Last week, I was researching names. I am currently playing around with a concept for a new book; it was originally an idea for a TV pilot but then a literary agent told me that he’d like to see an extract from a different book than the one I am currently mid-way through writing. Instead of telling him that, funnily enough, I am NOT writing several novels simultaneously, I thought I’d transfer this TV show idea into the opening chapter of a possible second novel. The reason said agent wanted to see other examples of my work was evidently because he “found the narrator of my current novel too unsympathetic”. I had to stop myself writing back: “that’s the point of the character – he’s a dickhead.” But no, I shall honour this guy’s request and send him some new material.
I digress: I was on a website researching “female names relating to war and conflict”. I was considering (and still am) the name “Thorne” for my female protagonist’s Christian name. But the site I was on had a link that took me to the history of “Thorne” as a surname. This then lead me to curiously type my own surname in.
The name “Bullock” is a funny one. It’s never fun when you get to that point of flirting with someone where you have to tell each other your surnames. I always say “Bullock…” and then immediately follow this with “like Sandra Bullock” and then try and throw in there that Sandra is one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars, I have the same dark features as her and she once drove a bus with a bomb on it to safety. I also point out that if you re-arrange the letters in S.A.N.D.R.A you can almost spell A.N.D.R.E.W. If I don’t plan on taking the flirtation in the direction of marriage and children, I normally say that she’s my second cousin too. Why not, eh?
I heard it all in school. “Bollocks” was obviously the least original; “Bull-Bag” was possibly the most inventive, but I suspect the poor child who came up with it thought that a “Bull-Bag” was actually the name for a “Ball-Bag” and so the humour surrounding the nickname was kind of lost. Poor, poor boy. Poor, bespectacled, little bastard.
In truth though, I have grown to like the name. It’s a strong one, that’s for sure. It’s apt – my father’s side of the family really suit this surname. My Grandpa was a tall, respected, calm man who died when I was 18, but who I still admire 10 years later, and always will. My Grandma is the strongest woman I know. My Dad and my Uncle Keith are rugby men (the sport, not the location), and are, again, pillars. In fact, I’m probably the freak of the family. I’m not built like a Bullock, particularly – plonk me into a scrum half and I’d probably get slightly trampled. Having said that, my aggressively competitive nature would probably see me through and I’d probably be quite good at it (if we were playing on a mud-less pitch). I am a bit too materialistic, I’m creative, can be too vain and a terrible judge of character – in that I often judge someone before I’ve met them. That being said, we’re a passionate lot and we all care deeply about whatever concerns us. My sister and I both very much project this family trait. I would say I’m strong in mind. Sometimes I have a barrier up that I won’t let anyone attempt to cross – I’m stubborn and can be way too frank. My mouth has been known to get me into trouble and I fight my corner vehemently. I suppose these qualities link quite well with a surname such as “Bullock”…
According to The Surname Database the name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is “an example of early European surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. The nicknames were given with reference to personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal or bird’s appearance or disposition, or to habits of behaviour.” Christ! My surname is basically derived from the fact that my descendants acted like a pack of aggressive male oxen. I’m not sure how much offense I take to the insinuation that the nickname tied in to my ancestors’ physical attributes either. What, did they have horns? Are we descendants of Satan? And what’s with the “mental or moral characteristics” thing? I personally think that bulls must be rather noble creatures in contrast to the humans that wave red flags at them and spear them (fun fact – bulls are in fact angered by the colour green, not red, and it is the movement of the inhumane asshole’s flag that pisses them off more – probably because, you know, they’re trying to kill them for sport).
The site goes on to say that “the name would have been a nickname for an exuberant young man, deriving from the Middle English “bullok”, referring to a young steer, from the Olde English pre 7th Century “bulluca”, a bull calf.” I am confident in stating, proudly, that I am exuberant. In fact, reading this, I feel that perhaps I am a re-incarnation of the young steer-like gentleman that strode vivaciously through ye olde village, parading his wares, acting like a loud, aggressive, horned hoodlum and therefore being bestowed with the NICKname that would one day be my SURname!
The website goes on to explain that “In April 1635, Edward Bullock, aged 31 years, embarked from London on the ship “Elizabeth” bound for New England. He was one of the earliest recorded name-bearers to settle in America.” This resonates with me as I am the earliest recorded name-bearer to settle in Santa Barbara, California. Along with Mischa Barton. Apparently, the modern idiom of the name is also “Bullocke”. I actually prefer this spelling and may change my name by deed pole.
I was excited to read that Robert Bullock III of Aborfield was Knight of the Shire for Berkshire in 1382 and was Commissioner of the Peace for Berkshire 1394. My Grandpa’s name was Robert and so surely is a direct descendant of this “Knight of the Shire” – meaning I am too. I live in Berkshire as well, so I’m thinking my family are indeed the Bullocks of Berks and we therefore own the county. Does that not grant us the right to move into Windsor Castle?
Even MORE exciting was that Thomas Bullock II was Gentleman Usher Extraordinary to Henry VIII in 1516 and one of the Commissioners for collecting the subsidy for the king in 1523. So we were in league with one of the most tyrannical royals in history AND we used to plunder the poor. Those that survived in Henry VIIIs court were cut throat and in search of fortune – the apple may not have fallen too far from THAT branch of the family tree.
More recently, Sir Christopher Bullock K.C.B, C.B.E. was Permanent Under-Secretary at the British Air Ministry from 1931 to 1936. Appointed at the age of 38, he remains one the youngest civil servants to have headed a British Government department and married Barbara Lupton in 1917. Lady Barbara Bullock (née Barbara Lupton) is the 2nd cousin (thrice removed) to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Therefore, Kate Middleton and I are related and I am surely in line to the throne of England… I will give Kate the nickname Kitty when I am instated into the House of Windsor…
Finally – the Bullock family crest reads the following motto: nil conscire sibi – to have nothing on one’s conscience. I suppose this means I am an honourable man – or I have NO conscience. I’ll leave that up to my readers to ponder…
Note: Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. Taxation? What’s that?
– – A