Learned Foot [pen name] discusses discovering Learned Foote. [
pen name well, blow me down – it’s a real name. Who knew?]
I don’t have that problem, so much – there are actually three Mitch Bergs in the Twin Cities that I know of, and for many years one of them worked in IT. He must have been older than me; while we never met, I knew plenty of people who’d worked with him at Control Data.
My dad, Bruce Berg, had it weirder. There was another Bruce Berg in Jamestown, North Dakota. My dad was a high school teacher; the other one was in Human Resources at the factory on the north hill. To make things confusing, they both lived on the 700 block of 2nd Avenue – one of them on the north side, the other on the south. Every time there was a blizzard, we’d get inundated with people calling in sick; likewise the other Mr. Berg got plenty of calls for help with homework, I’m told. The funny part? In a town of 15,000 where everyone knows everyone, I’m not sure that they ever met.
The top three most maddening things about my name?
3. Oy, Avay: People assume I’m Jewish. Berg is, obviously, a common Jewish surname. As it happens, it’s also quite common among goyim in Northern Europe as well; it’s German, Swedish and Norwegian for “Mountain”; like every goy named Montaña, Montagne, Vuori, Gornik, Núi and Planina, my anscestors were from the hill country. Apparently. It used to cause both yuks and consternation when I was at KSTP-AM back in the eighties; I got the occasional anti-semitic call, even a death threat or two. I’m about as Jewish as a bacon cheeseburger, but this being right after the murder of Alan Berg, I didn’t entirely laugh it off.
2. Punt This: For years – I do mean years and years – I’d say my name on the phone. People would audibly light up; “The Mitch Berger? The Vikings punter?” And no, just because he left the Vikes in 2000 doesn’t mean it’s over; my place-setting at the company Christmas party this year? Yep – the place card was for “Mitch Berger”. Next year I’ll wear a Steelers’ uniform and run with it. As it were.
1. Screw “U”: When I give my name to people on the phone or in person, I usually go “Name’s Mitch Berg, B E R G”. That’s to avoid the one question in the world of which I’m the sickest; “Is that B U R G or…”. In all my years, I have ever once met a single Burg with a “u”. I’m sure they exist, but good lord, they are scarce; there are probably as many people who spell it “Byrg”. There must be 50 Bergs for every Burg in the world. And yet every single time I don’t spell it out letter by letter, I kid you not, people guess “Burg”. Will it never end?
Not a huge problem, obviously. Just had to get it out there.