People, Place, and Time

Telling my family's stories

The name ‘Kolupka’

The name ‘Kolupka’ is one of the hardest to sort out, genealogically and etymologically.

It is most definitely a Polish name. One possible etymology was suggested by a Slavic linguist: chałupa meaning ‘shack’ with the diminutive -ka put on it, which is often used in naming. This would yield something like chałupaka. Another possibility is a derivation from chłop meaning ‘peasant’ plus that same diminutive, yielding chłopka.  

I have seen the name butchered in a whole variety of ways in North America. Spellings include Klebaka, Kalubka, Kalapka, Kalpka, and a whole host of bad transcriptions (e.g. Kalnbke, etc.). I consider the b and p variants to be about equally likely – Kolupka and Kolubka, as well as the a and o variant – Kolupka and Kalupka. As far as I can find, it is not a name that has been put into the ‘soundex’ dictionary of correlated spellings used by genealogists. My grandmother, on a marriage document she filled out in the 70s, wrote her mother’s last name as Klopke. This appears to be a germanicized version, but it’s a spelling I haven’t seen in any official documents for the family.

One of my great uncles apparently changed his last name to ‘Kelly,’ a common practice for polish people in North America. Typically, they go one of two routes; either they pick a nice ‘english’ word that sounds somewhat like the name (e.g. Grczkiewicz becomes ‘grace’) or they translate the name into English (e.g. Zelinsky becomes ‘green’). This is also true for Irish and German immigrants, but Polish people change their names more often in North America, I think. Part of it is the stigma of Polishness, and part of it is the extreme difficulty of the names for English speakers.


About Hattifattener

Age: 37 Lives: All over the place. Education: PhD, linguistics, UBC.

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2010 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .
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