Last month, Pat and I traveled all the way from Australia to the small European country of the Netherlands especially for the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Rotterdam. It was my first visit to the land of wooden shoes, windmills, and milk… lots of milk, and I was excited to finally get to see some highly anticipated attractions, like Amsterdam as a whole.
While traveling between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, something happened repeatedly that caught my attention.
Anytime someone Dutch saw my last name, on an itinerary, hotel room reservation and so on, they would always say, “That’s a good Dutch name.”
In Dutch, my last name, Schoenman, means “shoe man” (or so I’m told).
But let me tell you something about my last name.
I love it. I love my last name so much that I would never change it. In fact, in the Schoenman + Choy relationship, I’d have to say that Schoenman would definitely be the dominant one! Pat loves it when I say that.
But in all seriousness, my very German (and not Dutch) last name has a rather interesting meaning: Beautiful Man. Yes, I apparently come from a clan of beautiful men — or a clan of very conceited men, I’m not sure. We weren’t blacksmiths, or plow men, or even manly men. For some reason the people of the past thought that my ancestors’ defining feature was their beauty. Doesn’t that seem funny! The more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe my fellow Germans were just taking the piss.
And of course, names change over time. Back in the German days, Schoenman looked different, probably with an umlaut thrown in the mix, and actually, it wasn’t until my grandpa served his country that the extra “n” was dropped from the American version of Schoenmann.
This was a strange re-realization I had earlier this year when my family received some shocking news about a long lost relative — my grandpa’s brother who went missing in the Korean War. I won’t go into details in this post, but you can read more about this touching story here.
When reading this story in articles and seeing it hit the TV, I couldn’t help but have one of those little red lights go on in the back of my brain whenever I saw Schoenmann, with two N’s at the end. The point I’m getting at here is the intriguing way that language and names evolve over time, and by seeing this news story, I realized how recent a change that was for my immediate family line. My grandpa started using the shortened version after being in the US armed services, when his superior officer dropped the extra “n” off. Yet, all of his siblings, and their direct family lines, still use the other spelling.
I find that a little fascinating, don’t you?
If I had more time, I would love to attempt some genealogical research and find more information on my very German (and not Dutch) last name.
What can you tell me about your last name?