When I was little, I didn’t understand that you could change a few sounds in a name or a phrase and have it mean something entirely different. When I told teachers my name was Benna and they said, ‘Donna who?’ I would say, ‘Donna Gilbert.’ I thought close was good enough, that sloppiness was generally built into the language. I thought Bing Crosby and Bill Cosby were the same person. That Buddy Holly and Billie Holiday were the same person. That Leon Trotsky and Leo Tolstoy were the same person. It was a shock for me quite late in life to discover that Jean Cocteau and Jacques Cousteau were not even related. Meaning, if it existed at all, was unstable and could not survive the slightest reshuffling of letters. One gust of wind and Santa became Satan. A slip of the pen and pears turned into pearls. A little interior decorating and the world became her twold, an ungrammatical and unkind assessment of an aging aunt in a singles bar. Add a d to poor, you got droop. It was that way in biology, too. Add a chromosome, get a criminal. Subtract one, get an idiot or a chipmunk. That was the way with things. When you wanted someone to say ‘I love you,’ approximate assemblages—igloo, eyelid glue, isle of ewe—however lovely, didn’t quite make it.
Lorrie Moore, Anagrams