Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Surname Determinism in the News

I had an anthropology professor in college who talked about the concept of surname determinism. I was never sure if she actually believed in the idea that your last name has a profound impact on the course of your life. From what I understand, at least in the west, a lot of surnames were derived one's occupation, i.e. Smith, Cooper, and Porter. I don't really believe in the idea of surname determinism, but any time I come across a case of possible surname determinism, I have to chuckle. There have been a couple of cases in the news lately. Most notable is Edgar Ray Killin, who is about to stand trial for the murders of three civil rights workers in the 1960s. Last week's winner, at least for German-speaking people, was Angel Raich, one of the plaintiffs in the supreme count medicinal marijuana cause. Her last name is similar to the German word: rauchen, which means "to smoke". Maybe that's a stretch, but it's the first thing that I thought of when I first heard about her and her case.

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