James Edward Kasprzak

My family name, Kasprzak, is Polish in origin. It derives from "Son of Caspar". Caspar, in tradition, was the "Keeper of the Treasury", the Magus who brought the gift of gold to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

Kasprzak is not that uncommon a name in Polish, and in Czech as well. I have encountered several other people named Kasprzak, both on the Internet and elsewhere. I have also encountered several variations in spelling, not all of them intentional.

There is a bit of family folklore about the spelling of the name in its current form, which resulted from an argument between a tired Irish clerk and a stubborn Polish farmer. According to this story, my great-grandfather, Felix Kasprzak, was one of the last people off the boat at Ellis Island, and by the time he got to the desk where he was to register his name, it was quite late in the day. The clerk at the desk asked for his name. "Felix" was easy enough, but "Kasprzak" was beyond the ken of the clerk whose day-to-day world consisted mainly of Smiths and O'Malleys. My great-grandfather, who prided himself in being literate enough to write his name, took the pen and wrote it down himself, as "Kasprczak". The clerk looked at it, shook his head, and said, "No one in America is gonna be able to pronounce that." He rewrote it as "Kasperzak". My great-grandfather took the pen again, and saying "No 'E'" (or its equivalent in Polish), crossed out the offending letter. The clerk sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and let that be recorded as the official name, eager to get through the last of these Polacks and back home to a hot meal and bed.

Whether or not it's true, I think it makes a nice story.

My given names also have stories behind them. I was the first child of my parents, and the first suggestion for my name, made by my mother, was Edward Louis Kasprzak, Jr. My father had already grown up in a household with two Eddies, since his father was named Edmund. He said that he'd rather not continue with that sort of confusion, and suggested James as a first name, after a brother of his who'd died in infancy. This was agreed upon, with Edward kept as the middle name.

When I was a baby, I was usually referred to as "Jimmy", or occasionally "Jamie", although that never caught on. Sometime around adolescence, I decided I didn't like the sound of "Jimmy", and tried hard to discourage it. I've preferred to be addressed as Jim ever since, although some people also know me as Jimcat.

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