Maybe it started when a Goodspeed married into our family, or maybe it's just my fascination with names that started my most recent pastime. Or, most likely it was the virus. During these months of covid confinement and constant reading, I began jotting down dozens of interesting names that before had just blended into the news or books I was reading.
We usually don't think too much about names unless they are hard to read or pronounce or are real showstoppers. Probably the most famous example of a shocker is Ima Hogg, daughter of James Stephen Hogg, who was governor of Texas in the late 1800s. Contrary to legend, she absolutely did not have a sister named Ura. And then there was Ernest Raper, the buyer of some property we owned, whose name was an example to me that sometimes family pride trumps temptation for a legal name change. And who wouldn't do a double take when being introduced to Harry Legg or Ita Buttrose?
Mr. Legg and Ms. Buttrose are not alone in bearing a body part, including private parts, as surnames, but I won't wander off in the weeds mentioning some of those. So far in my reading, I've come across Foote, Shoulders, Hand, Head, Bone, Toe, Finger and, my favorite, Kneebone. While we're on bones, there are the names Bonesetter, Bonecutter and Pettibone.
Combination surnames are the most fun to find, especially since I just like to collect them, but not wear myself out being academic about the whole endeavor. If you really want to get into more serious research, Ancestry.com has history on many of these names including maps of family migrations across the country.
It is interesting how many names end in "man" or "son," but I've not found any that begin or end in "woman" or "daughter." For example, there's Plowman, Sparkman, Spearman, Saltman, Wiseman, Gassman, Ladyman, Workman, Goodman, Fineman, Bowman, Waxman, Keeperman, Boardman, Schoolman and Krogman. "Krog" means "pub" in Swedish, but I don't know if a Krogman hangs out at pubs or owns them.
The sons I've noticed so far seem to be willingly claimed by their fathers as evidenced in the names Richardson, Johnson, Robertson, Dickerson, Robinson, Hobson, Anderson, Crowson and Whitson. Not to put too fine a point on all this, but you'd think these guys had these sons all by themselves. If anyone finds a female name like Joanson, or even more unlikely, Harrietsgirl, please send it to me along with where you found it. The closest names I've seen giving any credit to the gender that gets to do the labor, birthing and usually most of the child rearing are Motherwell and Longmaid. I know from striving to mother well and trying to not be the maid to those being mothered, the profession is seriously undervalued.
Wine has been appreciated enough through the ages for folks to be named Wineland, De Wine, Allwine and Redwine. Speaking of spirits, Goodrum needs his or her place at the bar (perhaps one owned by Mr. Krogman) alongside the heavenly named Godbeer family.
This newspaper's fine outdoors writer, Flip Putthoff, might be interested to learn that off in this world there are others of the off variety. So far I've come across Offit, Doctoroff, Davidoff and Cassoff.
Colors and shades also pop up frequently in names. Whiteside, Whitehouse, Whitehead and Whiteacre contrast with Greenberger, Greensit, Greenfield and Greenwood. I've only found one Blueglass, but black turns up in Blackwell, Blackburn and Blackmore. Lightbrown and Brownback are the only two brown combination names so far. And the name, Luna Silverlight, is by itself two word poetry.
There must be some wonderful stories behind names that have been around for generations and which have changed in meaning, pronunciation or translation. And there are stories about the creation of newer names, Crescent Dragonwagon and Adam Fire Cat being notable local examples.
Here are a few intriguing others: Plumtree, Treeyard, Sawhill, Sunshine, Waterhouse, Waterfield, Rainwater, Drinkwater, Badham, Burnham, Goodenough, Goodkind, Goodfellow, Dayringer, Derryberry, Morningstar, Madewell, Goodyear, Bookbinder, Bookout, Grandjean, Woodhouse, Woodside, Woodruff, Woodburn, Cheatwood, Underwood, Hellwig, Mantooth, Beachboard, Butterworth, Fairbrother, Stringfellow, Lightheart, Lightfoot, Speckhard, Littleproud, Overstreet, Shoemaker, Teachout, Outhouse, Outlaw, Trublood, Youngblood, Breedlove, Lovegrove, Fulilove, Goodhope, Shotwell, Warbelow, Wildroot and Merryweather.
There are many more, but my current favorite finds are Anthill, Shortsleeve, Samenow, Coldiron, Quackenbush and, the winner, Pluckrose. After all, plucked or not, Shakespeare said, ""What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Amen.
Fran Alexander is a Fayetteville resident with a longstanding interest in the environment and an opinion on almost anything else. Email her at [email protected]