The Man Formerly Known as Sanford

The other day, I read an article about a news anchor whose photo was mistakenly captioned as “Dana Horsewomen” (in place of “Dana Holgorsen”), either someone’s idea of a joke, or the result of an autocorrect feature on crack. This reminded me of the following:

Sometime during the ‘90’s, a professor at Arizona State University (my alma mater) appeared in the university’s faculty directory under an incorrect name. Due to a typographic error, Dr. Sanford Couch became “Snaford Couch.”

Here’s the remarkable thing: For whatever reason – indifference? amusement? – Dr. Couch kept the new version of his name. Whether he made it legal or not, he’s gone by “Snaford Couch” ever since. Not only does he continue to appear in the directory as “Snaford” year after year, but he took it a step further and has it written that way on his professional web site. I love him for this.

I mean, how many people would think to become the error rather than have it fixed?

Maybe I should have contacted Dr. Couch to get his permission to talk about him in my blog, but I don’t think he’d mind. This is not me making fun of him. This is me writing a little tribute to him, because here I am throwing a fit if someone spells my name with a “Ch” or ends it with a “y.” When someone writes my name, I always say it’s “Kristi with a ‘K’,” like the K is such a big deal. Next time I feel compelled to prevent such an error, I should think of The Man Formerly Known as Sanford.

Snaford Couch is the man.

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8 thoughts on “The Man Formerly Known as Sanford

  1. Hey,
    I had Dr. Couch as well at ASU for several Russian classes. Great guy, used to invite the class for a pancake breakfast at his house once per semester.

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  2. I love this anecdote! This fits my mental image of him… I mean, I’d figure Dr. Couch for the sort of guy who’d do things like that. =) Very cool. Yeah, there are some great professors at ASU.

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  3. In the mid late 80s, Sandy changed his name deliberately transposing The N and the A. Sandy always had this pet nickname for himself, Snafy. He was going through some personal issues at that time and decided that this change was a good laugh presented to the world.

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  4. Hi Carl, thank you for sharing this!… clearly, Sandy is a legend (or, the story of how his name became “Snaford” became ASU urban legend). =) I love that he changed his name in order to make others laugh; what a terrific way to help manage a difficult time in one’s personal life. Those who know (knew?) him are lucky… we should all be so lucky to know someone with an outlook and attitude like his!

    ~Kristi

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  5. Dr. Couch was a professor of mine as well in the mid-90s. I stumbled across your blog trying to look him up again and felt compelled to contribute. I never knew the story of “Snaford” but was always curious about it. A wonderful and very compassionate person with a terrific sense of humor — he was one of my favorite and most influential teachers in 10 years spent at ASU in undergraduate and graduate programs. I enjoyed many good conversations and ping pong matches with him during pancake breakfasts at the “tsar’s palace” over the years. The world is a better place because of him and I do think he would find your small tribute amusing.

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  6. Thank you for commenting to my post; I loved reading about some of your fond memories with Dr. Couch. People like him are the people who can restore our faith in humanity in the darkest of times. These memories are priceless. And I’m so glad that you think he’d enjoy my little tribute. =)

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  7. I had Dr. Couch back in 1966-67. Wonderful guy; wonderful teacher. I must confess that the callow indifference of youth cost me my opportunity to really learn the language at the time. No matter, what I did make the effort to learn has stayed with me all these 50+ years, even earning me compliments on my accent. And, Slava Bogu, I still delight in the paslovitzas Couch so deftly used to keep us engaged and help us think in Russian.

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  8. Hi Bill, by all accounts, Dr. Couch was a well-loved and respected professor; I would have enjoyed taking classes with him. To begin with, it takes a special sort of gift to be a good foreign language teacher, and he seems to have had that and then some. The fact that you’ve remembered his lessons years later (with a good accent to boot!) says a lot! Of course, it also says that you studied well and perhaps have an aptitude for the language. =) Thank you for your comment.

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