Monday, February 10, 2014

On names

Before I get complaints from any more relatives, I should explain: yes, I misspelled my own name.
My last name is officially spelled Lepock, pronounced LEE-pock. It’s some immigration officer’s attempt to render the Croatian Lipak, which I’m told means rosehip. My great-grandfather was from Glina, a small town in Krajina, a majority-Serbian region of Croatia. I visited Croatia once, but I stayed on the gorgeous Adriatic coast and skipped a pilgrimage to Glina.
When Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia, Krajina seceded from Croatia and most of the Croatian residents fled in fear of ethnic cleansing. A few years later, the Croatian army retook the territory, destroying everything in their path, and most of the Serbian residents fled in fear of ethnic cleansing. The generals who led the invasion were convicted of war crimes at the Hague, but acquitted after appeal. You may be wondering: if the Croats fled, and then the Serbs fled, who lives in Krajina now? Apparently: not very many people. Wikipedia lists Glina’s population as having fallen from 23 000 before the war to 10 000.
Glina was also the site of a series of massacres during the Second World War. And people wonder why I’m suspicious of nationalism.
I’m rather fond of the name Lepock, but people find it hard to pronounce. Most of them think it’s French and convert it to LePock – except, in my experience, for the French. They know a French name can’t end in ‘ck’, and just find it weird.
Calling myself Christopher L’Époque would be awesome, but maybe a teensy bit pompous. Going back to Lipak has its merits, but it’d be mispronounced “Liepack”, which would be unfortunate and not at all an accurate description of half of what I say.

Canadian literary types often misspell my name Leapock anyway, probably thinking of Stephen Leacock. (I occasionally get people who call me “Leacock”. I also get people who call me “Lepcock”, which makes me spend the next forty-five minutes trying to suppress the impulse to misspell their name by adding “youreadick” to the end.) So Leapock it is. 

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