It’s funny what can happen when you throw around industry jargon assuming everyone is familiar with only to find that they are not, in fact, familiar. I’ve written here before about trying to phase out my usage of the terms “middle grade” and “young adult” in store signage and handselling. These phrases tend to be heard as “middle school” and “young adult” (as opposed to 12 years old and up) by anyone not in the book business. And what’s the point of holding on to a phrase that doesn’t communicate what we intend it to?
On a related note, a funny thing happened at the neighborhood ice cream parlor last week. I’ve been running an after-school pop-up there which has, so far, been met with frequent delight and only occasional confusion. One of these occasions involved a very sweet elderly lady who came up to me as I was setting up for the afternoon. Setting up involves moving a fairly hefty sales counter — on wheels, thankfully —180 degrees so that the open side with shelves of books is on display to the room. As I was slowly spinning the purple behemoth that is Spellbound’s pop-up bookshop, this exchange happened.
Sweet Elderly Lady: I just have to ask. What is this?
Me: A pop-up bookshop!
SEL: A puppet shop?
Me: No, a pop-up book shop [gesturing at books now that they’re visible].
SEL: So you do puppet shows about the books?
Me: No, “pop-up,” not “puppet.”
SEL: Oh… so these are all pop-up books?
Also Me: We have all kinds of books, but the shop just sort of pops up for part of the day. Or in different places, sometimes. That’s why it’s called a “pop-up.”
We finally achieved understanding, but our conversation remained firmly rooted in puppetry. This darling woman had been a drama teacher for years (long since retired) and had loved getting the kids involved in puppet shows and told me all about it. It was a lovely conversation, all in all, and now I’m strongly considering a second career as a puppeteer.