Saturday, September 22, 2012

What's in a name.

Back when cameras used film I was a camera nut, complete with darkroom in the basement for developing and printing.  I had no qualms about describing myself as a “camera nut”.  Even today it’s not unusual for someone to describe themselves as being nuts about something

 Take Jay Leno.  You can almost hear him describe himself as a car guy or car nut.

The descriptor ‘nut’ is often used in context of someone so involved with some aspect of their hobby they skip meals and sleep to continue with their obsession.  There are some magnificent obsessions and unfortunately some very unhealthy obsessions.

The problem with being a gun nut is one of political correctness.  

I hate PC.   But I have to admit that I really don’t want the association with the next malcontent nutcase who shoots up a women’s clinic or library ‘cause he knows nobody is able to shoot back.   While the media may describe him as a “troubled youth,” or suspected gunman, everyone else calls him a nut with a gun and that’s too close to gun nut. 

Describe yourself as a gun nut to a reporter covering any event, including the sack race at your church, in an attempt to put a human interest spin on your interest in firearms, and you’ll find yourself written up as “self-proclaimed gun nut”.

So what can we call ourselves?  It’s been suggested we try gunny.  It’s a nice term with no negative connotations and still conveys a degree of accomplishment with firearms.  Unfortunately it’s also the nickname for Gunnery Sergeant.  I’ve never been in the military and would not bestow an honored rank on myself.  It’s just wrong.

Gun Lover?  The term is just too oily and makes me feel I need a shower.

Jeff Cooper perused the Latin roots section of the dictionary and came up with hoplophile, or a lover of tools.  I like the concept of the gun as a tool because I see each gun as a self-rescue tool we use to stabilize the situation until the professionals arrive.  The professionals?  That’s the police.

I think I would spend too much time explaining what a hoplophile is.  Most of us do not have Jeff’s ability with words.

Gun aficionado has possibilities, but doesn’t reach the levels of commitment that some collectors and owners have. 

Gun geek.  I like that, but I remember when geeks were smart but socially awkward people.  This is nicely stereotyped by Big Bang Theory.  The socially adept character is clueless about science and math while the scientists live in a comic book graphic novel world debating who would win a fight between the Hulk and Superman.  Not the image I want.

Dilettante sounds too superficial.  

Dabbler sounds silly, like you’re unable to make a commitment. 
Gun junkie?  Well, only if you shoot only cheap guns like a Raven or some other pot metal frame guns.  

Connoisseur?  I like the way that’s sounds, a gun connoisseur.  I’ve known one who shot only classic 1911 .45 ACPs with pre-1945 magazines and only on sunny days with less than 64% relative humidity. 
I take that back.  Connoisseur sounds too much like someone who knows everything about something but does nothing with it.

I used to raise pigeons.  I still have a soft spot for those big, clumsy birds.  Several of my friends were also pigeon fanciers.  We had our own ideas about which blend of seeds and ground seashells made the best feed.  Bedding material, nesting material and not to mention the variety of pigeons and cross-breeds made for interesting and loud discussions.  In fact those conversations sound very much like the ones I have with other gun owners today.

I propose, if you need to identify yourself as more than a concerned gun owner, try pigeon fancier.  I mean gun fancier.  It’s a nice neutral descriptor with no negative connotations.

Why is this important?  

Let’s go back to the Russian revolution following WWI.  Lenin’s party called themselves the Bolsheviks or majority even when they were the minority.  People accepted it at face value and joined what they expected to be the winning side, the Majority.

That’s a fluke, you say.  I have a second example.

A former boss of mine was rewarded with a “personal size lab” for specialized analysis.  The lab consisted of him, his assistant and one microscope.  The central lab had about 20 different microscopes and a staff of 7 people.  We found it humorous and poked fun at it by calling the smaller, poorly equipped lab the main lab while the large more equipped lab was tongue-in-cheek called the satellite lab. 

Imagine our concern when management and our internal customers started calling the smaller lab the main lab.  I’m quite sure we lost resources and budget because of our language humor.
In our society names still have power and ability to shape public opinion. 

Watch how you describe yourself and your relationship to firearms.  You may find yourself hung with that name and its meaning.

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