Ambiguity is a silent relationship-killer

Ask me anything, if you do not understand me. I’ll try my best to be clear and honest with you.

Why is it so hard for you to return the favor so that I can get clarity about what’s going on between us?

Do not give me hints. Do not force me to decode the meaning behind each hint so that I can take a stab at piecing the hints together, so then, I can take my first pass at guessing the full meaning of what you actually want me to know.

Or, go ahead, force me to fill in the blanks and watch me guess wrong about your intentions every single time. Then, when you get frustrated for not feeling understood and I get frustrated for all the worry I put into whether or not I correctly deduced your true feelings, watch our relationship dissolve.

Why do people choose ambiguity over clarity, even though it is aggravating and people say they hate it? Because the only way to combat ambiguity is to ask and answer questions.

But most people would prefer a good shocking with a car battery attached to their toes (thank you visual image that won’t leave my mind since seeing Slumdog Millionaire yesterday) than to ask or address questions.

I have annoyed plenty of people in my life by asking lots of questions. None of my relationships were immune and I paid a shocking price for them, from parental scoldings, to employer skepticism to boyfriend reprimands. I ask questions to show interest and get a clearer understanding of the situation. It hurt when my questions were treated as an imposition rather than as keen interest in the person or topic.

It took me decades to figure out why most people detest questions.

A question is a surprise that does not give us time to shield our insecurities and fears. If you ask a question, you might seem dense because you don’t immediately know the answer. If you are asked a question, it might force you to reveal more about yourself than you were willing to reveal and that makes you feel vulnerable and angry. Either way, negative emotions emerge around the act of questioning.

You have to feel pretty damn secure in your intelligence to ask the CEO, who is known to prefer the “fog of war,” to clarify what he means when he orders layoffs and a restructure of the department, but then offers no further direction. You first weigh the pain of receiving his judgments against your dire need for more information so that you can perform your job.

If you ask, you risk hearing his newfound negative opinions of you:

1] You must be stupid to not understand his direction
2] You must not be competent to perform the task
3] How dare you question his authority? Maybe you are not his ally and he was wrong to promote you?

What’s my point?

I am certain that we would live happier and healthier lives if we were not forced to frequently play these guessing games with the people who impact our lives — our colleagues, friends, and lovers.

Sure, asking for clarity can feel like a difficult conversation to have. But, so what?

Ambiguity is a cop-out. People talk a lot but carefully omit their honest remarks about the way they feel or what they want from you. Then, they throw the ball into your court and force you to do the hard work decrypting their code. It conveniently becomes your fault if you guess wrong.

When I look back on my relationships that felt the most frustrating, they all failed because I lost the stamina to clear up the ambiguity between us. I am not afraid to hear the truth. If you try to communicate clearly with me, you will own a piece of my heart and my eternal respect.

If you hide your feelings about me or the status of our relationship, you give me nothing real to grasp. It makes our relationship feel vague and uncertain and not worth our precious time that could otherwise be filled with the serenity and happiness that comes with a relationship full of honesty and clarity.

I am not asking for a marriage proposal. All I ask for is clarity — from all of my relationships, personal and professional. Shouldn’t you?


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Find Meaningful Relationships in Unexpected Places – Take A Sound Match To Go

I recently heard a conference panelist complain that he didn’t know half of the “friends” in his network.  He wanted the ability to discover the one or two people that would add meaning to his life.  I practically jumped out of my seat and screamed “I can help you do that!”  But I kept my mouth shut, because at that moment I didn’t know how I would make A Sound Match mobile — so the meaningful relationships that were buried inside a person’s ever-growing network could bubble up to the surface.

But now I do.  Last week, the badge program launched.  It’s also known as A Sound Match To Go.

Everyone who takes the music quiz can display a Music Personality badge to help discover meaningful relationships with people in unexpected places on the web, for friendship or dating.

This is the Music Personality badge for Diamonds in the Rough

The Diamonds in the Rough badge

Put your Music Personality badge on your email signature, blog or social network profiles, because:

1.  You could meet someone really special. Get matched one-on-one with our Lookup Engine. A 4-note match means you are most likely to get along.

2.  You have a higher likelihood of getting along with people who belong to the same Music Personality group as you.

Take the quiz. Then, get your badge here.

Two scenarios to illustrate how and why displaying a badge can change your life.

Scenario 1 (for friendship):

You buy a bike from a seller on Craigslist.  During your email exchange, you notice a Music Personality badge on the seller’s email signature.  He is a Diamond in the Rough, just like you.  Because two people who belong to the same Music Personality group have a good chance of becoming friends, you invite him along for your group ride that weekend.  Turns out, you two have a lot more in common than biking.  This guy, formerly a stranger, becomes a great friend who accompanies you on the next ten backpacking trips you take and lets you temporarily move into his apartment when your girlfriend asks you to leave yours.

Scenario 2  (for love):

You are searching for someone special to date.  You display your Music Personality badge on the sidebar of your blog, figuring the law of averages will reveal at least a few readers who are single and possibly compatible with you.

Soon thereafter, you get an email from a fan with a witty comment about your latest post.  The email also includes the revelation that she used the matching engine to check the likelihood of your compatibility and it revealed a 4-note match, which means you two have the highest likelihood of compatibility.  Alerted to the likelihood that you two could get along well, you keep the email exchange going, when otherwise this reader would have been a passing blip on your radar.  Turns out, that was a good decision because her last email revealed she is single, age-appropriate, gender-appropriate, and lives nearby.  She invites you to be her Facebook friend. She’s cute! So, you invite her out for coffee.  The rest is history.


What happens when your badge is clicked?

The person who clicks your badge is taken to the music quiz to discover Music Personality and then use the Lookup engine to see how you two Sound Match.

Expect to hear from people with your Music Personality and from people who are ranked by our matching system as having a good or high likelihood of compatibility with you (indicated by three or four green notes).

Need help breaking the ice? Send a music email “Notecard.” More info here.

How A Sound Match works

A Sound Match is a compatibility system based on the theory that two people who like music the same amount have a higher likelihood of compatibility.  A short quiz identifies your interest in music and lands you into one of the four Music Personality groups.  Members of each group are likely to get along well.

Also, the matching algorithm pits two quiz scores against each other to see how strong a match there is between a couple (based on 15 years of research).  Every match is ranked from a “high likelihood” down to “risky.”

Break the Ice with a “Notecard”

Send a music email with full-length songs or albums inside – for free – to any email address.

On your music profile inside A Sound Match, add music to the first playlist (called Get to Know Me). This playlist always travels inside your ASM messages.

Send the email from the “Messages” tab on the top navigation bar after you login. You can either type in a username or the person’s email address. Send a Notecard anytime to anyone.


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A Notecard to play

Happy New Year.

To play an hour’s worth of the music I loved listening to in 2008, click the notecard.  Enjoy.

~ Lynne

A music notecard

A music "note"card

[The image opens a web page on Rhapsody.  For instant free listening, click the “play now” link below the sign-in section.]


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Music Personality Baby-Naming

Years ago, I needed a relevant way to identify the four types of music listeners that I believe exist in the world.

Back then, I called them Devotees, Enthusiasts, Ambivalents and Apathetics. I suspected the latter two groups might not appreciate the name-calling, so I needed neutral names, not knowing how these labels would be later used for

Each group’s label had to meet these four criteria:

1. It had to be the title of a (great) song.

2. The song had to lean more toward love and hopefulness than toward heartache and despair.

3. The title of the song had to be a noun so that I could pluralize it when referring to the group of members (e.g. Diamonds in the Rough, Hearts of Gold, etc.).

4. The majority of the artist’s fan base had to belong  to that particular Music Personality.

Unchained Melody, a Righteous Brothers song, was chosen for people who prefer music as a backdrop and don’t bring much of it into their lives, otherwise called “music apathetics” (although, usually not publicly). The music of the Righteous Brothers, and soft-ballad artists like them, is right up the alley of the music listening that Unchained Melodies tend to do.

Shining Star, by Earth, Wind & Fire, was chosen for people who like the hits. Shining Stars like it when music is playing, and usually that happens when other people took the initiative to play something. Accordingly, I call them “music ambivalents.” They are satisfied with the popular music of the day or they have holed up inside classic rock. Either way, you’ll find fans of of Earth, Wind & Fire in the Shining Star group.

It was tougher to choose labels for the next two groups of music lovers. I needed songs that were hip enough to describe these music fans yet still met the love/noun/fan criteria.

Heart of Gold, by Neil Young, was chosen for music lovers who appreciate the intelligence and mastery of Neil Young’s music. Hearts of Gold are “music enthusiasts.” They like being introduced to new music and have discerning taste. Hearts of Gold also have some renegade in them, not unlike NY. They are active music listeners yet they don’t go insane if their music collection is not readily available to them – like Diamonds in the Rough do. I struggled with this group’s label because the title seemed, well, corny. After a long while of searching unsuccessfully for substitutes that met the criteria, it stuck.  Now, I like it.

Diamond in the Rough Read More »


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Can Music Personality Predict Compatibility?

If you haven’t noticed, you get along better with people who like music the same amount as you.

In my world, Music Personality defines how much you like music – not what you listen to.

Take the quiz and learn your Music Personality (at A Sound Match). Four groups exist. Are you a Diamond in the Rough, Heart of Gold, Shining Star, or Unchained Melody?

So maybe the Music Personality monikers sound fluffy and meaningless. But their underlying meaning packs a punch.

The Music Personality & Compatibility System

The Music Personality & Compatibility System

Anywhere a person lands on the music spectrum is perfect and not important to finding a match.   What makes all the difference is where we land in relationship to others.  We want to meet people who land closest to us on the spectrum because we will have similarities that matter most for our relationships to succeed.

Diamonds in the Rough are passionate about music. They can be described by the following traits and social behaviors:

• Unconventional, resist the mainstream
• Non-conforming, more apt to take social risk
• Open to new experience, explore social unknowns
• Choose life off the beaten path, edgy

You will see less of these traits, the less a person cares for music. When you meet Unchained Melodies, who are apathetic about music (but believe otherwise), you see differences in personality between them and Diamonds in the Rough. This is how they are different…

An Unchained Melody has a hard time understanding the social, lifestyle and intellectual needs of a Diamond in the Rough.

An Unchained Melody might think that vacationing on a large cruise ship to the Caribbean is exciting and relaxing but that renting a cabina in a remote town of Costa Rica is dangerous and not worth the trek. Or, he might believe that condo living with new carpeting and square walls is sleek and comfortable but not see any charm to living in an old Victorian with slanted hardwood floors, a split bathroom and 10’ high ceilings with intricate moldings. And, Unchained Melodies might choose bestselling fiction and never wish to get past the first ten pages of a Tom Robbins book that requires suspension of disbelief, intense concentration, plus a big dose of patience for character development (all his books are worth it).

Music tells us with whom we can travel, live in housing we like, banter on the same intellectual level, discover the unknown, and more. Doesn’t it make sense that we can also use it as the readily available and effective filter to help us find the right person?

We all listen to music and have a Music Personality. Our interest in music tells the truth about us.

Take the quiz now.


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When to Pull the Plug?

The Realtionship Issue:  How long do you stay in a new relationship before pulling the plug?

Almost worse than being in a bad relationship is being in an okay relationship that’s enjoyable-enough but deep down you know this person is not the love of your life.   How long do you give it before admitting that this is as good as it gets?

David has been waiting eight months for his girlfriend to show him that she adores him and wants to live the life of romance he envisions.  He is over 40 and excited to find his life partner.  Because she is Asian and he is not, she explains that her cultural upbringing affects how she displays affection and generally deals with her relationships.  David is a considerate and compassionate guy, and he likes this girl, and so is willing to learn how to manage the cultural differences.  But, it’s taking a long time. On top of it, the financial crisis has put much stress on her work life, so he wants to demonstrate his patience (one of his finer traits) and not rock the boat too hard by demanding that she let him know now what she wants from their relationship.

My response:  What are you waiting for? 

On the one hand, you are a king for exercising kindness, patience and consideration.  This makes you a real catch in the eyes of many women.  I say free yourself to find one of those women rather than wait any longer for your girlfriend to come around into seeing your gifts.  After eight months together, she knows if she is or isn’t in love with you.  Love overlooks cultural differences.   What should be your most important consideration is whether you feel happy in your relationship.  And, you don’t sound happy about this one.

Clearly, she likes being with you, evidenced by dating you exclusively for the past eight months.  But I see that it’s one of two issues for her and neither is pretty.  Either, she is not self-aware enough to know her true feelings for you and whether her cultural upbringing is or isn’t impacting them.  Or, she is afraid to hurt your feelings, to let you down … to fail after all this time of trying.

Really, we know pretty quickly if we see long-term relationship potential with someone new. But after being single for a while, we like the idea of finally being in a relationship.  And, if it’s not awful then maybe there will be greatness to it … somewhere down the road?  Nope.  I am convinced that, at the beginning, you should be hitting green lights down the relationship road.  The occasional yellow is important so you two can catch a breather, get perspective on where you are headed, and then move forward if it feels good.  But, often stopping the journey at the beginning to work through a bunch of red flags is never a good sign for a lasting relationship.  In fact, I would say this is the biggest clue we get telling us to let go.

During our conversation, David noticed a pattern in his relationships.  He said he usually finds himself waiting for his girlfriends to chart the course, to open up to his romanticism, to decide if they should be together for the long haul.  He recognized that he deserves the romantic relationship he wants and he should not wait for his girlfriends to decide whether or not they accept his terms.  Hopefully, he will honor his needs and won’t keep trying to fit the square pegs into the round hole.  You cannot expect people to change.  They rarely do.  However, you can expect and control your happiness.

I know it’s hard to let go when it feels pretty good now.  I fall victim to it, too.  But, do you really want to trade a life of passion and love for “pretty good?”  Do you want to look back and ask yourself why you wasted another eight months with the wrong person – when the clues were there from the beginning?  We need to become better students and learn from the School of Relationship Hard Knocks.  We need to remember that nothing is more important than that we feel good. What are we waiting for?

This post was transcribed from a conversation with a client of IntimiDating, a new call-in service brought to you by A Sound Match. IntimiDating is on-the-spot problem solving of troubling relationship issues that require an instant ally to listen and offer solutions to help you feel relieved and confident about your next move. All calls are received by Lynne, the founder of A Sound Match. More more info email Lynne.


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A visual to help understand your compatibility with others

Music Personality & Compatibility Spectrum

Music Personality & Compatibility Spectrum

The image above illustrates A Sound Match’s compatibility system. You are more likely to be compatible with someone who lands near you on the spectrum.

After you take the quiz, your Music Personality is revealed on the website and inside our welcome email. Are you a Diamond in the Rough, Heart of Gold, Shining Star or Unchained Melody?

You have a high likelihood of getting along with people who belong to your Music Personality Group. And, if you land on the cusp of your Music Personality, you will also get along with people in an adjacent group. In fact, it’s possible that you could get along best with someone who lands in an adjacent group but who scores within a few points of you.

For instance, Diamonds in the Rough are most likely to be compatible with other Diamonds and least likely to be compatible with Unchained Melodies. Or, a Shining Star who lands on the left edge of her group also has a high likelihood of getting along with Unchained Melodies who land on the right edge of that group.

Because your score stays private, the easiest way to learn how compatible you are with another member is to:

1. Look up the person’s username on the Lookup page (under My Matches > Lookup Profile)
2. Look at your list of matches. The ones with the highest likelihood of compatibility show up first.

Take the quiz now. What’s your Music Personality?


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Perfect Stovetop Popcorn. A Tip for Lean Times.

My ideas are fighting each other for attention.  For a long time now I have wanted to write about a variety of issues like explaining my compatibility system, addressing  relationship issues (mine and yours), getting a startup off the ground, and how to feel good despite conditions you wish were different.  I can’t decide between them so I let them all go in favor of the mantra “be here now.”

Despite all the mental activity, my life has been quite simple.  For the last three years, I have been self-funding A Sound Match. When resources are limited you do a lot less. My relationship to consumerism has entirely changed.  I do not buy a thing unless I absolutely need it.  I never dine out (unless graciously taken by a friend).  I don’t buy tickets to events which has killed my ability to see live music. So that I don’t go insane living in a world of deprivation, I find enjoyment in the little things while also perfecting my resourcefulness.  There is always another way to get what you want, like good popcorn.

A bummer about having no discretionary funds is being unable to treat someone you like or buy gifts for the people you love or decline a dinner invitation because you can’t contribute. 

I can’t give expensive gifts.  But I can give tips for living lean that have helped me ward off feeling deprived.  I have accumulated them over several years of receiving no salary while living alone in San Francisco, an expensive city. This tip is my recent favorite. More to follow.

Tip #1:  Perfect Stovetop Organic Popcorn

Requires three ingredients.  Costs maybe 35 cents for a heaping bowl of popcorn for two. Prep time is around 5 minutes.  Equipment needed is a medium to large-sized pot with a lid.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup Organic popcorn, 2-3 tbls Organic Olive Oil, pinch of Sea Salt

Heat the uncovered pot on medium-high heat.   Pour in oil, heat for a 10 seconds, swirling around the oil to fully cover bottom of pot.  Throw in four (4) corn kernels.  Attach the lid.   Every 15-20 seconds, shake the pot.  Listen carefully.

After you hear all four kernels pop, remove lid, pour in remaining corn with a pinch of salt (to your liking).  Shake the pot so the salt and oil are evenly distributed around the corn.  Attach lid.

Shake the covered pot every 10 seconds.  It won’t take long before you hear the corn popping, and when you do, shake the pot continuously or every 5 seconds or so.   Once three seconds pass without hearing a pop, remove from heat.

Open the lid AWAY from your face.  Enjoy.


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My 5 Relationship Showstoppers

My boyfriend and I broke up a few weeks ago. The relationship was ten months old and I was in love. Although it felt like torture, I could not ignore that abrupt and sad moment when I realized the likelihood was slim that our relationship could survive.

How did I know the time had come? I reviewed the second clause in the contract I made with myself that governs my relationships. (I’ll explain the first clause in my next post.)

“You shall abide by your Five Relationship Showstoppers.”

Showstoppers are things you must have in your relationship to be happy in it. Showstoppers are important to you, because without them, the relationship feels difficult and unfulfilling. With them, the relationship feels effortless (even if it’s not).

My showstoppers:

Deep love
We bring out the best in each other
We can talk about anything at any time

The moment I notice one is missing, I take a closer look at my overall happiness in the relationship.

We each have our own list of things we need to be happy in our relationship. The crazy thing is … very few people consciously reveal these needs to themselves, never mind revealing them to their partners. Most people “wing it” and hope for the best. Sure, it’s possible. But, would you enter a business contract without first deciding what you want from the deal? That people take such enormous risk with their heart is a mystery to me. Why people stay in relationships that drain them of their precious resources, such as love, passion, integrity, etc, is inconceivable.

I admit that my rational self often leaves the room when the survival of my relationship is threatened. Based on three conversations about relationships I’ve had just this week, I know I am not alone here. When you love someone deeply, the last thing you want to do is leave them … even when you know the cost of being in the relationship outweighs the benefits you receive.

No one wants their relationships to end. Because most of us fear this, we come up with all sorts of reasons to turn a blind eye. But really, is it better to be in a difficult and uncomfortable relationship than it is to be single and hopeful that the love of your life is out there waiting to meet you? Not for me.

Showstoppers are about self-respect and holding to your integrity. The concept is a guideline that I created many years ago while I was single and visualizing my yet-to-be relationship. When I hold this fantasy relationship in my mind’s eye, it makes me feel happy and whole. I trust that it will guide me during those confusing times when my current relationship feels out of whack, when I become self-critical and wonder “is it me?”

Showstoppers force us to prioritize our needs.

When our partners are around us all the time, who doesn’t get irked by their idiosyncrasies? Bad moods can escalate minor issues. But you can put these matters into perspective, as long as you know your list of relationship priorities. If your husband suddenly starts smoking cigars at night and you can’t stand it, work it out or let it go if being with a non-smoker is not on the priority list.

Some of my friends don’t like the term “showstopper.” They feel the concept is too structured and not romantic enough, preferring to let love take them on a wild journey. They insist that no relationship is perfect and that by creating their list they might thwart a relationship, and they are not easy to come by! Exactly. No relationship is perfect or easy to come by.

But if we compromise our integrity just for the sake of staying in a relationship, it won’t last anyway. Maybe the term is a bit tough and too business-like. If you think so, then come up with your own phrase that means “my ingredients for a healthy relationship.”

Really, they are “angels of tough love.” Even though my heart and ego might fight to stay longer, my showstoppers force me to stay true to myself.

Yes, it sucks to break up. Who likes to cry for hours on end and suffer through the shock of realizing you are alone … again. But, how much time do we have for a partner who cannot meet our basic needs? It is no one’s fault.

Hold out for true love. It might take longer to find but the wait will be well worth it.


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“Huong Phat” or Why No Relationship Should Go Unsupervised

Mitch was a mess. His girlfriend of two years broke up with him a few days after he proposed to her. He was clueless that his proposal didn’t have a fighting chance. Why did he think proposing marriage was timely while she had one foot out the door?

By the time he asked her, she was fuming after having just finished up her silent series of relationship tests that lasted several months, which were unknown to him but which would prove his everlasting love to her. All of which he failed, of course.

I think it’s mostly a girl thing to give tests for boyfriends to pass. I’m guilty of it myself. But that was when I was young and foresaw an endless string of boyfriends to torment. Now, I am mature and have been home-schooled in “Advanced Relationship Communication” by my live-in boyfriends who were more likely to torment me if I wasn’t clear about what I wanted. So my relationships now are all smooth going without misunderstanding or communication breakdown. I wish.

I believe all relationships need us to supervise them. While two people are getting to know each other, a bigger picture is being painted called “the relationship.” I think it is a good idea to get together, step back and make sure you both see the same image of the relationship. Really, I believe supervision ought to be mandatory for every relationship, at all times, and called the “Huong Phat.”

Some people are intimidated by the Huong Phat concept. You mean I have to make a special time to talk about my relationship when nothing is specifically wrong?!? Exactly.

The Huong Phat is a safe zone. Here you focus on the relationship and say what’s on your mind. We all get caught up in the mundane events of daily life and tend to talk about those trivial matters rather than our feelings, because it’s easier. But who doesn’t have sensitive issues that you really wish were easier to talk about with your partner? Scheduled talks can resolve relationship tension.

For one thing, you don’t have to stress out about finding the right time to bring up something important. You know you’ll have the chance to talk about these matters later, and so you can let them go now and relax. It also gives you time to prepare the kindest way to say something that has been upsetting you, so your partner can hear it without becoming defensive, and you will get the outcome you want. Frustration and anger make us blurt nasty things to our partner because we had been holding back feelings about something else for too long. It feels pretty amazing when there is a happy resolution to a sensitive topic and all because you approached it in a relaxed way and carefully chose your words.

But the Huong Phat is much more than a bitching session. Again, this is the safe zone — where you have your partner’s attention and respect. A lot of people find it difficult to express intimate thoughts. Here, you can feel safe to reveal your private feelings. It’s a good time to talk about sex and your future together. Ask unresolved questions. Anything goes.

Before you end your Huong Phat, you both should agree that you had the chance to say what you wanted. If not, keep talking … at that time or another. Don’t be afraid to get clear about your partner’s needs. It is not about criticizing; it is about respecting and nurturing the relationship. You want the chance to fix it before it breaks beyond repair. If you don’t care, then why stay together? Time is precious.

If the Huong Phat was mandatory then couples would consistently talk to each other about things that matter. A husband would not be surprised to hear one morning from his wife of fifteen years that for a long time now she has not wanted to kiss him and she wants a divorce. Lovers will both know to expect the occasional booty call and think nothing more of their casual fling. And, Mitch would not have proposed. He would have had all the information he needed to see that his relationship was on the rocks.

As for the name “Huong Phat,” I made it up. Under pressure, I took some words off a plaque at a Vietnamese Restaurant in San Francisco while trying to convince my new boyfriend why it’s a good idea to have “check-in” talks. He agreed in concept but didn’t like what I was calling it. Looking up, I saw an important-looking phrase engraved on a plaque and proposed a new name. Thankfully, it stuck.


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