I Before E Except After Beer

duke-kahanamoku-on-outrigger-canoeby Ned Steel IV

I’ve been accused of being a member of the Grammar Police and I won’t deny that I’m a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to people using “to” in place of “too” or “your” in place of “you’re” or the misuse of everyone’s favorite trio, “there, their, they’re”. I try to let it go, chalking it up to people being lazy or just not paying attention, but when people start butchering names, my eye starts to twitch.

While perusing the social media craft beer group message boards, I often see Fritz Rahr’s beloved family brewery spelled out as Rarh or Rhar or the ever confusing Rawr. What are we, a pride of lions? I wonder silently if Fritz twinges when he sees this or if he just brushes it off since its probably been happening to his family for generations. But what about Michael Peticolas? Having recently sat down with Michael and his lovely wife, Melissa, I got a little history on the Peticolas name. Knowing what naming their brewery with their family name means to them, it makes MY head hurt when I’m looking over a tap list and read Peticola Seasonal. Really?! I see you have the local Peti Cola on here but I was wondering if you had any aged Crystal Pepsi Cola hidden in the back of the cooler? Some might explain it away as a limit of characters on the menu layout. Those explanations would be rebutted by the next line reading New Belgium Fat Tire. Count the letters and you’ll see that the argument of “not enough space” gets torn to shreds. People that use their own names for businesses want it carry a connotation of respect and recognition. Would it kill you to spell it right?  

Trust me when I say, that my name has been misspelled online, on legal documents, on letters, and in life in general more than you can count. I grew up in a pretty small town in Florida and while my last name isn’t that uncommon it still managed to cause mass confusion among my peers growing up. Coincidentally, there was a local car dealership operating under the name of Bob Steele Chevrolet. MY name is spelled without the extra ‘e’ on the end. From as far back as I can remember, people would ask me, “Oh, so your dad is Bob Steele…can you get me a good deal on a car?” Early on you’d probably get a glare followed by a “no, that’s not how you spell my name” along with an inaudible cussing but over time I got used to it and just ignored it externally but internally I knew my name meant something to me and wished people would take the time to correct themselves before speaking or writing. After all, I’m the fourth person in my family with the same name. Ned Steel…the original…well maybe not the original in the history of names but nobody says that they’re John Smith I or John Smith the first. That’s just silly. But I digress…Ned Steel was a pretty cool dude. He hung out regularly with Duke Kahanakomu (brief history on Duke K: he was a Hawaiian-American competition swimmer who was also known as an actor, lawman, early beach volleyball player and businessman credited with spreading the sport of surfing and was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming). They made a movie together and Ned was a bit of an artist and made a pretty famous poster that featured Duke. Ned’s nephew, my grandfather, was a pretty cool dude too. Ned Steel II spent his early career in the oil refinery business and then later in life had a hand in the building of the Chinook helicopters.



This has come full circle for me because my best friend, CW3 Tom Dansbury, is currently serving for our country while being deployed in Iraq as a Chinook pilot so learning this about Ned II was pretty cool. In his retirement days, Ned II was a candle maker at a small trader’s village in New Jersey and two of the last candles he made were used in my wedding ceremony and still sit on my dresser at home. Ned II’s son, my dad, was (is) the coolest. Just ask any of the thousands of high school kids that passed through his classroom door while teaching them how many L-U-M-B-A-R you have or how long a pig’s intestine was or the crowd favorite of “sit down the bell is never finna to ring”. It never got old to be out with him whether it was at the mall or a Friday night football game when someone would yell, “Yo Steel!!” and he’d wave and give a thumbs-up. Ned III retired after 30 years of teaching but still educates by running field trips at the wildlife refuge near his home. Why am I sharing this family history with you? Because names are important. If I was Ned Steele IV then you might think I could get you a deal on a Silverado but my last name is Steel. A name I’m proud of. A family name. A name I continue to try to make as story worthy as the Neds that came before me.

I wish I could say it is just about spelling but I’ve been both a patron in a bar and an employee near a bar where too often I hear, “Can I try that Rabbit Foot beer” or “How long has Tupperware been out” or “Do you have FireWheel’s 4 on tap”. Names are important…spelling is less important unless you’re OCD about it like me but it is still important. Slow down, take a breath, put the i before e where it belongs…unless we’re talking about that tasty German bier.

Ned Steel IV – apologies in advance, to myself, if I made any spelling or grammatical errors

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