Category: silly names
Nothing makes my family giggle more than a funny name. We collect and pass them around like prized truffles. My sister and I have practically memorized John Train’s Most Remarkable Names, and right up until my uncle died two years ago, he and my mom would mail each other the choicest newspaper clippings. My dad is content to just make them up, baiting unsuspecting wait staff by tryingto order non-existent cocktails named after his creations. “I’d like an Irving Gafoofnick, please. You know, it’s like a Harvey Wallbanger, only different.”
We retain a healthy appreciation of the difference between first and last name humor, understanding that no matter how silly a last name may sound, it’s asking a lot to turn one’s back on one’s heritage and change it. But even though those names engender a pained “There but for the grace of Ellis Island go I” sympathy, the comic element can prove hard to resist. Consider a recent wedding announcement, in which the groom’s last name was Alternative. Our compassion didn’t stop us from quipping, “The bride, whose first choice was unavailable…”
But we are less inclined to be charitable when there is clearly an element of free will. It’s hard not to smack one’s head in wonder at misguided hyphenates (Scubbley-Butts), ethnic mash-ups (Hadassah O’Donohue), inadvertent descriptors (Rosie Rottencrotch), and encoded sentences (Dorothy Ada Mellon – and boy, was she hungry).