The Origin of "ewhac"

1998.07.29


Half the questions I get about my username ask where it comes from. The other half ask how to pronounce it ("EH-wack"). Like most things having to do with me, the story is complicated and silly.

Back in high school (which is far longer ago than I want to admit), I had elected to do a video as my Civics class project. Our high school at that time was fortunate enough to have a small video studio, with three cameras and a switcher. The title card we had in the studio was one of those grooved fabric affairs with movable letters, like you see in some older restaurants and hotels. I had put the name of the video on the card, with the by-line, "BY LEO SCHWAB" (we only had capital letters for this thing).

During one of the rehearsals, I faded up the title card, and found on my screen the card had been changed. The letters had been rearranged to read, "BY BOLS EWHAC."
"All right, who's the wiseguy?" I demanded.
"I did it," said one C.H. Sommers, a friend I had recruited out of German class for this video. "It's your Swedish moniker."

After the "Bork, borks" died down, I fixed the card and continued with the rehearsal. Nothing more happened with it for a long while.

Dissolve...

About two years later, at community college, I found myself in the middle of a Tolkein-esque email flame war. Back then, I had the ability to kill flame wars with one rather long and (usually) well-reasoned post. So I sought to put this to the ultimate test, and proceeded to write a piece of completely derivative Tolkein-esque fiction -- a direct rip-off of The Hobbit -- which I entitled MicroSaga. I needed a name for the main character and, remembering my experience with the title card in high school, decided to name the main character Bols Ewhac, and patterned him after myself. Taking the letter-scrambling idea to ridiculous extremes, I took the names of other people in the computer lab, scrambled them, and came up with character names (you'd be surprised how well this can work). When I had about 45K of text written, which comprised the first two chapters, I mailed it off to the group.

To my utter surprise, everyone liked it. Even when I pointed out its similarity to The Hobbit, they didn't care. They wanted me to write more. It eventually got to the point where people were asking to be written into the story, going so far as to hand me already-scrambled versions of their names.

The process of writing MicroSaga helped unite our lab group in a weird sort of way; for lack of other sources, it gave us an identity. It also began to give me an identity, as my rigidly perfectionistic self, which caused me all sorts of social problems throughout school, began to fall away and get replaced with a far more easy-going personality. So Jon Foreman, the system administrator, heartily approved when I asked for my username to be changed from schwab to ewhac.

It has been ewhac ever since. As you might imagine, I usually have no trouble getting that username when signing up for accounts.

MicroSaga currently stands less than half-finished, at about seven installments of 45K each. The most recent installment is over ten years old. I wouldn't mind placing what I have of it so far on my Web site, but the only remaining copies I have of the earliest installments are on an 11-year-old nine-track tape. Nine-track tapes usually die after about three years. I also totally lost track of C.H. Sommers since he graduated from high school, and so have never been able to properly thank him for, as I've started calling it, his high school joke that got out of hand. (If you know of a C.H. Sommers who graduated from San Rafael High School around 1981, and how he might be reached, let me know.)

Oh, yes, there's another bit of fallout from the whole MicroSaga thing. At one of the parties we had for our lab group, we got to talking about MicroSaga, and Jon Foreman (whose character, Naron Mejof, I had given a prominent role in the story) remarked that he might one day like to show up at one of these parties as Naron in a flowing purple cape. So, for his birthday that year, I had made for him a purple cape, embroidered with the monogram "NM." However, when it came back from the seamstress, I was so taken with it that I asked her to make another one for me in blue, monogrammed with "BE."

That was my first cape. I still have it. Several others followed, but that, as they say, is another story...


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Copyright © 1998 Leo L. Schwab. All Rights Reserved.

Leo L. Schwab / Digital Spellweaver / ewhac@best.com