My name is Mik, and my family name is Hetu. When I meet people in person after meeting them over the phone or after they’ve heard my name mentioned, many times they’re surprised that I am not some kind of Asian. It’s a reasonable assumption, especially if you say my name quickly. More than one person has mentioned to me “Mik Hetu” has a sound pattern similar to the Japanese word for emperor, “Mikado” (familiar to the world if only through the Gilbert and Sullivan play The Mikado.) Many years ago, I found a way to have fun with this, and it has become my stock answer to the question, “What kind of name is that?”
“Well, no one in the family is quite sure. You see, my family is half Canadian French and half Canadian Indian, and nobody’s really knows which side of the family the name came from. Actually, we all argue over it all the time because the two sides assign vastly different stories. I prefer the Canadian Indian meaning of the name, but I’m told the French meaning is much more appropriate.”
The listener will usually bite. “Really? More appropriate? In what way?”
“Well, remember that it is very cold up in Canada, so long ago the natives learned to pack a lot of meaning into as few words as possible. In the language of several tribes of Canadian Indian, Hetu means: Snowy, snowy night, when the winter wind blows from across the water, and the children have no food to eat and cry themselves to sleep at their mother’s breast as she sings to them softly and worries about their father hunting alone under the moon as his father did, and his father’s father did before him.”
Half the time, the listener’s eyes glaze over before I get through it, but half the time, he or she will say, “Really! Wow! What’s the French translation?”
“Oh, that’s much easier to remember. It’s simply: Full of Shit.”
They laugh, and well, y’know, I’ll take that as a compliment . . .