the first time I've laughed at a joke about my last name

Alright, this might get me some unwanted Google hits, but it’s also going to be particularly funny to those who know my family.

My maiden name is Butchee. Pronounced just like it’s spelled: BOO-chee. Like, rhymes with Gucci. It also rhymes with other words (hint: coochie) that made high school, shall we say, less than fun for me.

It’s a weird name, right? Turns out there was some dude about 200 years ago who came from Switzerland to the US. His name was Johannes Buetschi, but when he came here, his name was “Americanized” and he became John Butchee. If you meet any other Butchees, they’re probably related to me.

(Oh! Except! Y’all know I’m from Mississippi, right? When I was little, my grandmother had a housekeeper whose last name was also Butchee, which was weird since she was black. I didn’t quite understand how that was possible, until I was older and learned in history class how slaves sometimes took the last names of their owners and OMG, the Liberal Guilt. So yeah. Apparently my grandmother’s housekeeper’s ancestors and my family’s ancestors had, uh, some familiarity with each other. Yikes.)

(I also found out when I did some genealogy research that my great-great-grandfather – and all of his brothers – fought for the South in the Civil War. No, I’m not proud of that. AT ALL. But what can I do? It was 150 years ago. I’ll have a conversation about race relations with him when I see him in heaven.)

Growing up, I hated all of the jokes that were made about my last name. Even the good-natured jokes that my friends made still irritated me. In fact, when I reconnected with a high school friend on Facebook, she reminded me of this silly song she used to sing about my last name, and I finally got to tell her – 15 years later – “Yeah, I didn’t think it was funny then, and I don’t think it’s funny now. Sorry.”

Honestly, I jumped at the chance to change my name to Wilkinson when Dave and I got married. Can you blame me? It’s a name most people can spell and pronounce, and it doesn’t rhyme with any slang terms for female anatomy. I call that a WIN.

So, my sense of humor on the name-mocking? Eh, not so much.

But then, back in March, Catie and I went to New Orleans with my mom, to visit her family. Our hotel reservation was in my mom’s name, so my mom went to the front desk and told the lady her name: Carolyn Butchee.

Catie was standing next to my mom at the time. Her eyes widened and she repeated, “Caroline Boo-shee???” Then she collapsed into a heap of giggles like it was the funniest phrase she had ever heard in her life.

She kept repeating it over and over, “Caroline Boo-shee! Hee hee hee!!!” It became the big joke of the weekend, we could just say my mom’s name to her and she’d fall over laughing. (It’s also particularly funny to me because my mom has spent her entire life correcting people about her first name – it’s Carolyn, not Caroline – and the fact that her precious grandbaby pronounces it wrong slays me.)

And to this day, it remains one of her favorite jokes with my parents. Catie video chats with my parents on Skype pretty regularly, and my dad will ask her what his real name is. She says, “Pop-Pop Boo-shee!!” And then she cracks up. If we try to tell her that no, his real first name is actually Sam, that makes her laugh even more, because Sam is the name of her Grandma’s dog, so she thinks we’re totally yanking her chain and just making up nonsense names.

It also works well in knock-knock jokes.

My dad: Knock, knock.
Catie: Who’s there?
My dad: Pop-Pop!
Catie: Pop-Pop who?
My dad: Pop-Pop Butchee!

Then Catie practically pees herself laughing. She has no idea that Butchee is honestly their last name.

What’s weird is that this is the first time in my life that someone has laughed at my last name, and I’ve laughed along with them.

Especially since, sorry kiddo, I know your last name might be Wilkinson, but you’re 50% Butchee yourself. Better get used to it.

  1. I would love to see Catie cracking up about the name. I, sadly, growing up and babysitting found that children cannot say Jessica, but they can say ca-ca because they get the ca of my name. So for YEARS I was called Ca-Ca. I was in the grocery store once and the little girl I babysat saw me down the aisle, I didn’t see her, but all of the sudden she yells “CA-CA IT’S MY CA-CA!” and people just broke out in laughter.

    My best friend just found out she’s pregnant and I only asked one thing. I do not want to be called Aunt Ca-Ca!

    • @anymommy, I had hardcore boring name envy before I got married. Seriously.

      I even dated a guy once with some ridiculously long Scandinavian last name that started with 2 consonants, and my first thought was, “Well, I can never marry him.” Crazy, right? That’s where my criteria was. I mean, the fact that he turned out to be a huge jerk was just incidental. I knew from the first date that he was not going to be the one for me.

  2. LMAO, Catie is so silly! Can’t wait to come visit one day so I can finally meet her in person.

    You may have had a not so boring last name, but my first name was always mis-pronounced and made fun of. Greis became Grease or Greasy or Greyis. The options were endless. I remember coming home crying one day telling my mom I HATED my name. Now I really like it and it’s originalness! LOL
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    • @AmazingGreis, Seriously, either you have to come here or I’m gonna have to bring her with me to a conference someday. Or both.

      I hadn’t thought of it before you said it, but yeah, I can see how kids would be mean about your first name. Aww, that stinks. Glad you like your name now!