In my research into the name Thurlow, it occurred to me that your name becomes who you are and has a far stronger influence on our lives than we imagine.
An article published in Psychology Today shows that people have stereotypical views of others based on their names. Names can reveal cultural values and locations as well as fashion. Names can influence personality and, more controversially, the decisions we make in our life.
When we meet strangers for the first time and exchange names, we provide clues to our ethnicity and social class. Jolyon and Camilla are more likely to have attended private school than Jason and Tracy. Your first name chosen by parents can reveal conformity in picking a common name or daring in selecting the unusual. Are those with historically strong names like George and Alexander more likely to row across the Atlantic than Tim and Cyril?
Recent research suggests that we grow to look like our names, according to a 2017 study where participants showed a high degree of accuracy when asked to look at photographs and guess the people’s names.
Some names are associated with criminals, due to the movies as well as famous crimes, while names as well as photographs on dating sites can lead to greater hits or rejections. The name Adolf was once common in German-speaking countries and spiked after Hitler came to power in 1933. Now the name is barely used.
Dylan is a given name and surname of Welsh origin meaning ‘son of the sea’ or ‘born from the ocean.’ The Welsh might like to think that the popularity of Dylan as a first name for girls as well as boys comes from a universal appreciation of poet Dylan Thomas, but it is far more likely that new parents have on Spotify song lists of the Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan.
Gordon Allport, one of the founders of personality psychology, said in 1961, ‘The most important anchorage to our self-identity throughout life remains our own name.’ More than just your identity, your name becomes that person you acknowledge when you clean your teeth in the morning and your reflection looks back from the mirror.
Your Name Becomes Who You Are Clifford
My name is Clifford Edward Thurlow. I never use Edward except when filling in forms although I like it more than Clifford or the abbreviation Cliff. Clifford is hard to say and pinpoints too accurately the Anglo-Saxon origin – from Old English clif ‘slope’ + ford ‘ford’. The name is mostly from Devon, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire. It is rare in that there appears to be no Saint Clifford and, if there is, he never did anything of note.
My grandfather came from Devon and named his son Clifford Douglas Thurlow, my dad who, as tradition has it, passed on his first name to me. Grandfather had the rather eccentric name George Levi Connelly Pavit Thurlow. Levi is typically Jewish. Pavit is Hindu. Connelly is Catholic and belongs to an Irish clan from Galway – this melee of names concealing more than revealing his origins. We know he was a second son, never a good position to be in, and the first son whom we believe was named Henry Douglas Martin Pavit got the lot.
Grandfather George left Devon and moved alone to London about 1900 with nothing – legend has it – but driving skills and a cricket bat, both of which he put to good use, as a batsman for the Middlesex County Cricket Club and one of the first drivers on the electric trams that opened in 1901 with a service between Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith, Acton and Kew Bridge. George Thurlow was tall, thin, reserved with blue eyes, fair hair and the chiselled features of Scandinavia. He fathered five sons and a daughter and lived in a small house in Edmonton, North London. I grew up nearby.
When the Norman king William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, his army consisted of mercenaries from Scandinavia who settled in England. Thurlow is believed to be a derivative or corruption of the Swedish names Thoney or Thorell, or the Norwegian Torald, Thoresen, Torvald, Thorsen or Thuresson.
Thor derives from the Norse God of Thunder and, alternatively, the word for ‘hill’. Thurlow translated into Old English is Tryohlaw, meaning dweller by the hill. When Norman French was introduced to Britain in the 11th century, mediaeval curates spelled the names of illiterate parishioners according to their sound. Thurlow was alternatively penned Thurlough, Thurlowe, Thurloe, Thurlo, Thurlows or Thurles.
According to House of Names, the first Thurlow through wit, wisdom or fist to claim title as the Lord of the Manor was in Suffolk. This branch of the family supposedly descended from ‘Godric, the holder of the King’s lands of Great and Little Thurlow,’ according to the Domesday Book census in 1086 conducted after the conquest by King William. The village Thurlow at that time consisted of a church and 33 goats.
The Thurlow motto lacks a certain je ne sais quoi: Justitiae soror fides – Fidelity is the sister of justice. I would have preferred something more enigmatic like the Mackenzie clan’s Luceo non Uro – I shine, but do not burn.
If your name becomes who you are, I should probably have studied divinity and taken vows. Circa 1330, John de Thurlow was a monk and scribe in St Albans. Thomas Thurlow (1737-1791) was the Bishop of Lincoln and Durham; the Very Rev Alfred Gilbert Goddard Thurlow (1911-1991) was an author and the Anglican Dean of Gloucester); while another Thomas Thurlow (1813-1899) carved his name into history as a sculptor with numerous works in churches in Suffolk.
Edward Thurlow (1731-1806) was a Member of Parliament, 1765 – 1778. He served as Lord High Chancellor under four Prime Ministers and was made 1st Baron Thurlow.
Henry G Thurlow arrived in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1875. There are now 2,500 Americans with the surname Thurlow – all, I assume, my relatives and I would be happy to hear from them. You can leave a comment in the box below.
Looking back at these presumed ancient forebears is like chasing ghosts. With an author and scribe among them it is hardly surprising that I should have become a ghostwriter.