KILLER? MURDER? MANY FIND THEY CAN LIVE WITH IT
By Mike Royko
13 Mar 1996
A man in Canada recently made a bit of news when he took legal steps to change his family’s name.
His name has been Arthur Lawrence Death. He wants it changed to Arthur Lawrence Deeth, which is the way it has always been pronounced, except by those who snicker and make wisecracks.
The request for a name change is understandable. But what is surprising is the large number of people born with unusual and potentially embarrassing names who choose to live with them.
By searching a national phone book program, I came across a wide range of names that could bring smirks from store clerks, bank tellers and traffic cops.
For example, there is a Martin Pecker, a businessman in Boca Raton, Fla.
He is one of several dozen Peckers scattered across the country.
Of his name, Pecker says: “Honestly, I love it. As a kid I got a lot of teasing for being a Pecker. But I grew up big–I’m 6-3 and 220–and my sons are big, so people are careful about what they say. And with women, I used to get flattering remarks.
“Here in Boca, I have a physician friend named Zipper. We were in a society page together once. Zipper and Pecker.”
Then there is James Pee of Birmingham, Ala., one of a few dozen Pees, who seem to live mostly in Southern states.
Laughing, Pee said: “I’ve had trouble with my name since I was a kid. Spent 10 years in the Air Force, so I got a hard time there too. I’ve had nicknames like Pee-Pee, Urine, Little Pee.
“Around Kosciusko, Miss., there are so may Pees that there is a Pee Cemetery.
“I never really thought seriously about changing it. And I asked my son, who’s in college, how he felt. He said that if I could get by being a Pee, he’d just as soon stay a Pee too.”
Paul Crapper of Lehigh Acres, Fla., one of numerous Crappers, said: “I’m perfectly happy being a Crapper. People make remarks, but I just pass it off or say something like: `I’m like Alka Seltzer, I bring relief.’ ”
Walter Crapp of Brownsville, Pa., feels the same way: “I never considered changing it. My grandfather came from Russia and had a long name. So I just decided to keep Crapp and drop the rest.”
Of her married name, Suzan Geek says: “I believe we are the only Geeks in North Carolina,” which might be a matter of debate.
“People sometimes laugh because they can’t believe someone could be a Geek. And when I order a pizza by phone, they almost always laugh. But I’m in real estate, and I assure you that nobody ever forgets my name.”
Among the more distinctive names are Murder or Murders.
Danny Murders, 51, of Russellville, Ark., has done considerable research on how the names came about.
“When my ancestors came to the New World in the 1700s, it was Murdaugh, with a Scottish brogue. They were farmers and moved West. Later, in Tennessee, the census takers spelled it phonetically so it became Murder or Murders. Around Hot Springs, there are about 26 families named Murders. There are four brothers known as the Murders Boys. As far as I know, none of the Murders have changed their name.”
A Killer named Christine, in Cheshire, Conn., says: “Oh, yes, it is a daily conversation piece. People will say things like, `You don’t look like a killer.’ And I’ve often been asked to show an ID because people don’t believe my name can be Killer. The name is of German origin. As for my being teased, not very often. Maybe they were afraid.”
Jack Ripper, 60, who runs a sign company in Detroit, says: “Sure, I get called Jack the Ripper about twice a day. Because of the Ripper name, people used to ask my mother, `Is Jack the Ripper your husband?’ And she’d always say, `No, but my son is.’ I like it. That’s why I put it on my business. People don’t forget a name like Jack Ripper.”
Peter Hitler, 54, of Mequon, Wis., says: “Well, it is interesting to say the least. Our family goes back to the 1700s in Circleville, in southern Ohio. There were a lot of Hitlers there. A Hitler Street, a Hitler cemetery.
“There used to be a lot more of us, but they changed their names around World War II. I was just a kid, but my older brother took a lot of flak. My parents took our name out of the phone book.
“There aren’t too many Hitlers left. I’ve run across three or four. I guess the name is outlawed in Germany.
“I’m in real estate and not a day goes by without someone saying, `Oh, my gosh,’ or `Why didn’t you change your name.’ Any time I present my credit card, someone makes a remark. But it is something you live with. I don’t think about it anymore.”
Which is what a New Yorker named Ben Mussolini said: “Hey, forget it. I’ve been through this before. I don’t feel like talking about it.”
And the woman who answered the phone listed for Jim Wierdo said: “The Wierdos don’t have this number anymore. But so many people keep calling. I don’t know why.”