My Last Name
The most known but least understood thing about me is something that I have lived with my whole life: my last name. What does it mean? How do you say it? What is its origin? I didn’t even know these answers myself growing up. Originally my Dad had always pronounced it “wreck-low,” telling people that the “v” was silent. This turned into some cool nicknames in school though: “wreck,” “a-wreck,” “wrecking ball” (for when I played baseball), and of course the original pronunciation, “wreck-low,” sounds cool in general.
While I was in high school I went through a Muscogee (Creek) dictionary to find a word that I would use to start my first ever email account, attempting to be different by having an email account name that no one can remember or pronounce, and came upon my last name. It meant “spotted arrow.” At that point I already knew that my Dad had changed his name when he was in his early 20s from his family name “Long” to this new name “Recvlohe.” The only problem I saw in that was: IT WASN’T EVEN SPELLED RIGHT. In the dictionary it is spelled R-E-C-V-L-**A-**H-E. Later in life when I was seeking to gain citizenship into the Muscogee (Creek) Nation I found that it was my Dad who spelled it wrong and not any mistake from the office that was in charge of granting his name change request. Mvto Erke!
When I was in college I would go out to Oklahoma for the summers to work for the Euchee Tribe of Indians and to learn more about who I was and where I came from. That included learning about the culture and language. The most basic thing you learn at any Muscogee language class is the alphabet. In the Muscogee alphabet there are twenty letters, but the letters do not match exactly with the sounds in the English alphabet, duh. In Muscogee, there is no R sound, like “ruh” or “ree.” There is, however, a “thlee” sound. The Methodist Missionary who created the first Muscogee (Creek) dictionary used the R letter to represent this sound and it has been used that way ever since. He also did this with the letter V, switching out the “vee” sound with “uh.” The letter C on the other hand sounds closer to its English pronunciation but is a little different too; it is pronounced “chuh” or “juh” at different times. This is when a “light bulb” moment occurred and I realized that my name as it is spelled RECVLAHE is pronounced “thlee-chuh-lah-hee.” The “v” is not freaking silent! I was 19 years old when I figured this out. Think about this, my whole life to that point I had a last name that was spelled wrong, mispronounced, and questioned by every school teacher when they would read my name off during the first day of school.
Now you’re probably wondering how I pronounce my name now. I honesty don’t even care. Some people I tell “wreck-low,” some people I tell “thlee-chuh-lah-hee.” To me its just a last name, but as long as I know what the correct pronunciation and spelling is, it doesn’t matter to me how another person says or spells it. There are many reasons for why my Dad changed his last name: to distance himself from his family, to be more “Indian,” to change his identity. The thing about names though is that you don’t give yourself a name, they are given to you. You are who you are in relation to others, not yourself. I know my last name: how to say it, where it comes from, and what it means. However you want to pronounce it is up to you; I’m just glad you know the history of it now.
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