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Just another point of view: A Kelly, by any other name, is probably also full of blarney

I confess to being curious what would happen if I walked into a pub in Ireland and announced my name is Mike Kelly.

Would somebody buy me a drink, or would they shout, in unison, “So?????” — you know, kind of like the rousing yell from the crowd at Cheers that always greeted Norm, only in this case with an edge of irritation.

I’ve never been to the Emerald Isle, but the other person who lives at our house insists I would fit right in because, as she so aptly puts it, “you are completely full of blarney.”

Guilty, perhaps, but that doesn’t really help much in my quest to figure out if I belong to one of the largest families in the history of the world or if I’m just one of many, many, many denominational accidents that have occurred over time.

When someone is taking down vital information from me, and I tell them my last name, they almost always ask, “Is that with an E-Y?” — in spite of the fact that the Kellys with just one E far outnumber the E-Y ones.

And, when I’m asked my first name — and I hastily inject the oddball spelling dreamed up by my mom — I’m often told, “Now THAT’S an unusual way to spell Michael.” l invariably resist the temptation to say, “Yep, that was my idea. Of course, I could not talk yet on the day I was born, so when my mother admitted she was leaning toward calling her first-born Michael, I grabbed a pencil and scribbled this note: ‘How about M-I-K-E-L?’”

There were two other Mikes in my first-grade class, and they both had all kinds of extra, superfluous letters in their names, while mine was exactly the way it sounded.

I’m pretty sure this whole spelling of names business took some dramatic turns at Ellis Island and other official international checkpoints when short-tempered bureaucrats decided long, complicated names (think Eastern Europe, Russia or anywhere else names tend to run more than six letters).

Later, Americans would change names for other reasons (Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko would become Natalie Wood, for example), but you know good and well that all sorts of monikers were abbreviated at the turnstile for plenty of suitcase-toting Polish and Czechoslovakian refugees.

But enough about other people. Let’s talk about my name some more.

I’ve confessed in the past to being a sucker for the genealogy programs on TV that explore the backgrounds of various famous people, and one thing that we often learn from digging into one’s ancestry is how muddled things get as we go back in time. We find blurring of lines, mixing of races and even some hitherto unknown DNA connections way, way back — usually on account of how there was hanky-panky going on then, just like now.

Based on that not-at-all-wasted time in front of my television, then, I’m ready to conclude that I’m pretty sure I’m related to all the other Kellys out there.

First of all, there are my brothers: Robert, Patrick and Casey, scattered from Junction City to Chicago — and all proudly bearing the Kelly name. Unlike me, they have all reproduced (some with more than one mate) and created Kelly descendants who live all over this land.

I, on the other hand, have failed in this regard. The other person who lives at our house and I at first were waiting to reach maturity. Then, as we neared the end of our 30s (with biological clocks loudly ticking), decided that oh, what the heck — let’s not do that after all.

We may eventually regret that choice, of course, because there will be nobody to care for us when we reach our golden years — which I estimate to be only a matter of hours away. However, we’ve noticed that none of our friends who DO have progeny are all that confident they’ll get any care (or anything else) from them, either, so maybe it’s a wash.

Meanwhile, I don’t feel all that alone. I’ve got my astronaut cousins Scott and Mark Kelly making big names for themselves (and, by extension, me).

I’ve got super-cool and super-rich hip-hop relatives Chris and R. Kelly, from whom I get much-needed and valued street cred, if not financial assistance.

When a conversation is lagging, I can always pull out captivating yarns about my famous aunts and uncles, such as Emmett the clown, Gene the dancer, Walt the cartoonist and even Grace the actress-slash-princess.

After all, we’re all Kellys, and I’m not ashamed to point that out. I’m also full of blarney, but that’s a cross I’ll just have to bear.

Former managing editor of several community newspapers, including the Woodburn Independent, Lake Oswego Review and the Times papers, Mikel Kelly is chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.


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