USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘last name’
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How to Name Scottish Royalty

Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.

Background: My roommate comes from “a long lineage of Scottish kings and clan leaders of a certain group of isles.”

The Tradition: In Scotland, the ritual for naming a child in a family line, particularly if they’re royalty, is to simply add the prefix “Mc” or “Mac” to the name of the father and make that the child’s surname.

Example: My roommate has an ancestor with the full title Angus McRonald McDonald Sworely, King of the Isles. Thus, he is alternatively know as King Angus, Son of Ronald McDonald Sworely, who was himself at one point King Ronald, Son of Donald Sworely.

(Note: The proper spelling of the surname “Sworely” is unknown.)

Analysis: I found this Scottish process of naming is most comparable to the Vikings’ method of creating the “____son” surname (Ex: Lief Erikson, or Lief, Son of Erik). I put a little research into the claims my roommate made, and the only thing I found off about the whole thing was that the names mentioned above are in fact “MacDonald” rather than “McDonald” (I kept the piece above as is for the sake of putting down what I was told by my roommate).

Life cycle
Narrative

Origin of a Name

D is a 57 year old man. He is a practicing cardiologist at a hospital in the northern suburbs of Illinois. He identifies as American as he grew up in Boston, but he strongly associates with his Scottish heritage as well. D completed his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth University and he attended Cornell University for his degree in medicine. During his studies, both undergraduate and med school, D studied abroad in France two times. While in medical school, D studied at the Faculté de Médecine et de Maïeutique de Lille in Lille, France. English is his primary language, yet he is also fluent in French.

Me: Can you tell me about your Scottish heritage?

D: Well, my last name is Campbell, and it’s, well, the name is Scottish. Um, the name comes from the Clan Campbell.

Me: Do you know what the name means?

D: Campbell, or, well, I guess it was Cambéal if you want to to get specific, which is made up of two Scottish Gaelic words that when put together translate to mean “crooked mouth.”

Me: Why crooked mouth?

D: It (Cambéal) was more of a nickname than anything. It took the place as a surname later on.

Me: But then why were they nicknamed “crooked mouth.”

D: Oh, yeah, well the Clan Campbell wasn’t a very popular group in Scotland highlands. They supported the British government, so the highlanders didn’t really get along with them. Mostly the name is taken to mean, untrustworthy or tricksters, other things alongs those lines.

Me: Why? I mean, can you give me some history?

D:  The Campbell’s were responsible for many massacres, and many people hated for their support of the British government, but I think the most prominent one is probably the Massacre of Glencoe. In the late 1600’s, the British government used their supporters, the Campbells, in a plan to suppress Jacobitism. After spending over a week in Glencoe, taking advantage of the MacDonald’s hospitality, the Campbells killed around 40 unarmed Clan MacDonald men, women, and children. And I visited Glencoe during a backpacking trip with my buddies in college. I remember asking for Campbell plaid. The saleswoman at the shop gave me a dead stare and told me “we don’t sell that here.” There were also signs in some store windows that said “no dogs or Campbells allowed.”

Me: Wow, they really don’t like Campbells there do they?

D: I think Glencoe is a specific case because the massacre was so terrible. I didn’t get the same reaction in other parts of Scotland. For the most part, it was a long time ago and people don’t care so much anymore. I found Campbell plaid pretty easily as soon as we travelled closer to Edinbourgh.

Me: How do you know all of this?

D: My father mostly, and this little green book he gave me. It that talks all about the history of the Campbell Clan. I gave the book to my kids to read as well. It’s important to know where you come from.

D’s heritage obviously means a lot to him, most of it ties into his last name. He knows a lot about Clan Campbell and their history. He has the tartan specific to the Clan Campbell as well, so he is proud of his heritage. Regardless of the questionable things that his ancestors did, the family still has a rich history. He wants his kids to know about their ancestry as well because he passed down the book about their family that his father gave him to his children.

Here is the link to the book D is talking about: http://www.amazon.com/The-Campbells-Campbell-Scottish-Mini-book/dp/1852170360

general
Narrative

Namesake: The Londoner

So my name is Bailey London, and I come from a family that has been multi-generational Angelenos. I’ve lived in LA for a long time, and my great-great-grandfather was born in Latvia and was in the trade industry, and he did a lot of business in the city of London. And they – his friends in Latvia had nicknamed him “The Londoner” because he was going back and forth so much, and he decided to move his family to the United States and they took a little stop in New York, and then made their way out to Los Angeles to start little Jewish businesses that were very typical. And he raised two sons in Los Angeles. Samuel, who’s my great-grandfather, and Milton, who’s my great-uncle. And Milton – Zevudnik – decided that he wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor in Los Angeles. And Milton Zevudnik applied for admission to the University of Southern California. And at the time there were quotas – how many Jewish students were accepted every year. And Milton Zevudnik was not accepted. To the USC. So he came home and he was really upset, and he thought, “Y’know, I’m really qualified. I know I’m more qualified than other people who got in to school.” And he decided that everyone had always called his father “The Londoner” and he was going to go to city hall and change his name to Milton London. So he went to city hall, changed his name to Milton London, and then he was a little bit concerned that the university would do some snooping into the rest of the family. And he convinced his brother to change his last name to Samuel London. And so everyone became the Londons instead of the Zevudniks. And Milton applied to med school at USC as Milton London and got in. And became a very successful doctor and was really instrumental in the formation of Cedar Sinai Medical Center and he had his academic success and growth at USC, which originally did not want him to come to school here based on the fact that he was Jewish. And I love that many people in my family have now gone to school and graduated from USC, myself included, and now I find my career at USC. and I’m very appreciative that my name is Bailey LONDON, and not Bailey Zevudnik, although I do keep this story very dear to my heart. I really connect to this story because I think it shows a lot about the community in Los Angeles and the community at USC, and the way a family that didn’t get into school here is now a part of the professional team.

Who told you this story?

It’s been passed down – for YEARS I heard about how, “Don’t go to USC. They didn’t let Uncle Milty in” and that my grandfather – so, the son of Sam is my grandfather – isn’t that a movie? – so he’s my grandfather – he went to UCLA. So even more reason that they didn’t want me to go to USC, but my grandmother on the other side went to USC. And when I got in it was a big deal –  “YOU KNOW, THEY DIDN’T LET MILTY IN at first” and it was a big thing in our family. I always knew this story – and I actually told this story at my job interview because another thing about my name is people always assume I’m not Jewish. Because Bailey London does not sound very Jewish. Which I hate when people say. And they asked me in my interview – which I actually thought was inappropriate – and I told this story. And I made a joke that they owed me the job now. Because of what they did to my family. Clearly it worked.

I have heard many stories among Jewish families about how their name came to be the way it is – I’m accustomed to Ellis Island/arrival stories, since there’s one like it in my family. It is not uncommon for Jewish immigrants to have had their names changed to “sound less Jewish.”

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