Most of the comments on Damian Thompson’s post about me seem to show an obsession with my unusual name. I admit that ‘Dwight Longenecker’ is a mightily unusual name for Brits to cope with, and it certainly is just about as American sounding as you can get. However, it is a bit rich coming from a people with names like Giles Throckmorton-Ffielding Smythe, Humphrey Higginbottom, Arabella Huffington-Post or Lucinda Anstruther-Gusset.
I think my name rather splendid and distinctive. Nevertheless, there have been times that I have longed to be called Charlie Brown or Bob Smith or Mike Johnson. Then when I became an Anglican and then a Catholic I have wished to have a proper Catholic name like Augustine Florsheim or Liam McGallicudy or Ricardo Montalban or Luigi Macaroni. Alas, one is stuck with the name one is given. Any idea of changing the name or even adopting my confirmation or ordination name seemed, well, rather affected.
The name ‘Dwight’ as a forename has an easy explanation. It is an English surname. (Elton John’s real name is Reginald Dwight). The Puritans thought it was Catholic to call their children names of saints so they started give their children the last names of famous Puritans (err, that’s not naming them after ‘saints’?) but anyway, sure enough it turns out there was a famous Puritan preacher called Timothy Dwight. Thus ‘Dwight’ becomes a first name in the United States. There. So now you know.
Longenecker is a Swiss name. All the Longeneckers in the USA (and there aren’t many of us) are descended from one Ulrich Longenecker and his three sons who arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1770s from Switzerland. They were members of the Mennonite sect, and most Longeneckers are still Mennonite or Amish.
I have been toying with the idea of leaving all and becoming an Carthusian monk so that I might be called Bruno or Bede or Boniface…but I doubt if I could pull it off.