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Groogle

From time to time, people ask me why my mail ID is grog@lemis.com, and not greg@lemis.com. They have made various suggestions, including an unnatural dependency on alcohol (particularly since I started brewing beer again) and the grog(1) program that tries to guess what kind of macros to use with a troff source file. But the name has nothing to do with either of those.

Back in 1985, I was working for Tandem in Frankfurt am Main in Germany. At that time, Tandem had just taken on the daunting task of integrating the United Kingdom into Europe; previously the UK had been part of the Eastern United States, at least as far as company structure went. I found I had a new set of colleagues in High Wycombe, to the West of London.

One of these, Andy Findlay, once sent me the following message:

MSG 16110  FROM:     \NWER.SUPPORT.ANDY         22 MAY 1985, 12:36
           NAME:     Andrew_Findlay @NWER  EXP: 30 MAY 1985
           TO:       \ESSG.SUPPORT.GREG
           SUBJECT:  Judy Milliren: How well do you know her?
Afternoon Greg,
Do you know Judy well enough to ask her to (temporarily) add
Wondo Gonseff onto the TELE list?
Geoff Snowdon is an anagram of Wondo Gonseff.
Andy F.
I thought about this, and replied:
MSG 16111  FROM:     SUPPORT.GREG           22 MAY 1985, 13:42
           NAME:     Greg Lehey @ESSG  EXP: 22 JUN 1985
           TO:       \NWER.SUPPORT.ANDY
           SUBJECT:  Reply to MSG 24545: Judy Milliren: How well do you know h
Well, I know her well enough to ask her, but I'm sure she'll say no;
the only thing I can do is pretend he really does exist.  However, they
need things like employee numbers as well, and I seem to remember them
being required to wait for input from personnel (for obvious reasons,
when you think about it) before adding anybody.

The only thing we could do (easy enough) is write a little obey file
which adds him everywhere.  As soon as I get TELE 2.0 up, I'll give it
a go.
It seems this didn't work. A couple of weeks later I got another message:
MSG 18292  FROM:     \THAMES.SUPPORT.KEITHC       07 JUN 1985, 14:32
           NAME:     Keith_Collings @THAMES  EXP: 23 JUN 1985
           TO:       \ESSG.SUPPORT.GREG
           SUBJECT:  Reply to MSG 18285: PRS errors?
  Greg,
   We're having a small attitude problem with Wondo Gonseff at the moment.
Wondo Gonseff is Geoff Snowdon's new name (an anagram of course).  He hasn't
really taken to the idea at all well, but we (mainly Horace (Andy) and I)
keep trying (very).
   If, in your communication (necessary or otherwise), you could make use
of the new handle in a pleasant and positive way, then maybe he will come
around to it.
      Ned.

I replied:

MSG 18302  FROM:     SUPPORT.GREG           07 JUN 1985, 16:45
           NAME:     Greg Lehey @ESSG  EXP: 08 JUL 1985
           TO:       \THAMES.SUPPORT.KEITHC
           SUBJECT:  Reply to MSG 28946: PRS errors?
Yes, we had done what we could to put it into TELE, but it didn't
work.  I suppose we could put it in the PRS data base...

Grog

PRS was Tandem's Product Reporting System. Since we all worked on TPRs (Tandem Product Reports), our names were in the database, indexed by our employee number. To perform any work on a TPR, we'd put in our employee number and the system would come up with our name: an obvious place to put Wondo's correct name. Interestingly, my reply is the first time I find I had signed myself Grog; looking through the other saved messages, it was just one of several ways I signed in those days.

This time it worked, and a number of TPRs went to the USA having been worked on by employee number 3333 (yes, really), a certain Wondo Gonseff. For some reason, Wondo didn't like this, and not being stupid, he soon decided who was responsible. A day or two later, when investigating a TPR, I found my name being reported as Groggy Leehee. I decided that I might as well accept that, since he had obviously got his own back, and the names stayed like that until the next global update of the PRS database a week or two later.

In the course of time, we each got used to our nicknames. The name Wondo, in particular, stuck, and it was seldom indeed that we ever called him Geoff. My nickname didn't fare as well, but to this day some people still call me Grog.

In 1989, when I started using UNIX mail, I needed a new user ID: my old one didn't match UNIX traditions. I asked for greg, but I was told that somebody else already had that, and that I would have to put up with gregl. I didn't think much of that, so I suggested grog. It has stuck ever since.

Later I started using IRC, and discovered that somebody was using the nickname grog, so I reverted to Wondo's original name, groggy. People seem to like that one; I don't know why. Even later I had difficulty with groggy, and in many places I use the nickname groggle or groogle.

I lost contact with Wondo after leaving Tandem, but finally, in July 2011, I found him again on a social network site. It seems that he has finally come to like the nickname we invented for him decades before.


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