments private, drop me a line at edkemmick@lastbestnews.com



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