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Old 04-03-2016, 09:27 AM
andrea_green andrea_green is offline
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Is there a term for a person with ambiguous first/last names?

I am wondering what might be the best way to describe someone whose surname and given name could both be interpreted as a first name.

For example: Kyle Maxwell, Duncan Kennedy, Wilson James.
  #2  
Old 04-03-2016, 09:56 AM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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I don't think I've heard it described as anything other than 'two first names'.
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Old 04-03-2016, 10:13 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Plus, couldn't just about any name be interpreted as a first name? Some of the OP's examples are more commonly or more traditionally last names that have been used as first names. (For instance, was anyone ever given the name "Kennedy" before JFK's presidency?)
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Old 04-03-2016, 10:42 AM
Disgruntled Penguin Disgruntled Penguin is offline
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Plus, couldn't just about any name be interpreted as a first name? Some of the OP's examples are more commonly or more traditionally last names that have been used as first names. (For instance, was anyone ever given the name "Kennedy" before JFK's presidency?)

No one in the OP was given the name Kennedy. There was a Kyle, a Duncan and a Wilson. Am I missing something and if so, what?
  #5  
Old 04-03-2016, 11:09 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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Originally Posted by Disgruntled Penguin View Post
No one in the OP was given the name Kennedy. There was a Kyle, a Duncan and a Wilson. Am I missing something and if so, what?
"Kennedy" was chosen as a given name for lots of newborns during / after JFK's presidency. Prior to that almost nobody had that as a given name. IOW, that name became repurposed from being exclusively a family name to also being a given name.

Thudlow's point being that what we think of as a typical family name, or a typical given name, is completely arbitrary and changes over time. To the degree that's true the OP's question is mostly meaningless. Any complete name can be seen as a combo of two names either of which could reasonably be a family name and either of which could reasonably be a given name.

e.g. Taylor was unheard of as a given name in my childhood back in the 1950s. Today every elementary school in the land is positively lousy with cute little Taylors running around squealing at one another.

In countries with formal lists of legally acceptable given names the situation is quite different. The USA is past that silliness and if some ethnic groups are taken as thought leaders on this, soon enough every possible combo of pronounceable syllables will be a valid name belonging to somebody.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 04-03-2016 at 11:14 AM.
  #6  
Old 04-03-2016, 11:49 PM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
Thudlow's point being that what we think of as a typical family name, or a typical given name, is completely arbitrary and changes over time. To the degree that's true the OP's question is mostly meaningless. Any complete name can be seen as a combo of two names either of which could reasonably be a family name and either of which could reasonably be a given name.
It might be stressed that we are talking only about names of British origin. Spanish last names, for example, are distinct and virtually never used as first names; nor do typical first names appear as last names. There are separate ways of forming a last name from a first name, for example:

Gonzalo Gonzalez
Fernando Fernandez
Martin Martinez
Rodrigo Rodriguez

Gomez Addams was exceptional since Gomez would not normally be used as a first name.

Last edited by Colibri; 04-03-2016 at 11:49 PM.
  #7  
Old 04-04-2016, 05:30 AM
Disgruntled Penguin Disgruntled Penguin is offline
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Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
"Kennedy" was chosen as a given name for lots of newborns during / after JFK's presidency. Prior to that almost nobody had that as a given name. IOW, that name became repurposed from being exclusively a family name to also being a given name.

Thudlow's point being that what we think of as a typical family name, or a typical given name, is completely arbitrary and changes over time. To the degree that's true the OP's question is mostly meaningless. Any complete name can be seen as a combo of two names either of which could reasonably be a family name and either of which could reasonably be a given name.

e.g. Taylor was unheard of as a given name in my childhood back in the 1950s. Today every elementary school in the land is positively lousy with cute little Taylors running around squealing at one another.

In countries with formal lists of legally acceptable given names the situation is quite different. The USA is past that silliness and if some ethnic groups are taken as thought leaders on this, soon enough every possible combo of pronounceable syllables will be a valid name belonging to somebody.
Kennedy is not a first name I've never seen in the wild. Now, granted I'm just one person and the stats do bear out that it was in the top 1000 names for a long while, I never saw it and I was born around that time. Since it says "Highest Percentage: 0.012% in 1964" those would be my peers and again, nothing.

It reminds me of Kunta Kinte from roots fame. Kunta was popular for a bit but I've never met anyone who was named it. Heck, it was a one hit wonder but "Highest Percentage: 0.014% in 1977" you'd think I'd have run across it at some point.

None of these lists breaks down regionally and I'd suspect that there is a bit of this going on here. Popular doesn't mean popular everywhere after all.
  #8  
Old 04-24-2016, 05:26 PM
from_a_to_z from_a_to_z is offline
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Somebody from Eastern Michigan University

Quote:
Originally Posted by Disgruntled Penguin View Post
No one in the OP was given the name Kennedy. There was a Kyle, a Duncan and a Wilson. Am I missing something and if so, what?
Quote:
Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
"Kennedy" was chosen as a given name for lots of newborns during / after JFK's presidency. Prior to that almost nobody had that as a given name. IOW, that name became repurposed from being exclusively a family name to also being a given name.
This brings back memories of a former NBA player with the Bulls and SuperSonics, Kennedy McIntosh. Evidently not the Kennedy McIntosh who has the Best Friend Tag with Haylee!
  #9  
Old 04-03-2016, 11:39 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Disgruntled Penguin View Post
No one in the OP was given the name Kennedy. There was a Kyle, a Duncan and a Wilson. Am I missing something and if so, what?
"Kennedy" was one of the OP's examples of a surname that could be a first name. Beyond that, LSLGuy explained my point quite well.
  #10  
Old 04-03-2016, 10:44 AM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
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I was in the Army with a guy named Smith Thomas. Seriously. Since you get called by your last name in the Army, master sergeants and officers wandering casually by would always want to know why we were calling him by his first name. One of his sergeants could never get it straight in his head and always called him "Smith."
  #11  
Old 04-03-2016, 11:05 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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There is an actor named Keith David and another one named David Keith.
  #12  
Old 04-03-2016, 11:12 AM
watchwolf49 watchwolf49 is offline
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From the world of literature, we have a family named Major who named their son Major Major ... who then went on to become a Major in the Army Air Corps in WWII ...

Major Major Major Major ...

Last edited by watchwolf49; 04-03-2016 at 11:13 AM. Reason: Egyptian cotton for Nazis
  #13  
Old 04-03-2016, 08:43 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
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Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
From the world of literature, we have a family named Major who named their son Major Major ... who then went on to become a Major in the Army Air Corps in WWII ...

Major Major Major Major ...
I had a relative whose last name was Major. During WWII, he occasionally would receive mail addressed to Major Clarence, instead of
Clarence Major.

(His first name wasn't actually "Clarence" but it will do for purposes of this post.)
  #14  
Old 04-03-2016, 10:10 PM
MoreyG MoreyG is offline
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Well, for what it's worth: Firsty-Firsty.



http://www.gq.com/story/paul-ryans-s...-firsty-firsty
  #15  
Old 04-03-2016, 10:30 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Well, for what it's worth: Firsty-Firsty.
Good find. It sounds as though the thread is also discussing the parallel phenomena of the "Lasty-Lasty" and the "Lasty-Firsty".

Last edited by Kimstu; 04-03-2016 at 10:30 PM.
  #16  
Old 04-04-2016, 04:33 PM
ruh-roh ruh-roh is offline
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Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
From the world of literature, we have a family named Major who named their son Major Major ... who then went on to become a Major in the Army Air Corps in WWII ...

Major Major Major Major ...
In the late 90's my father put pen to paper and recounted his time as a Navigator in a B-24 during WWII. They were shot down and he survived the jump, but not all did. The German's were apparently fastidious about accounting for all the crew and kept asking him about a fellow crew member whose last name happened to be Major. Language was a problem and every time they asked him about Lieutenant Major he would just reply there is no such rank in the American army. My dad wondered why I found it so funny. I kept thinking it is too bad Lieutenant Major didn't live long enough to get promoted.
  #17  
Old 04-04-2016, 05:14 PM
Colibri Colibri is online now
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Originally Posted by PatrickLondon View Post
(My understanding is that in Hispanic practice, you adopt both parents' surnames, so you wouldn't want another as a given name; but people from cultures who don't might well imagine one or other surname is in fact the person's given name )
The fact that first and family names are for the most part not interchangeable in traditional Spanish (although with a few exceptions as Nava notes) helps to avoid confusion. But it can get quite confusing in a melting pot like Panama, where many people have West Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, or South Asian names. It can be ambiguous whether someone who uses three names is using a first name, middle name, and father's family name; or first name, father's family name, and mother's family name.

Quote:
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And Cameron Díaz's name always cracks me up; apparently she does have a middle name of Michelle. In Spanish-speaking countries, Yésicas are perfectly common for certain ages and socioeconomic strata (in Spain "la Yesi" has become shorthand for women of that specific group), although those living in the US normally spell it Jessica. I've had Latin American coworkers with names such as Nelson or Franklin. I've also known a Rommel, from the Philippines. But except for Ms Diaz, whose name does follow general US conventions, all those fall under the same heading as Anglos using Delores, Chelo or Joya (pronounced Yoya): it's just picking a firstname from another culture, something that's been going on for thousands of years.
Anglo first names derived from family names are common enough in Panama, such as Nixon, Nelson, Robinson, etc, mostly but not exclusively among those of (English speaking) West Indian descent. (Panamanians are notorious for exotic first names, especially grandiose classical ones: Alcibiades, Aladino, Baltisar, Anibal (Hannibal); or from other cultures like Ivan and Omar.)
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Old 04-03-2016, 11:17 AM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is offline
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Fulham FC, a few years ago when they were a Premiership club, had a player called Collins John and at the same time a player called John Collins.
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Old 04-03-2016, 11:26 AM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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When Bruno Hauptmann (Lindbergh baby kidnapper) was in the German army, his commanding officer, a captain (Hauptmann in German) asked Bruno his name. He replied "Hauptmann, Herr Haumptmann". The captain got mad, figuring he was being mocked.
  #20  
Old 04-03-2016, 11:42 AM
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I know a musician in North Carolina named Jones Smith. It's not a nickname, Jones is his real first name. His dad's nickname is "Snuffy."
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Old 04-03-2016, 02:33 PM
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In the world of politics, there's Ayn Rand Paul Ryan Costello.
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Old 04-03-2016, 02:51 PM
excavating (for a mind) excavating (for a mind) is offline
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In my family, and many others, I suppose, there was a tradition to use the mother's maiden name for the child's middle name. This practice could easily result in last names being cycled into first names.
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Old 04-03-2016, 02:59 PM
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In some parts of the USA, it used to be fairly common for the mother's maiden name to be used as the child's given name. Especially if the mother's family was richer or higher-status than the father's family.

"This is my friend, Vanderbilt Jones."
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Old 04-03-2016, 03:57 PM
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In the college rooming house where I lived back in the day, we had one Mark Gary and one Gary Mark.

I've known several of John Nelson and one Nels Johnson.
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Old 04-03-2016, 04:16 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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I met a girl who had the first name of Smith.

It will probably come as no surprise the first names of Rey and Kylo have shot way up in popularity for babies this year.

Meet the Press changed hosts from David Gregory to Chuck Todd.
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Old 04-03-2016, 04:41 PM
Rick Kitchen Rick Kitchen is offline
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The popularity of the first name Kennedy:

A very slight bulge in the early 60s as a boy's first name, although it never reached higher than the 733rd most popular name for boys, but in the current time, among girls, it's the 64th most popular girl's name:

http://www.babynamewizard.com/voyage...th&exact=false
  #27  
Old 04-03-2016, 05:42 PM
N9IWP N9IWP is offline
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<Café Society>
It is interesting that this shows up in comics:
Bruce Wayne
Clark Kent
Peter Parker
Lex Luthor
Wilson Fisk
</Café Society>

Brian
  #28  
Old 04-03-2016, 05:51 PM
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Funny, I was thinking about this the other day and how many people who I know like this. It's very common!
  #29  
Old 04-03-2016, 06:00 PM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackmannii View Post
When Bruno Hauptmann (Lindbergh baby kidnapper) was in the German army, his commanding officer, a captain (Hauptmann in German) asked Bruno his name. He replied "Hauptmann, Herr Haumptmann". The captain got mad, figuring he was being mocked.
My First SGT in Basic was 1st SGT Burgess. There was also a Private Burgess in my platoon. Once when she identified herself during one of the 1st SGT's lectures, all the DSs got on her for calling the 1st SGT "Private."

I knew a guy named Nels when I was in high school, and my maiden name was Goldhammer. We both juggled. Someone said we should have an act called "Hammer and Nels." [/hijack]
  #30  
Old 04-03-2016, 07:01 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbh View Post
In some parts of the USA, it used to be fairly common for the mother's maiden name to be used as the child's given name.
Which is the explanation for:
Quote:
Originally Posted by N9IWP View Post
Clark Kent
  #31  
Old 04-04-2016, 01:38 AM
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EDIT: nm

Last edited by magnusblitz; 04-04-2016 at 01:39 AM.
  #32  
Old 04-03-2016, 08:27 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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Marvel Comics really likes to use simple names for their characters. Many examples are first names used for last names as noted above.

As a separate matter, they and other comic & animated cartoon producers also like first and last names to start with the same letter. Adam Ant. Lois Lane. Lex Luthor. Peter Parker. Mighty Mouse. et al.

Clark Kent is spelled with different first letters but has the same first sound.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 04-03-2016 at 08:28 PM.
  #33  
Old 04-04-2016, 01:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrea_green View Post
I am wondering what might be the best way to describe someone whose surname and given name could both be interpreted as a first name.

For example: Kyle Maxwell, Duncan Kennedy, Wilson James.
I thought you were going to be going the other way--both names sound like a last name.

I have a common last name as a first name, and a common first name as a last name. I've actually wound up confused when someone who was actually named TBig was called. I just assumed they'd made a mistake.

Oh, and my last name is often a girl's first name. So I've also wound up being mistaken for a girl when filling things out. I almost wound up in a girl's dorm in college. To correct the mistake, they had to move me into a nearby hotel until space cleared up.
  #34  
Old 04-04-2016, 03:14 AM
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The only data I have to add to that is that the practice is certainly present in Ireland (and I'm pretty sure Scotland) well before 1810. Henry Joy McCracken was born in 1767; his middle name is his mother's maiden name. I don't know when Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey was born, but he died in 1798; both of his given names are surnames. James Napper Tandy was born in 1739. Theobald Wolfe Tone was born in 1763; his second forename was the surname of his godfather.

These are all Protestants, and there is a strong Scottish influence, especially in Ulster, so the custom could well have come from Scotland. But it certainly predates the Napoleonic era.
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Old 04-04-2016, 03:35 AM
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I'm thinking that there may have been a distinction here, both in Scotland and in Ireland, between the Anglophone and Gaelic-speaking cultures.

It seems to me that it's mostly Anglophone, lowland Scots who turn surnames into forenames, and simiilarly in Ireland it's Anglophone settlers (many of whom are from Scotland) and their descendants who do so. And it's the names associated with those cultures which get treated in this way.

Gaelic-speakers don't do this, either in Scotland or in Ireland. And even their descendants who adopt English don't do it, at least with Gaelic names.

You're right to say that most Gaelic surnames are in fact patronymics; this probably militates against their being adopted as forenames. Why call your son McMurrough when you can simply call him Murrough? But I notice that this hasn't prevented Anglo names like Jackson from becoming forenames.
  #36  
Old 04-04-2016, 04:50 PM
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Then there's Johns Hopkins, who had the university named after him. His first name was actually "Johns", with the S. It was a last name that got firsted, but of course the last name is derived from the first name "John".
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Old 04-04-2016, 05:31 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Nixon, really? Is he better-regarded in Panama than in the US?
  #38  
Old 04-04-2016, 10:41 PM
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Nixon, really? Is he better-regarded in Panama than in the US?
I'm not sure it was after the president, and anyway he may have been born before Watergate.
  #39  
Old 04-05-2016, 12:21 AM
TreacherousCretin TreacherousCretin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watchwolf49 View Post
From the world of literature, we have a family named Major who named their son Major Major ... who then went on to become a Major in the Army Air Corps in WWII ...

Major Major Major Major ...
According to Joseph Heller, the character was inspired by a man who was part of his squadron in WW2. Surname and Rank were both "Major."
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Old 04-05-2016, 01:32 AM
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My given name is often a last name, and my last name is often a given name. The only problems I've had over my lifetime consist of people who insist my last name is my first, and vice versa.

As a kid, I remember filling out a library card application three times; the librarian insisted that I had made an error in filling out the form (Last name first, followed by given name) I finally convinced her that I did know my name, and had filled out the form correctly.

My adult children were given names that can possibly be last names, but they do not have the degree of confusion over their names as I have. My wife has a first name that is never a last name so she has no sympathy for me and our children.
  #41  
Old 04-05-2016, 08:35 PM
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My given name is often a last name, and my last name is often a given name. The only problems I've had over my lifetime consist of people who insist my last name is my first, and vice versa.
....
My wife has a first name that is never a last name so she has no sympathy for me and our children.


My given name is sometimes a last name, and my last name is often a given name. Same for my brother. It's not a problem for other people, but I do remember answering the phone in some confusion when I got a call from [Lastname, Brother]. For a moment I was -- no this isn't [Brother Lastname], shall I get him?

Last edited by Melbourne; 04-05-2016 at 08:35 PM.
  #42  
Old 04-13-2016, 01:11 PM
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A popular bandleader from the big band era used to be introduced to audiences as "Harry James, the man with two front names."
  #43  
Old 04-05-2016, 02:17 AM
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Hmm.. did anyone ever name their child "Lastname Firstname Middlename".

You can't even copy... what , you must be playing games with me ! Get out of here and never come back !
  #44  
Old 04-05-2016, 09:15 AM
MacLir MacLir is offline
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In my own case:
First Name - Most often a first name, but not unheard of as a last
Middle Name - Uncommon spelling (but I think it may be the original spelling), my father's first name, but only other user of that spelling I know of has it as a last name.
Last Name - much more common as a first name (unless prefixed with Mac or O')

My mother's maiden name is more common as a first name, and often mistaken, and she said she thought it would be a pleasant change when she married a man with a simple name - then she found out how many different spellings there were. (Supposedly over 100 if you count the Macs and the O's)

In fact, the gentleman referred to above has a variant of my last name as his first.
  #45  
Old 04-12-2016, 08:55 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is online now
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Just met a Peyton. Girl.
Did we disinclude Latin-derived names? Andrea goes both, but in English I've seen only female. OP?

Rainer Maria Rilke. Leopold Paula Bloom (typo, presumably, on his birth certificate). Didn't Winston Churchill have some feminine name? John Wayne also?

Last edited by Leo Bloom; 04-12-2016 at 08:57 PM.
  #46  
Old 04-13-2016, 07:18 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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John Wayn'e given birth name was "Marion."
  #47  
Old 04-14-2016, 09:42 AM
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I knew a man whose first name was Chancelor. He said when he entered college the president complained he was outranked by a freshman.
  #48  
Old 04-14-2016, 10:34 AM
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None of those are a case of "last name used as first name", though. "First name as a last name" happens in Spanish names as well (both with and without a San or Santa or a de). Often the last name version used to have that extra bit but lost it, either gradually or by government fiat (which may have been simply a matter of the guy at the civil registry writing the name whichever way he felt like using).

Last edited by Nava; 04-14-2016 at 10:37 AM.
  #49  
Old 04-14-2016, 11:00 AM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
None of those are a case of "last name used as first name", though. "First name as a last name" happens in Spanish names as well (both with and without a San or Santa or a de). Often the last name version used to have that extra bit but lost it, either gradually or by government fiat (which may have been simply a matter of the guy at the civil registry writing the name whichever way he felt like using).
True. Exactly the same can be said of the Italian names ("Di" is more common than "De," but both are found in profusion).
  #50  
Old 04-25-2016, 05:06 PM
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This thread reminds me of Libby Lewis (NPR reporter) doing a story on Lewis ("Scooter") Libby during his scandal. Apparently NPR got a number of emails from confused listeners thinking that Ms. Lewis had gotten Mr. Libby's name wrong.
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