Surely something comes to mind, no matter who the person is.
Throughout my whole life, I have always visualized a noun or idea whenever I hear anyone’s last name. Maybe it’s just me that does that. But I felt that the habit was worth expanding on. So I asked my facebook friends what they thought of when they hear my last name, which is Shell- the German adjective for “loud and noisy”, originally spelled “Schel”. Their responses can be found at the very end of this post.
Then to demonstrate my thought process, I returned the favor:
Johnson- Johnsonville Brats
Rogers- a 1950’s milkman
York- the state, not the city
Clements- the Clampetts from the Beverly Hillbillies
Majer- the sitcom Major Dad
Kregenow- a city I made up in Michigan, that is only said best with a Midwestern accent
Hegar- Sammy Hagar
Alexander- Alexander the Great
McElhaney- Scottish people and GI Joe’s
Hardin- German people who love friend pickles
Welch- Welch’s grape juice
Creel- the Tori character from the final season of the original Saved by the Bell, played by actress Leanna Creel
Jenkins- Fat Albert and the Junkyard Band
Chapman- Steven Curtis Chapman, the Christian singer
Britt- a member of a British glam-rock band from the Eighties
Wilder- Gene Wilder, the Jewish actor who played the original Willy Wonka
Gordon- the singer Gordon Lightfoot
Part of my writing style is that I almost always try to bring the topic to a close by ending with some sort of ironic twist. So here it is:
How did we get last names in the first place? There are basically three major ways. First, the name could be referring to the town of where one of our ancestors lived: A common trait of Scottish last names is that they end in “ton”, which means town. So “Pinkerton” means “from the town of Pinker”. Second, the name could be recognizing an ancestral father or father figure: A common trait of English last names is that they end in “son”, which implies “son of”. So “Davidson” means “David’s son”. Similarly, Irish last names often begin “O’”, which also implies “son of”. So “O’ Conner” means “son of Conner.”
Thirdly, and most interestingly, the last name is referring to an adjective or physical trait that an ancestor was known for. Like the last names Short, Brown, Swift, Freeman, and Blessing. Notice how many Jewish last names refer to monetary wealth: Goldberg, Silverman, Richman, Diamond, and Sachs (as in “sacks” of money- though the actual reference is to a city in Germany, it’s still an interesting coincidence). With that being said, my habit of visualizing people’s last names is not a new thing at all. People have been doing this since… well, since people have had last names.
Nick Shell New assignment for you, friends: “What do you visualize when you think of my last name?” (If you answer me, I will answer you regarding your last name, on your wall; as well as tag you in the post when I publish it.)