Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's In A Name?

Kent and I are coming up on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Twenty-five years! It took me several of them to get used to my new last name. Gassman. You know I had to love him to take a last name like that. During the first few years, I secretly wished that the extended family would come to a consensus and have it legally changed to Grossman or Glassman or one of the other more normal names we frequently get called by strangers. But after being involved in family history work, I realized how messed up research gets when people go messing with last names.

Gassman is a Swiss name. It’s quite a common name in Switzerland and Germany. And it actually has nothing to do with gas. Gasse is a German word for a small street or alley. Street man. So I think my husband and children are actually descended from homeless people.

But try telling people this and they just smirk with a “we all know better” look on their faces. Gass is gas to them.

We’ve played a kind of game at our house for years. Whenever we hear a strange last name, we ask, for example, “Fillerup or Gassman? Which would you rather be?” Or “Which would you rather be, Wadzeck or Gassman?” “Bottom or Gassman?” “Hooker or Gassman?”

Some of Kent’s siblings were tormented as children.

“Hey, Gasser!”

Which is actually a last name I’ve seen in the phone book. Gassaway is also in there.

Gassman or Gassaway?

I don’t think it’s been too bad for our kids. I think a lot of it has to do with their attitude. Our kids all have a sense of humor and have been able to roll with it. When someone cracks a joke about their name, they join right in. Our daughter decided back in junior high that she had two choices: hate it or embrace it. She embraced it.

“Anyways, boys really think my name is cool,” she’d say. It didn’t hurt, I’m sure, that she’s a really cute girl.

And I think it helps that her first name is Carolyn. I think it’s a pretty name. It balances out her more unfortunate last name. I also think Melinda goes well with it. Melinda Gassman. Carolyn Gassman. Could be a lot worse. Pat Gassman, for instance. Not that there’s anything wrong with Pat.

Our son, Kurt Gassman, has been in Brazil for the past year and a half.

“One of the perks of being here,” he reports, “is that no one thinks my last name is weird.”

So, Lipschitz or Gassman? Balzly or Gassman? Belcher or Gassman? Knappenburger or Gassman? Macalupu or Gassman?

By now, we’ve all pretty much embraced it. We almost always pick Gassman.


  1. I like your name, it fits. How's Carolyn doing?

  2. Thanks, Robyn, I think! Carolyn is doing really well. She's been in St. George for a few days.

  3. Beckie Barnhouse here! What a name--nay, Beckie Sue Barnhouse! How could my parents have done that? At least I got a married name that wasn't easy to poke fun at! btw, I love your blog--you need a newspaper column--I like to read Ann Cannon in the Des News--but you're better!

  4. Ever since I got married and switched from Tirzah Wade to Tirzah Shirley everyone is confused (except me). "Are you sure it's not Shirley Tirzah?" Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I think I am sure. Oh well, it's all in a name.