What’s in a name? I’m the first to admit my last name can be something of a challenge for some. “Kozak” is a Czech name, from the original Czech word for “cossack” – a fierce, warrior, often referring to a calvary soldier, complete with a rifle, brace of pistols, and a saber. (Ah, for the good old days.) When my great-grandfather came over from Prague at the turn of the century, he (or the guy working the intake desk at Ellis Island anglicized it to “Kozak.” In Czech, it’s actually pronounced “KO-yahk,” from what I understand. I’d have to go by my first name over there, for there is no translation for “Bradford.” But I digress.
Growing up, my last name was a source of amusement – and a method of torture – by classmates. I was called everything from “Kodak” to “Kleenex,” and even given the name of a popular women’s menstrual product – before I even understood what “that time of the month” meant. For the longest time, I hated my last name, and just wished people would bloody well learn how to pronounce it. When I was in high school, I worked at the Tennis Center in my neighborhood. I often wore a purple and gold cotton football jersey I’d bought at the LSU bookstore. It had my last name across the shoulders, in bright yellow iron-on letters. I was a tall kid – 6’4” and I guess looked as if I could have actually played football. (I did not. My football skills run more to the “immovable force blocking” kind of thing. I have no arm for tossing a pigskin.) One guy came up to the counter, looked at me in earnest, and said, “Wow, do you play for the Cowboys?” This was back when Bernie Kozar played for them. Keep in mind, my shirt was purple, and this was IN Louisiana, so it was only because he misread my name on the shirt that he made the connection. Weird.
As an adult, I’ve long since made peace with the mangling of my last name. I actually think it’s either kind of funny, or a little sad that people get it wrong. I attribute mistakes to the non-standard nature of the name. People see what they expect to see, and read what they expect to read, making “KOZAK” the linguistic equivalent of a tree root across a jogging trail.
Now there are a few people I’d expect to be able to spell my last name. My daughter. My sister. My best friend. And my wife. Apparently, I need to recalibrate my expectations. This morning, my betrothed was applying to renew her DL online. Since all the printers are in my office, I knew she was done, when I heard the familiar sound of my laser printer warming up. I grabbed the paper off the printer to take it to her (she’s still perambulatin’ around with a walker after her recent knee replacement surgery). As I looked down, my eye was immediately drawn to her emergency contact listed. Now understand, my bride took my surname when we wed. She got that right. But apparently, I’m now the heir to a photographic and film company, recently emerged from bankruptcy protection. Yep. As far as the State of Texas Driver’s License division goes, April is married to “BRAD KODAK.”
I can’t blame her. Only a slip of the keyboard is at the root of this. And to be fair, my best friend Keith has misspelled my last name on more than one occasion. I actually think it’s kind of funny, and when I pointed out the error, she was appalled, and more than a little contrite. However, just as the Left holds that you should “never let a crisis go to waste,” I believe that you should never pass on an opportunity to recount an amusing story. So, sorry, sweetheart…I couldn’t resist. But hey…you know where I live.