Automobile manufacturer, Chrysler, has a commercial for a new vehicle with fashionista John Varvatos. Tiger Woods might be driving a Buick (especially after his divorce) but a Greek named Varvatos with money is NOT driving no Chrysler. Do you know what Varvatos means in Greek? Varvatos refers to one who’s “not-castrated” the male stallion that’s used to reproduce.

So since I don’t have a life, I start thinking of Greek last names and their origin. “We have this professor whose last name is AGRIOS (Wildman),” said Giorgos, a Greek American sophomore who studies at Villanova University. I mentioned T. ARAPIS (Arab) another Greek professor at Villanova. “How would you like to grow up in Greece with a name like XINOS (Sour),” I said to him and Giorgo’s reply was “how would you like to grow up in Greek town New York and be this frail 90 pound kid with a last name like KOKKALIARIS?” Thank God engineering professor George FACAS teaches in Jersey.

Like most Greeks, I’ve been known to stretch the truth, create drama, and use my imagination more than I should, but I couldn’t make this stuff up about Greek names even if I wanted to: Agrios, Arapis, Varvatos, Xinos and Kokkaliaris. DOESN’T IT SOUND LIKE A GREEK COMEDY SHOW? Greek yiayias can create a new Greek monster when Yiannaki is not finishing his third serving of lamb and Greek roasted potatoes (ean den kathariseis to piato sou, th’arthei o Agrios arapis xinos kokkaliaris kai tha se faei).

How did these funny last names develop?

In my town we had last names like XYDIS (yes that’s vinegar) and EIKOSIDEKAS (Twntyten) Then there are names like TELEIOS, FETAS, SOUVLAKIS, APRILIS, LOUKANIKAS, VELONAS, SKORDAS, SKORDALIAS, GOUROUNA, MPINES and the list goes on and on.

Last names tell us a lot about one’s family roots especially where they came from, according to scholar Foula Pispirigklou Greek last names can be put in 4 categories and some go back to the Byzantine era.

  1. Baptism name (Kostis, Georgis etc.) which is derived from Kostas and Giorgos. Here we also have a combination of name and origin so a name like Stefanidis for instance tells us that Great Grandpa’s name was Stefanos and that he’s Pontian (idis).
  2. Origin, names ending in:
    -idis Pontian (Stafylidis, Paulidis)
    -adis Pontian (Euthimiadis, Anastasiadis)
    -oudis Macedonian-Thrace (Nikoloydis, Mauroudis)
    -oglou Asia Minor (fellow CosmosPhilly comrade Keisoglou)
    -akis Crete (papadakis, Sifakis
    -akos Mani. Peloponnese (Pantelakos)
    -poulos Peloponnese (Stauropoulos)
    -atos Cefalonia (Kosmatos)
    -elis Islands of Lesvos, Limnos, Imvros (Kanelis)
    -ousis Xios (Manousis)
  3. Profession Sideras, Aleuras, Psarras
  4. Nickname Magkas, Mavros

Every Greek father tells his kids not to “throw dirt on the family name” but what can one do if your last name is “VROMIKOS”? How about having “MOUNOUXOS” (castrated) as your last name? What would you do if your neighbor was John Varvatos? If it was me I would get a one-way ticket to Grenada, crawl under a rock and wait to die.

Then we have our baptism names that we must defend at all costs till the day we die. Names that stay in the family for generations and that were given to an ancestor by a nouno who probably had too much wine and on a whim decided to name your great grandmother “Louloudo” “Smaragdo” or Garoufalia” and now you have to name your daughter “Louloudo,” how nice. First day in school and the teacher calls out “LOU-LOU-DO HATZIPAPANIKOLAOU” and the poor little girl (all eyes staring) wishes she was under that rock in Grenada. I’m all for some great traditions we Greeks have but this thing with the names, I just don’t know about. So what do we do? We play the “lets baptize our daughter Louloudo so that our mother doesn’t have a heart attack but call her LOLA so that she can have somewhat of a normal life” game.