I like my surname because it’s different but for the longest time I’ve wondered what it means in the old languages. Many Americans struggle with this because our ancestors traversed the high seas on crampacked ships, hoping for change in a new land.
Families would often times have to change their names upon arrival, or chose to, in order to get a new start – to distance themselves from a difficult past – or they had no choice.
America has an ugly history of forced assimilation. The nation also has a horrible track record of discrimination based on both first and last names.
The most accepted last names, historically, by far, in America, are of English origin. And although England has been said to get its name from Anglos, as in stemming from the commonly mentioned Anglo-Saxon Germanic tribes, the American definition means much closer to a English-German Nazi White unity, shared culture, and anything White Power (Also research Aryan and Iranian etymology).
I have a little bit of English Isle blood but only a few percent. We are all supposed to speak English in America, according to the aristocratic overlords, but that was not a choice for the overwhelming majority.
Racism, classism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and all the sort still exist today. I get asked all the time “What are you?”, or “You’re White!”, “You’re Mixed…”, “You’re not Black!”, “What is your background?”. Americans love to think in terms of Black and White. It makes it easier for their small brains to make sense of the world.
Most people mispronounce my first and last name the first time they say it. After I correct them, many Whities (especially) get it wrong again straight away.
This is because I do not have a White name. To have a Whiteface and an ethnic background is not allowed. My name is Clifton Grefe. I’m willing to guess you’ve met close to zero Clifton’s and Grefe’s over the course of your life.
All of this is just a lead up to me Googling my last name in translator. Haha. In America, they like to call me Gravy, Greif and Grave. Actually, it’s pronounced closer to Gray-Feh, but in my family it is said Gree-Fee. Also, an “F” mighta been lost in translation, going from “Greffe” to “Grefe”.
So… Simply for fun I tried using the new tech online. Of course we don’t have an all expansive source for languages on Google Translate but I was told that our name was German, Polish or German-Polish. Turns out, the name doesn’t translate into any of that on the surface.
A quick plot of the findings shows some interesting new info:
Graft – English, Galician, Romanian, Basque, Irish, Corsican, Esperanto, Haitian Creole, French, Bosnian, Basque, Italian, Danish
Count – Hebrew, Luxembourg, W Frisian
Grapefruit – Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbek
Arrest – Bangladesh
Gifts – Urdu
Graffiti – Gujarati
Graphically – Welsh
Registry – Slovak
Grave – Am English
Gravy – Am English
Grief – Am English
Grey Faith – Spanglish
Stoner – Mex Spanish
Google says my last name is French, Romanian, and /or Hungarian.
Looking at this, I would translate as a sad, mathematical serial killer. Throw that in with my first name, a traditionally American Black name, that means “Town on a cliff”, and was supposedly supposed to make me sound more environmentally inspired, but linguistically an unapproachable mudblood hippie criminal.
If you’re looking for answers to your ancestry, no matter who you are, use the DNA tests, family genealogy, medical records, teachers in the subject, libraries, others from a similar background (or even phenotype), translators, internet sources – anything! I’ve always wondered why I can’t introduce my name without a wince. Now I may know some more answers. We all deserve this. Love.