Last Name

How many people actually think about their own last name? The name passed on to them at first sight, the name they were given later on, or even the name they take on by choice? Sometimes, it’s a name that is carried down by many generations of our blood, and other times, it’s different from what it would have been.

When my ancestors from my maternal grandmother’s side migrated to the United States, their last name was changed from Judge to Breheny. And in my opinion, Breheny sounds more connected to my Irish roots, but who am I to judge? (I can see the eyes rolling, but I’m proud of how well that line turned out for me.)

And I don’t know how far my last name goes on my dad’s side, and what I know of my grandfather’s life is very limited. Actually, both of my grandfathers’ backgrounds are mysteries. My mom’s dad was adopted by his stepfather, William Byrne, at a very young age—and he doesn’t even know his biological father. We don’t know his full heritage; his stepfather was Irish, and his mother was of Irish, French and German descent. We know nothing about the guy he got half of his genes from. Not even his name.

As far as I know about my paternal grandfather, the farthest I’ve been able to go on Ancestry.com is to his parents, Charles and Alma Hazard, and his only sibling, Gloria. And all of them have been gone for at least twenty years now, so the only information that I know is what I’ve been told.

My last name, Hazard, is a word in the English language, meaning danger. To put it short, I love my last name. I’ve said it a billion times before, but I think it’s the most badass name a person can have…but maybe I only think that because I have yet to meet someone with a name that sounds better than mine.

My social studies teacher from when I was in eighth grade, Mr. Carvelheira, was the first person that I remember reacting to my last name. When he read it on the first day, he thought it was the coolest thing and started calling me Danger right off the bat. This automatically made him my favorite teacher ever, partly because no one had ever given me a cool nickname before, but also because it was so ironic.

And I am a big fan of irony. If anything was dangerous about me, it was how much of a klutz I was…but that’s as far as it got. My last name became the thing I liked the most about myself (besides my hair), and I’ve owned it ever since the eighth grade.

I wasn’t really called anything else but Amanda from the time I went into the ninth grade center until college, when my RA at the time decided to call me Caution (Thanks, Tyler. I still love that one, too).  And then I became Hazzy the following year, after Tyler graduated from Iona.

I love my last name, and I honestly couldn’t imagine having a different one. Not necessarily as an ego thing, but because I can’t picture myself having a name that makes as much sense to me than the one that I have now. My name was the very first thing that was given to me, and I hold it dear to my heart.

(And how could I not, when I’m told every day of my life that I’ve got more Hazard in me than Byrne? Which is actually false, because I’m pretty sure I am equally as much Byrne as I am Hazard.)

I carry these names around with me—Byrne, Breheny, Pfisterer, Hazard—with more pride than anything else I have. They connect all these people that share my blood, my freckles, my lack of patience, and countless other features. My name is my brand, and it makes up everything that I am. It makes up this person that I am, and is still becoming.

Those names define me more than Ginger, Casper, the Smart One, Manny, or even Amanda.

I could only hope that everybody would learn to love their name, just as I have.


Prompt: Do you like your own last name? Is there any meaning behind it?

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