Tuesday, July 3, 2012
John Couke or ジョン カウク
My family name is difficult to pronounce. The English spelling - as if often the case - causes a lot of misdirection, and leads people to say things like "coke" or "kook". The correct pronunciation is something more like a combination of the word "cow" and the "k" sound that comes at the end of "book".
Thankfully, in Japan the katakana character system is phonetic, and so once people here learn how to write my name using katakana characters, they pronounce it well. In katakana my family name is written using these three characters: カウク.
So where does this name come from? Apparently, the family name Couke goes back 8 generations in Canada, and 4 more generations before that in what is now North America. Prior to that, someone arrived in North America on a boat from somewhere else (probably in Europe). There are two ideas as to what happened next:
1) They used the opportunity of moving to a new country to change their name from whatever it actually was to Couke.
2) Off the boat, they were asked for their name, and while they said something like Louk or Locke or Louche or Couche, it was taken down incorrectly as Couke (it seems a lot of things were done by ear then).
Whatever the case, a new family name was born.