Sunday, 7 July 2013

A Brief History of my Name

A quick blog post from me this week, where I’m going to tell you about the origins of my name. I have a first name, a middle name, and a surname, and I’m going to start with the surname.

My surname is “Green”, which many people take to be a common English surname, the most likely origin being that it may have been given to someone who lived near a village green, or something along those lines. Only, that’s not likely to be the case for me, as my ancestry isn’t English. I’m descended from eastern European Jews who came to Britain sometime in the 19th century. They most likely would have acquired their surnames when they got to Britain, although I’m not sure where “Green” would have come about from.

Sometimes people see my surname and assume I’m of English ancestry, but that’s wrong There does appear to be a second, Jewish origin. When I was at Uni there was a girl on my course whose surname was also Green, and she also came from a Jewish family (although we weren’t related).

Whilst there are quite a few Greens throughout Britain, there’s only a very small number that I’m actually related to.

Now, moving on to my first name, “Karl”, with a “K”. This name is Germanic in origin, which leads to some further confusion for some as to my origin, as occasionally people think I have German roots, which I don’t. Apparently, the name also has some popularity in Scandinavia, but I have no family connections there either. Whilst my name is more commonly spelt in Britain as “Carl”, there is a reason why my name is spelt with a “K”.

My mother’s mother was called Kitty, and she sadly died when my mother was just a baby. Many years later, when I came along, my parents decided that they wanted my name to be spelt with a “K” in memory of her, but they didn’t intend for me to have her specific name – if I had been born a girl they were going to have called me “Kate”. But when I was born a boy they thought about all of the boy’s names they knew that began with a “K”, and settled on “Karl”. So that’s how that came about.

Now, on to my middle name. Many people with middle names are quite particular about them, and some even feel embarrassed by them. I’m not embarrassed by mine, as there’s nothing embarrassing about it. But I still prefer not to reveal it – call me odd if you like, but I like to keep a little mystery about my name. (That said, it can be found out on the internet, if you know where to look...) But I can say that it starts with an “S”.

As to where the name itself came from, it belonged to a Great Uncle on my father’s side. I don’t know too much about him, only I believe he was one of three brothers, and he was the longest lived of the three.

So, that’s my name. Those of you who know me well will know that I tend to always write it as “Karl S. Green”, and there’s a reason why I do this. Back when I was in high school, I was just writing my name as “Karl Green”, only that ended up leading to problems. This was because, in the year above me, there was another guy called “Karl Green” (again, no relation). Sometimes, my parents would get letters and phone calls which were meant for the parents of the other “Karl Green”. So, when I was about 14, to differentiate myself from this other “Karl Green”, I started to write my name as “Karl S. Green”, and I’ve pretty much stuck with that ever since. There was a brief period where I experimented with writing out my name in full, with my full middle name, but I decided that I didn’t like that as much as “Karl S. Green”, and so I went back and stuck with that.

One good thing about writing my name as “Karl S. Green” was that, for a long while, I was the only “Karl S. Green” on the internet – if I did a search on my name, only pages about me would come up. (However, this is no longer true, as there’s now another “Karl S. Green” in Alaska.)

But I shall still remain as “Karl S. Green” online – it’s in my e-mail address, used for my Twitter handle and Facebook URL, as well as the domain name for my website.

I like having a name that is as unique as possible. If you have a widely used name, then, in your daily life, you will often meet people with the same name. But I rarely ever meet any other “Karl’s”, and on the rare occasions that I do I’m never sure what to call them – once I knew another “Karl” who I always tended to refer to as “Other Karl” (he was OK with this, because, well, he was “OK” – “Other Karl”!).

I’m very particular about people spelling my name right. And, sometimes, there is just no excuse for people spelling my name wrong. I get really annoyed when someone sends me an e-mail, and they would have either had to spell my name right in the address field, or they’re replying to an e-mail that I’ve sent them, which means they would have seen my name, but then they still go on to write my name in the e-mail as “Carl”!

I’m also fussy about my initials. I’ve always written them as “KSG”, and I have never written them as just “KG”. I’ve been doing this ever since I was old enough to write, to the point where I see the letters “KSG” and instantly recognise them as representing me without even reading them, as I never see those three letters together in that order in any other context. But I don’t get this same recognition with “KG”, not least because I have met others with those initials.

Names are a key part of our identity. For the most part, we don’t choose our own names, and yet we have them our whole lives. Every name has a story behind it, and the above is my story.

And I’m sure you all have stories behind your names...

Next Week: Pascal’s Wager

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