Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

My name is sorrow


Now this is a hell of a thing. I was minding my own business yesterday when the need came up to research the meaning of certain Irish surnames. I wanted a name that might mean something like “the last of the line” or “alone” but wasn’t able to find one in the various lists out there. I settled on Magee because it can be loosely seen as a stand-in for omega, as in “last in a series.” Magee, in Irish Gaelic, happens to mean “fire.” That’s interesting too, for my purposes.

Scanning the list, I learned that the surname O’Farrell — my protagonist in Town Father — means “man of valor.” Henry certainly is that.

But the name that utterly cold-cocked me (like the Donald Trump supporter who punched an old lady with an oxygen tank yesterday — hashtag #Deplorable!), turned out to be my own. Brennan. Ó Braonáin.     

It means “sorrow.”

Now I am depressed.

Do you see now? Do you understand why I have to write songs like “Mystery Cake” to make myself feel better?

7 comments on “My name is sorrow

  1. Audrey Driscoll
    September 14, 2016

    But it’s such a poetic meaning. Just that phrase “My name is sorrow,” sounds like a title for a heavy work of literature (or a light, fluffy satire). Just for fun, I looked up Driscoll (which isn’t actually my name; I married it). The meaning is apparently “descendant of the messenger,” which sounds like it might be significant, but maybe is just a very rough translation.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 15, 2016

      I’m leaning on the fact that poetry is often ironic … 😉

  2. Claire @ bletheringbylinley
    September 15, 2016

    Haha oh dear! If it helps, no one is 100% sure what Gaelic names mean, because a lot has been lost in translation over the centuries – if you can imagine a millennia+ long game of Chinese whispers! Mine is fairly straight forward, it means dark haired, whichI am, so I guess it fits!

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 15, 2016

      Thank you, Claire! That’s very reassuring. Plus, I always heard my first name means “of noble birth,” so that makes me a sorrowful king, I guess. Seems the right attitude for the job!

      • Claire @ bletheringbylinley
        September 15, 2016

        Very true – if I was a medieval Irish king, I’m pretty sure I’d be sorrowful!

  3. cinthiaritchie
    September 16, 2016

    I love that your name means sorrow, that’s such a deep and pondering word, and for a writer, well, it’s almost perfect. My own surname is a lie: My great-grandfather supposedly changed it when he arrived in America due to gambling debts back in Italy that he didn’t, you know, want following him (now, does that sound like the idea for a novel or what?).

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 16, 2016

      Italiano? What’s your family’s original name?

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2016 by in Et alia and tagged , , .
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