Monday, January 8, 2007

By Any Other Name

It just so happens that Killus is a rare name. That’s a little counter-intuitive; it doesn’t seem like it ought to be unusual. It’s not hard to spell, though it often gets misspelled. It’s not hard to pronounce, thought it often gets mispronounced. It is, however, easy to make fun of, though it could be worse. Ask anyone named Fluck, or Fuchs.

We weren’t even sure of the origin when I was growing up. We were pretty sure it was German, as my grandparents sometimes spoke German when they didn’t want the kids to understand what they were saying. This, of course, prompted my Dad to learn a bit of German. I do too, for different reasons. I suspect my fluency is similar to my Dad’s, which is to say, almost non-existent.

There was also some confusion owing to the old Deutsch/Dutch thing. I’ve had some colleagues from the Netherlands tell me that Kilius is a fairly common name there, but it’s also a common German name. I thought that Marika Kilius, who was in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics as a figure skater was Dutch, but it turns out she was German, so much for that.

In any case, I was contacted a few years ago by a nice lady named Crystal, maiden name Killus, from, I think, Leipzig, who was interested in tracking down members of the Killus family in the U. S. I’m pretty easy to find, given the wonders of the Web, so she contacted me first. I have the impression that she thought I was two people; it sometimes looks a little like that if you do a web search. She was also pretty excited at having found a couple of Killus’ in the Cincinnati phone book, since Cincinnati has a lot of German immigrants. I had to tell her that she’d found my mother and sister, and that my mother was from Georgia by way of Tennessee, and of English descent.

I’ve followed the careers of a few other Killus’ like Dagmar, who’s at the Max Plank Institute and apparently studies secondary education. Then there are Dorothea and Ranier, also German, who seem to be involved in missionary work. Crystal told me that the generations-back Killus’ were known for being “pious,” and that, added to the fact that my maternal relatives tend strongly toward the ministry, and I get a little uncomfortable.

Just a few days ago I got an email from Vicki Killus, who wanted to know if we were related. Since she and my mom used to be in a bowling league together when my folks lived in Illinois, I already knew of her. But I was off to college by then, and while I probably met cousin Vicki when I was young, she hadn’t connected the young squirt named Pete with the greybeard named James.

She did clear up that Lindsay Killus, who I first ran across when she showed up on the web as a star high school athlete in southern California, is indeed another relative, one of those “second cousin once removed” sort of things. Lindsay has written some sports articles since then, which is kinda cool.

In talking to a high school buddy a couple weeks ago, I told him to drop by my web site, it’s really easy to find, since I’m the first hit on Google. Naturally, a few days after that, I discover that there’s this Spanish metal band that’s named itself “killus” and they’re doing streamcasts of their stuff on MySpace. Well, you know, a few sf novels and scientific papers can’t really stand up to free music, so I’ve dropped off the number 1 spot. Serves me right. Besides, “Death Gun” is a killer song.

[Note added August, 2007; me and the rock band have been locked in an epic struggle on Google for some months now. Currently, I am ahead by a whisker. I am letting my beard grow.]


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