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My English Heritage

My mother’s maiden name is undoubtably German.  I grew up in southwestern Indiana, which was settled largely by Germans.  That fact is obvious if you look at the names of the towns in that area: Haubstadt.  Darmstadt.  Elberfeld.  Autumn in that area of the country is filled with more than the usual Oktoberfests and Biergartens.  German was even the only foreign language offered in my middle school.  (It wasn’t until high school that we could branch out into Spanish or French.)

While we’ve always known that my mother’s family is German, we weren’t sure of the heritage of my dad’s side.  The name wasn’t obviously French or Russian or Danish.  Someone had told us once that the name was Irish, and we figured that made sense considering Dad’s red hair.

Because, obviously, everyone with red hair must be Irish.

Recently, I was having a discussion with my family about whether we really are Irish or not.  “Hey,” Mom remembered, “we have that geneology somewhere.”  Years ago, someone had traced the roots of my father’s family and apparently found its origins.

We’re English.

And really, I should have known.  In spite of the fact that I am a good speller and generally spell things according to correct American English, when I’m typing I always spell behaviour the English way.  (With a u, as opposed to the American behavior.)

I spell color, and honor, and favor the American way.

But behaviour always comes out English.

I was digging through some old boxes the other day, and I came across some of the papers I’d written in grad school.  I was writing about Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Hemingway’s code of manliness, which includes behaving properly.  And throughout the entire paper I wrote behaviour.

At least I was consistent.

So while I enjoy my German Potato Salad and bratwurst and spätzle, I will always have my English characteristics as well.

And that includes good behaviour.

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About Karen Koch

I like the old-fashioned lifestyle. All this new-fangled stuff baffles me sometimes. I cherish living out in the country, raising chickens and rabbits, planting fruit trees, and enjoying a slow life filled with beautiful words and ideas. I don't always achieve a slow life. I teach middle school English and manage a little burgeoning farm with my husband, and somewhere in the midst of that, I try to find time for writing, running, knitting, reading, and playing the ukulele. And sometimes, I actually succeed.

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