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What’s in a Surname?



The man Sigmund Freud.
All motivated by Joy.
Or the sex instinct.
Developed psychology.
Of “Great Instinctual Needs.”

And Carl Gustav Jung.
Freud’s colleague for a great bit.
Focused on “rebirth.”
Transformation of the soul.
His brand of psychology.

What are the chances.
Of surnames influencing.
A person’s calling.
What one’s focus is in life.
What one’s destiny will be?

“Freud” is a surname.
That’s translated as “Pleasure.”
Literally “Joy.”
Phantasy of Sigmund Freud.
And “The Pleasure Principle.”

“Jung” is a surname.
With focus on archetypes.
Therapeutic goal.
Is “Individuation.”
To find true Self through “rebirth.”

I am a poet.
With a surname that is “Folkes.”
Suggesting “folksy.”
Unrefined, rustic, and “plain.”
Led me to reading folktales.

With a grain of salt.
You must digest this poem.
With a tongue in cheek.
Yet, surnames are of interest.
They all reveal some story.

About this poem

Almost everyone has or is born with a surname, also known as a family name. I say almost everyone, since in my wife’s native Southeast Asian country of Burma (Myanmar), surnames are not traditionally assigned, as was the case with former United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, a Burmese, who bore the honorific “U” (“Mister”) assigned to men of a certain rank or status. This honorific was attached to his only given personal name “Thant” and when combined, simply meant “Mr. Thant,” just as a westerner honoring me might address me as “Mr Karl,” using only my first name. Personnel unfamiliar with the Burmese culture, would, in error, often refer to the Burmese Secretary-General as “Mr. U Thant,” not recognizing that the honorific Burmese “U” already referred to “Mr” and in error addressing him twice as “Mister.” As in traditional Burmese culture, Native Americans (the First Peoples of the Americas) do not traditionally have surnames, unless they accommodate to Western traditions. However, they often have two names, with one preserved and kept private for protection of the person’s core psychic identity. In Europe and the western world surnames, as a tradition, began to be used in the 12th century, but actually took several centuries before the majority of Europeans had one. Broadly, the use of surnames falls into four distinct categories, as follows: A. Patronymic names, or names derived from other names usually referring to a male ancestor, but occasionally also as a matronymic derived from a female ancestor; B. “Occupational Names” referring originally to the occupation of the bearer’s ancestors; C. Locational or Topographic surnames derived from the former domicile or residence of the bearer’s ancestors; D. Surnames derived from nicknames formerly assigned to the bearer’s ancestors. In short, a person’s surname or family name can be a rich treasure trove or reservoir of “tall tales” about people that are truly sometimes larger than life.. This poem “What’s in a Surname “ has focused on two eminent “larger than life” European psychiatrists, who devoted their careers to decoding secrets of the human psyche unraveled in languages as their containers. 

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Written on March 12, 2022

Submitted by karlcfolkes on March 12, 2022

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Karl Constantine FOLKES

Retired educator of Jamaican ancestry with a lifelong interest in composing poetry dealing particularly with the metaphysics of self-reflection; completed a dissertation in Children’s Literature in 1995 at New York University entitled: An Analysis of Wilhelm Grimm’s “Dear Mili” Employing Von Franzian Methodological Processes. The subject of the dissertation concerned the process of Individuation. more…

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    "What’s in a Surname?" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 26 Jun 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/122426/what%E2%80%99s-in-a-surname%3F>.

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