- Surname of West Country origin (UK)
- The name Smale was derived from the Old English word “smael” and the Middle English word “smel” which both mean “small, slender, thin”
- Surname handed down to myself, my sisters, and numerous cousins on my Dad’s side
- Implement of ridicule throughout my teenage years, and occasionally as an adult
Synonyms: Smalo, Smaley, Schmalo, Schmaley, Smeghead, Smale Dawg Millionaire, The Dawg, Indiana Smalos Jones, Indie, Sim, Simdog, Smmmmaaaaleeee, Smeagol
They’re funny old things, names. In the Anglicised world, we’re allocated a surname by default; our parents also pick a first, and if we’re lucky, middle name for us. And that’s it, that is now your name for the entirety of existence. Unless you decide to change it to ‘Luke Skywalker’, or ‘Gollum’, by deed-poll, or you get married and take your partner’s family name. Some lucky folk, like my good friend, Nick Carter (not of Backstreet Boy fame), got given two middle names. He really lucked out with that nice conventional surname too. Others have parents who can’t decide on one surname, so double barrel their two family names together, essentially winding up with two surnames. To me that sounds pointless – that’s unnecessary extra syllables, and extra typing and writing when filling out forms.
Going off topic here slightly, but I fucking hate filling out forms. I think as a child you see the filling out of forms as a sign of your increasing importance in the world – “hey look at me go, I’m a big deal now, I’m filling out forms, Woooo, GO ME!”. One may call this the ‘filling in forms validates me‘ era. In my later teenage years, whilst I no longer took pride in filling out forms, it marked the start of the ‘quiet acceptance of form filling as a necessary part of adult life‘ era. Not a big deal. Now, sat here today, I am in the era of ‘forms are fucking bullshit, fuck you forms, fuck you and your petty demands that I use fucking black ink within the confines of your stupid little black boxes‘. This latest era makes me grateful for my five letter surname.
If you are parents and considering giving your child a double-barrelled surname; I would recommend not being fuckwits. Do your child a favour and make a bloody decision – pick one. Think of all the time wastage and angst you’re creating for them in the future. Also, double barrelled surnames sound wanky AF. Let’s refer back to my mate, Nick Carter. Imagine if he was called Nicholas Carter-Smythe. Nick Carter = cool. Nick Carter-Smythe = wanker. Some people triple barrel surnames. These people should be shot. Nicholas Carter-Smythe-Forsyth. If this person was to introduce themselves to me I would judge their parents for being indecisive fools, and I’d judge the person in front of me for not being proactive and ditching at least one of those wholly unnecessary names.
This leads me very nicely to the topic of this blog: You know what I dislike more than double-barrelled surnames, and pathetic little black boxes on forms? My surname.
There is something about the surname ‘Smale‘ which has, throughout my life, led people to call me by it. Look, I get it, this is common place, kids call each other by their surnames all the time, but I still get this as an adult. I make friends with someone new, and within three hours they have somehow found out my surname is ‘Smale‘ and have decided that ‘Chris‘ does not fit my face. Instead, I shall forever be known to them as ‘Smale‘. Now, this would be fine if my name was a nice normal name like Carter, or Young, or Kennedy (shout out to my boys back home with solid surnames names), but ‘Smale‘ is a name which sounds like ‘small’, or ‘smell’, or ‘smeagol’. None of these are good associations as far as I’m concerned. If they have decided that ‘Chris‘ does not fit my face, but ‘Smale‘ does – I don’t particularly like what that says about my face.
I have a name-related traumatic memory from school, aged 17 I believe. The entire school, all 720 boys were stood on a temporary metal structure for an all-school photograph. We stood, impatiently waiting for the photographer to line up the entire school (an unenviable task if ever I heard one – imagine that, trying to get 720 young lads to not fuck about and wreck a photo). As the photographer went about his work, a horrible sewage smell wafted across the playing field. Someone from my form group shouted out “Smmmmmaaaaaalllllllllllllllllle”, as if to blame the repugnant aroma on me. Now, to be fair, my farts as a teenager were rank, fuelled by a diet of McDonalds, pizza, fish ‘n’ chips, and cheap beer, but they were by no means worse than those of my counterparts. Anyway, the first blaming call of “Smmmmmaaaaaalllllllllllllllllle” was met by a chorus of other shouts of “Smmmmmaaaaaalllllllllllllllllle”. Before you know, 720 boys are shouting “Smmmmmaaaaaalllllllllllllllllle”. It was funny. It was also pretty mortifying. I wasn’t the most confident seventeen year old on the planet.
What was the point of this post? Oh yeah, my surname. Here’s another anecdote that may help explain my discomfort with it: When I was in my early twenties I went on a date with a girl who I fancied like mad. I stalked the shit out of her on Facebook, always a sign you’re into it. Anyway, half way through the dinner, I remember very clearly, her asking if I’d consider changing my surname. She had quite a nice surname, I told her I’d happily take hers if we got that far. (Here’s a tip, lads, never do that on a first date, or any date for that matter). The impact of her asking that question, is that I have always assumed that women will find my surname loathsome. I geddit. I’m always surprised when people say Smale “isn’t that bad”.
One last gripe about my surname. It starts with an S. “Say what?” I hear you ask. Well, my parents, in their infinite wisdom, christened me ‘Christopher’. Christopher Smale. No problem there. Rolls off the tongue easily enough if you can successfully navigate the ‘Smale’ part (nb. it’s male, with a ‘s’ on the front, contrary to my life’s evidence, it’s not that difficult). EXCEPT ‘Christopher’ invariably gets shortened to ‘Chris’. Herein lies the problem: ‘Chris’ ends with an ‘s’. So my first name ends with the same letter as my surname starts with. Say them out loud and they sound like a Jewish holiday…
So when I say my name on the phone, or in meetings – you know, like multiple times a day – I have to take a breath and add an extra long pause between first name and surname to ensure the people listening don’t confuse me for a Jewish holiday. And so I die inside, and in turn, hate my surname just a little bit more. I’ve genuinely considered requesting that people call me ‘Christopher’ instead of ‘Chris’ to avoid this problem. However, I prefer Chris to Christopher (it’s less effort when filling forms). I can’t win.
Or can I?
I have had a potential alternative surname in my head for a good decade now. It came up as an option during a drunken night out in London Bridge with some work buddies. Everyone agreed this name was far better than Smale. That it sounded powerful, and assertive, and well, just better. One or two people started to call me by that name after that night. I loved it. I loved the sound of it. I felt like I was home with that name. It was as if I had been wearing a salmon pink overcoat that didn’t suit my fair complexion, only to then be handed a dashing navy overcoat, that made me feel like a million dollars when I tried it on.
I put on that navy overcoat, and then had to endure the torture of being made to take it off, and put the ghastly salmon pink one back on instead. The navy one is in the wardrobe, I can see it, I can touch it, I can even try it on occasionally at home, but I can never wear it out.
And what is that name?
Yes. Like Vince.
Except it’s not Vince. It’s Chris. Chris ‘fucking’ Vaughn. Oh what I could become with that surname.
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