I’ve done a post about meanings of family names, and son-/daughter-of names. This is just a collection of odd/interesting names that can be encountered in North America. I was talking about this sort of thing with “Long”, my ethnic-Chinese, Thai-born co-worker. Asian names have strong bonds to family. Clan name is given first, and member name follows. This is often reversed here on this side of the planet, but family name is always family name, entirely separate from personal names.
Long had a problem coping with a supervisor being named Todd Craig, when I explained that either Todd, or Craig, could be a surname, or a given name. He as easily could have been Craig Todd. I recently met Carson Arthur, whose name rests in the same pile. Arthur Carson is actually more likely.
Names like these often happen when mothers wish to memorialize their surnames, by handing them to their sons (usually), as given names. An old James Garner movie had him as a financial wheeler-dealer/gambler named Cash McCall. Everyone assumed that the money-man had been given a money nickname, until he revealed that his mother’s maiden name was Cash. The famous Western-writer, Zane Grey was born to a woman of the Zane clan who founded Zanesville, Ohio.
The son works with a man named Bradley Joe. He’s on Facebook, but you can’t find him. “Did you mean Joe Bradley?” He also works with Marc Terry. A man named Tom Nobody was roughed up by police in 2010’s Toronto G20 summit. I suspect his name has been translated from another language. Perhaps his distant ancestor was Odysseus, who told the Cyclops that “Nobody had blinded him.”
Side note: After more than three years, the officer charged, was given a 45 day jail sentence. I’ll believe he’ll serve it when I see it. Ten minutes after the case closed, he was out on bail.
Another man with police problems is John Vroom. That sounds like a name he picked out for himself when he was eight, but is simply an uncommon variant of an Anglo-Saxon name which now includes Frum, From, Frome, and the owner of a local printing shop, Froome.
I worked, for a while, with Gerry, Bert, and Wally – all women. Gerry had shortened the archaic Geraldine, Bert had done the same with Roberta, after being named for her dad, Bob, and Wally was a German immigrant named Waltraud.
Hyphenated names came into being in the Middle Ages, when one self-important minor aristocratic family married into another. Smith married Jones, and became Smith-Jones. What is overbearingly humorous, is when the compound name becomes Smith-Smith. It is possible to be born into a hyphenated name but they usually occur nowadays when a certain type of woman gets married.
These gals are usually well educated, and have well-paying careers of their own. Their families often have money and power. Sociologically, they are often doers, running this charity or chairing that board. I had seen a photo in the local paper of nine women, involved with Feed The Aardvarks, or some silly such. Seven of the nine had hyphenated names.
With my usual humorous social acceptance, I told the young lad I was working with, that they’d got their hyphenated names because they wanted to show that they were powerful, modern women, who could take care of themselves, yet weren’t such ugly, nasty bitches that they couldn’t get a man. He plaintively protested that his wife had taken a hyphenated name when they married. Intrigued, I asked him why.
The answer was that, she had written her University paper under her maiden name, and wanted to maintain it, in case anyone wished to contact her later. Not being one of my favorite co-workers, I told him that there were two problems with that. Nobody cared in the first place, and nobody cared now. She took E.C.E., Early Childhood Education. She was a baby-sitter at a day-care facility. You don’t need two names to do that. Nobody’s going to follow up to get your opinion on disposable diapers.
Another male co-worker had been adopted as a baby, taken away from a pair of druggie-drunks, and given his adoptive parents name. When he turned 21, he managed to locate his birth-father, who had significantly turned his life around. He loved and respected his foster-parents, but wanted to get to know his bio-dad. They remembered only the loser from 21 years ago, and raised an outrageous, continuing fuss. He became so disenchanted, that, when he married, instead of his wife taking his (adoptive) name, he took hers.
We gave our daughter a single, hyphenated first name. Since we had an extra one lying around, we gave our son three first names, partly to honor my maternal grandfather. She only uses the first half. In fact she’s adopted an archaic diminutive. Son never presents the third name because it’s not needed, and just confuses clerks. It’s the clan name which, like the above, can be used as a first name.
The most extreme I’ve seen so far is a woman in the paper, with a hyphenated first….and last, name. She’s Marie-Elizabeth Richards-Collinson. She has to order checks as big as Publisher’s Clearing House, to have room enough to sign.
Charles Dickens’ works are inhabited by a plethora of strangely-named people. Fortunately few of these names seem to have crossed the Atlantic, and have mostly died out in England. The English still have strange, multiple-lettered names which they can spell – but not pronounce. James Bond once pretended to be a Mr. Saint John-Smith, which he insisted was pronounced sin-jin-smythe. Featherstonehaugh becomes either festun-haw, or fanshaw. Pemberton shrinks in the wash to become pembun, and Chumondeley is pronounced Chumly.
Out at the edge of town, near a plant nursery I sometimes take the wife to, is a mailbox with the name Hawthornthwaite on it. Some day I’m going to work up the nerve to leave the wife spending money on gardening supplies, and walk up and ask just how they pronounce it.
I’ve still got some strange names lying around. Any of you guys got some weird ones you want to trade?