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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

What's in a Name?

I have mentioned a little bit on this page about my ancestral roots on the French side of the family. I have yet to explore my German heritage in any serious way. I suppose this is because I tend to gravitate to the French side for many reasons: I look French; I have studied French since tenth grade; I love French culture in general; I love how they go crazy over a bicycle race every year; cheese is good; wine is good.

I began the study of my German heritage by exploring the meaning of my German name. As you may already know, most European names are derived from a person’s occupation. My name in the original German form means not the actual guy on a road construction crew who waves cars by with a flag. Not that guy, but the guy who traditionally stands next to the flag guy, leaning on a shovel and regaling the flag guy with stories about how drunk he got the night before, and how he probably could have scored with some chick except he got thrown out of the bar before he could close the deal. The English translation, I admit, is a bit long-winded but the Germans—sticklers that they are for details—actually have a word for this guy, and that word is my last name.

It is probably a good thing that the people in my family got thrown out of Germany in the early 1900’s. Had they been around for the Nazi era who knows where these idlers would have ended up, probably either in a camp, or promoted straight to the top. They came to America and continued their ignoble traditions. But let’s face it; compared to Nazis, being simple white trash is a badge of honor, an honor I wear with pride and a certain degree of distinction.

At one point in my life I made a very half-assed attempt at learning German. It just didn’t seem to suit me. I have spent a considerable amount of time, money, and effort exploring my Mexican roots although my relatives keep telling me that no one from our clan hails from there. I think that it is only fair that if a German, a Frenchman, or a Mexican can come to this country and declare himself to be American, I should be able to learn French or Spanish and call myself a citizen of those places.

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