H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
Act of June 29, 1906, authorizes the court, as a part of the naturalization of any alien, to make an order changing his name. This is frequently done when he receives his last papers; sometimes, if the newspapers are to be believed, without his solicitation, and even against his protest. If the matter is overlooked at the time, he may change his name later on, like any other citizen, by simple application to a court of record or even without any legal process whatever.
Among names of Anglo-Saxon origin and names naturalized long before the earliest colonization, one notes certain American peculiarities, setting off the nomenclature of the United States from that of the mother country. The relative infrequency of hyphenated names in America is familiar; when they appear at all it is almost always in response to direct English influences.36 Again, a number of English family names have undergone modification in the New World. Venable may serve as a specimen. The form in England is almost inevitably Venables, but in America the final s has been lost, and every example of the name that I have been able to find in the leading American reference-books is without it. And where spellings have remained unchanged, pronunciations have been frequently modified. This is particularly noticeable in the South.37Callowhill, down there, is commonly pronounced Carrol; Crenshawe is Granger; Hawthorne, Horton; Heyward, Howard; Norsworthy, Nazary; Ironmonger, Munger; Farinholt, Fernall; Camp, Kemp; Buchanan, Bohannan; Drewry, Droit; Enroughty, Darby;38 and Taliaferro, Tolliver. The English Crowninshields commonly make it Crunshel. Van Schaick, an old New York Dutch name, is pronounced
Note 36. They arose in England through the custom of requiring an heir by the female line to adopt the family name on inheriting the family property. Formerly the heir dropped his own surname. Thus the ancestor of the present Duke of Northumberland, born Smithson, took the ancient name of Percy on succeeding to the underlying earldom in the eighteenth century. But about a hundred years ago, heirs in like case began to join the two names by hyphenation, and such names are now very common in the British peerage. Thus the surname of Lord Barrymore is Smith-Barry, that of Lord Vernon is Venables-Vernon, and that of the Earl of Wharncliffe is Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie. [back]
Note 37. B. W. Green: Word-Book of Virginia Folk-Speech; Richmond, 1899, pp. 13-16. [back]
Note 38. A correspondent writes in explanation of this amazing pronunciation: The family, having rather unwillingly had to change their name to Enroughty to secure an inheritance, balanced up by continuing to pronounce their original nameDarby. [back]