For some time I was convinced this sad and humorous tale was a quirk of my particular family, but not so apparently. It took a man like Mark Twain to enlighten me.
Recently I stumbled across Twain's delicious shorty story called The Private History of a Campaign That Failed where Twain tells of a bumbling little militia he and his friends had formed at the beginning of the Civil War. In the end, most of the group decided that all this soldiering business was not to their taste: too much following orders and sleeping out in the cold, so they disbanded.
In the following excerpt Twain gives a little character sketch of one of the young men in his militia:
"He was young, ignorant, good-natured, well-meaning, trivial, full of romance, and given to reading chivalric novels and singing forlorn love-ditties. He had some pathetic little nickel-plated aristocratic instincts, and detested his name, which was Dunlap; detested it, partly because it was nearly as common in that region as Smith, but mainly because it had a plebeian sound to his ear. So he tried to ennoble it by writing it in this way: d’Unlap. That contented his eye, but left his ear unsatisfied, for people gave the new name the same old pronunciation—emphasis on the front end of it. He then did the bravest thing that can be imagined, a thing to make one shiver when one remembers how the world is given to resenting shams and affectations; he began to write his name so: d’Un Lap. And he waited patiently through the long storm of mud that was flung at this work of art, and he had his reward at last; for he lived to see that name accepted, and the emphasis put where he wanted it, by people who had known him all his life, and to whom the tribe of Dunlaps had been as familiar as the rain and the sunshine for forty years."
What can I say?
Bravo Monsieur D'Un Lap et vive la famille d'Eon!