K is for Kish
In my last post, the one for the letter J, I wrote about the pros and cons of having the surname “Jones.” Jones is my married name. My maiden surname is Kish.
Simple, right? Four letters… rhymes with fish, dish, wish… it’s probably a good name for a Dr. Seuss book.
Look, oh look! Oh look, little fish.
I think I see a Sara Kish!
Why is she bathing in a dish?
Hear the water go swish, swish, swish?
Put some clothes on, Sara Kish!
I didn’t really like growing up with this name. First of all, no one could pronounce it right. For some reason, people often think it’s pronounced the same way as quiche. As far as how to spell it? I’ve seen all sorts of crazy interpretations. Kirsh, Kisch, Kiss (yep, I’ll talk about “kiss” in a moment), Kush…
Then there were the kids at school who thought it was funny to call me “Sara Kiss.”
Or they’d say things like, “Can I kish you?”
Fortunately, the teasing was mostly harmless, but I was a little self conscious about it.
Now, before anyone judges me for not liking my family name—the name that my beloved father bestowed on me and my siblings—know that Kish wasn’t even supposed to be my last name. My dad’s mom married five times. Her first husband, and my dad’s birth father, had the last name Beitlich (pronounced Bite-lick). Honestly, I prefer Kish.
“First I’ll bite you then I’ll lick you…”
Yeah, that would have been a fun one at school.
When my dad joined the Navy as a young man, he decided he didn’t want to use his birth father’s last name, so he chose the last name of his favorite stepfather. The story is that he scratched out his real last name on his birth certificate and wrote in “Kish.” I’m not so sure about the truth of that story, but maybe back then you could do things like that to official documents and get away with it.
However it was accomplished, my dad officially became Dale Kish. An English, German, Scandinavian man with a Hungarian-Jewish surname.
Since the name is not common, anyone who knew my family placed me right away.
“Oh, you’re Dale Kish’s daughter, aren’t you?”
or, “Ohhh… you’re _________ Kish’s little sister…”
or, “I didn’t know you’re ____________ Kish’s big sister!”
Some sibling associations were positive and some weren’t, depending on the sibling.
I always wished I could have a cool Irish name like O’Something or McAnother, but in the long run, it didn’t matter; I lived with Kish for 24 years, and I survived, so it must not have been too bad.