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Hermione Hippo by Kathleen Jacoby

Hermione Hippo was very shy, partially because of her name. She was always teased by the other little hippos in her class because her name was not the same as everyone else’s. Patty the Panther, and Danny the Deer would make faces and say things under their breath when they didn’t think Hermione could hear. But she could. And their words hurt her feelings.

One day, as Hermione walked dejectedly towards the big pond where she liked to wallow in the mud during the hot afternoons, Benjamin Baboon stopped her. “Why so glum, Hermione?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing….except all the other animals in my class tease me because of my name.” And Hermione burst into tears that rolled down her cheeks and made big puddles on the ground.

Benjamin Baboon observed the situation, and with the wisdom that only he was known for, came over and patted her ample neck. “It’s all right, Hermione. I have a secret to share with you about your name.”

Hermione stopped crying at once. “A secret?”

“Yes,” nodded Benjamin Baboon.

Hermione perked up. “What is it?” She could hardly contain her curiosity.

Benjamin Baboon hopped up on the branch of a nearby tree, and Hermione lumbered over to where he sat. He pulled a banana off the tree, peeled it, and as he munched, shared the secret he knew.

“Hermione, all names mean something besides what they appear to be.”

Hermione was confused. “What do you mean?”

Benjamin Baboon looked at her and pulled a blackboard and chalk from the large bag he carried with him everywhere he went. “This will do,” he muttered to himself.

Seating himself with authority as he stashed the banana peel into his bag, he began. Hermione was fascinated and stood very quietly so she wouldn’t miss what Benjamin Baboon had to say.

“Let’s look at your name,” he said. He wrote it on the blackboard. H E R M I O N E.

“I don’t see anything different,” said Hermione, somewhat perplexed.

“No…you don’t. But watch this.” And Benjamin Baboon began taking the letters and making them separate from one another to form other words.


“Now…sound out what you see” he told her.

Hermione looked at the three new words, and she sounded out…HER MY ONE.

“Yes!” said Benjamin Baboon. “When your parents named you, they wanted to let you know how special you were, so they made a statement with your name that you were their one!”

“Ohhhhh” squealed Hermione in surprise! “I never thought my name was special!”

Benjamin Baboon erased her name and wrote his own. B E N J A M I N.

“Now,” he said, “How would you work my name?”

Hermione looked at the name. She walked over to the blackboard and giggled as she wrote, BEN JAMIN.

“Right!” said Benjamin Baboon. “I be one jammin’ dude!” He pulled out a set of bongo drums from his sack and played a little tune. Both of them laughed as they jiggled to the beat.

Hermione thought about everyone in her class and wanted to figure out how to look at their names. Benjamin Baboon told her that it didn’t have to be an exact fit…if there was a sound present, she could inject a letter to make it complete.

“What names do you want to look at first?” he asked.

Hermione thought this was fun. “I want to look at my friend Bridgit Beaver.”

Benjamin Baboon wrote her name on the blackboard. B R I D G I T. “Okay…take it away Hermione,” and he handed her the chalk.

She looked at the name, and exclaimed. “Oh, this is easy! B R I D G I T is Bridge It. She is ALWAYS making bridges over places in the river!”

Benjamin Baboon smiled and swayed with the beat of the bongos as he continued playing.

Pretty soon, Hermione was writing other names on the board. “Benjamin,” she said. “Can I do anything else with names when they don’t seem to make any sense?”

“Ah, good point, Hermione! Yes, you can. You can take the letters of the name and change them to make other words if you want, or add letters to fill out missing ones. Be creative. Let your imagination flow. Let’s see what you come up with.”

“Okay!” Hermione was enjoying herself. This was fun!

Before long, Hermione had written a list of names and their meanings on the board. If the letters weren’t always exact, she would play with the name and see what other sounds were there that made sense.

Benjamin looked at her choices, and laughed heartily. Here is some of what he saw:

My Friends:

Percy Porcupine: P E R C Y = Piercy. Percy has quills and they pierce you if you make him angry or scared!

William Wombat: W I L L I A M – Will Yum! William LOVES to eat!

Jennifer Ermine: J E N N I F E R= Gee, Nice Fur. Jennifer is very, very soft!

Not Friends:

Patty Panther: P A T T Y = Petty! She can be very mean, but she also wants to be the teacher’s pet.

Dennis Deeer: D E N N I S = ?

Benjamin Baboon pointed to the last name on her board, Dennis Deer.

“What did you decide about him, Hermione?”

“I don’t know what to think,” said a perplexed Hermione. “Because when I look at his name, it comes out that Den is dear – but he is not!”

Benjamin Baboon thought for a moment, and then made a suggestion.

“Hermione, maybe you just haven’t had a chance to really get to know Patty or Dennis. I have an idea.”

Hermione always liked ideas. She perked up again, waiting attentively for what Benjamin Baboon had to say.

“Why don’t you go to school tomorrow and at recess show the other kids what you are able to do with names. I’ll let you take the blackboard and chalk with you, and you can return it to me after school. That way, you may find that some of the kids that you thought didn’t like you really just didn’t know you very well. Let’s see how that works—are you willing to try?”

Hermione thought for a moment and was excited to think she had something special to show the other classmates.

“Oh, yes. I can do that!”

So, Benjamin Baboon strapped his blackboard on to Hermione’s back, and off she went.

Next morning when the first recess bell rang, Hermione gathered with her friends in the playground and many others from her class joined them as they saw the blackboard and wondered what was happening. Soon they were giggling and squealing as she showed them what their names meant according to Benjamin Baboon.

Dennis Deer had joined the group, and Hermione was very nervous as he asked gruffly what they were doing. She took a deep breath and then showed him his name and what it meant according to Benjamin.

All the animals looked at him, waiting for his response, and just as they thought he would say something sarcastic, he giggled. “I never knew my mama and papa thought that about me!” Dennis was very pleased, and thanked Hermione for letting him know what his name meant. He nudged her softly with his muzzle and told her he’d like to know her better. Naturally, Hermione was delighted and the two began talking like long lost friends.

Patty Panther, who had been sitting all by herself, wondering why her friends were wasting time with Hermione, crept quietly up to see what was going on. Dennis saw her, and called her over.

“Patty…come see what Hermione can do!”

Not sure if he was waiting to make fun of Hermione, Patty strolled over smugly, inching through the group to see what the hippo was up to.

Patty snarled at Hermione. “So,” she said in a most unbecoming tone of voice, “what can you do?” She waited for everyone to laugh at her sarcastic remark, but no one did. Instead, everyone talked at once, stating what their names meant. Patty listened, and was surprised at how enthusiastic all the classmates were about what they heard.

“Alright, Hippodrome…so what does my name mean?” Patty waited with a bored look on her face, and Hermione swallowed hard, wanting to run away and cry. However, she slowly wrote Patty’s name and then did the same thing she had done the day before.

P A T T Y = Petty Panther who also wants to be the teacher’s pet!

Everyone laughed uproariously at the interpretation of Patty’s name, and Patty looked horrified, shrinking very low to the ground. It was the first time she had ever been the object of ridicule, and it didn’t feel very good. She slunk out of the group and hid behind a tall tree at the end of the schoolyard, waiting for recess to end and the bell to ring.

After school that day, all the kids wanted to walk with Hermione. Her status had changed dramatically since she showed everyone what their names meant. However, Hermione wasn’t feeling very good about herself. She didn’t like that she had made Patty feel as badly as Patty often made her feel.

Patty was slinking away from school all by herself, and Hermione saw her as she passed the exercise field.

“Patty!” Hermione lumbered over towards Patty, who had stopped and looked around to see who called. Patty was very wary as Hermione came up to her. She expected Hermione to do what she herself would do, but Hermione didn’t. Instead, she apologized.

“Patty Panther, I am sorry that I hurt your feelings. I didn’t mean to do that, and want you to know that I’ve been thinking about your name all day.”

Patty was very surprised at Hermione’s gesture of kindness. She began to cry, which was highly unusual, and told Hermione that she was also sorry for having caused Hermione suffering.

“I have learned how it feels to be made fun of, Hermione. I am so sorry I said things that hurt your feelings.” Patty moved closer to Hermione, and nestled her head on Hermione’s ample neck.

Hermione was very touched by the response. “Patty, I looked at your name again, and in the way Benjamin Baboon showed me, I found another meaning for your name.”

“You did?” Patty looked up cautiously.

“Yes.” Said Hermione. “If we look at your name and add a different letter it becomes, Pretty Panther who loves parties.”

Patty was overjoyed. This was such a nice interpretation of her name, and she felt that Hermione had been gracious in doing this.

“I’ve learned a lot today, Hermione. Thank you so much for sharing both interpretations of my name. It’s up to me to be the best of myself, and I intend to do that. Will you be my friend?”

Hermione nodded. It made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and tears of happiness rose up in her eyes because it was more than she ever imagined could happen.

Benjamin Baboon had sensed all along what could be possible if Hermione reached out to two of the animals that didn’t know her very well and judged her solely on her appearance. Through the exercise of looking at names, Hermione had been given the gift of something special that she offered to her classmates. As a result, they felt special, and were grateful to her for taking time to let them know what their names meant.

Hermione and Patty ambled towards home together, chatting non-stop, and on the way dropped off the blackboard and chalk for Benjamin Baboon, who smiled knowingly.

“Thank you, Benjamin”, chorused Hermione and Patty together. “You have helped us to find out we were meant to be friends all along, even though we didn’t know it!”

Benjamin Baboon waved them on, and once again jumped up to his favorite branch in his favorite tree to eat another fresh banana and hum a merry little tune of satisfaction.

What’s in a name? Benjamin Baboon showed us how to look at names, and we can play with our names on a blackboard or piece of paper just like Hermione did. What does your name mean? How can you change it with letters or spaces to make it say something about you? Is there more than one way to look at your name? Are there choices in your name like there were for Patty, or is it more like Brigit – clear and to the point? What about the names of your friends, sisters or brothers? You can do this with any name, so have fun!


kathleen_jacoby_thumbKATHLEEN JACOBY is a writer, associate editor of The Inner Voice Magazine, Blogger, and consultant. Her contributions are in the realm of inspiration and she spends her spare time reading, writing, and putting jigsaw puzzles together.

You can read her work on the following websites:
Seasons of the Soul Newsletter –
Numbers by Design:
Journey to Raw: