My name is Dragutsky. Michael Dragutsky.

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/01/06 10:16 -05:00, original URI:

From the not-so-recently pre-recorded but never-yet-posted blogs collection...

I mentioned this in passing in a post back in June of 2005 (Giving up on the phonemes):

Meanwhile I have sometimes considered changing my name back to the original family name ('Kaplan' is just an Ellis Island name) but I am not sure how people would respond to me as Michael Dragutsky. And then I'd have to worry about whether to fight to get people to pronounce it correctly (dry-goot-ski) or just give up and let people butcher it at will....

Now Kaplan is basically an Ellis Island name, though not in the usual sense I always thought of where the guy checking in an immigrant just gives a person a new name due to a hard to pronounce old one being stated by the immigrant.

The way the story was told to me was simple enough.

My [great-?]great-grandfather's name was Jacob Dragutsky. On the boat to America he was talking to one of the other passengers about this new country they were going to. They introduced themselves to each other, and upon hearing the name Jacob Dragutsky this other passenger seemed scandalized.

"In America," he proclaimed, boldly, "you can't have such a long, hard-to-spell name. You need a shorter, easier American name!"

"What is a shorter, American name?" Jacob Dragutsky asked.

"As an example, my last name is Kaplan."

So when they got to Ellis Island and our hero Jacob Dragutsky was asked his name, he gave it as Jacob Kaplan!

Now for years the way the story was told was that this other Kaplan on the boat was actually an ancestor (or perhaps relative) of Gabe Kaplan, best known to many as Mr. Kotter, and best known to me for his one-man-show where he played Groucho Marx, which I always thought was completely brilliant. In any case, this actually worked out well since the most common question anyone who was not MOT would ask me when they heard my name was Michael Kaplan was "Any relation to Gabe Kaplan?" at which point I could just smile, say "funny you should ask..." and then tell this nice little anecdote of a story that was part of the family tribal lore.

On at least one occasion in my early 20's this story was the crucial first of several steps that led to my first (and almost only) successfully completed one night stand. So I feel that I have to give the anecdote partial credit for that, if nothing else (not that I am being asked to show my work for the problem all these years later).

Anyway, when I wrote this post up (some time ago) I was asking my father for some additional details on the story just to make sure I had them right, and he told me that as far as he could recall, no one had actually verified that this benefactor of our family name's American leg was in fact an ancestor or relative of Gabe Kaplan, so that I probably shouldn't make this claim in the blog without providing the caveat that it may or may not actually be true.

My first thought was for the fact that no one used to tell it that way, so the occasions I had told the story I had been unintentionally misleading people.

My second thought was to try to figure out how I could find Rita again after ~15 years to give her this erratum to the story. However I quickly realized that

So then I just wrote this post up and it promptly forgot about it. Until I stumbled on it the other day and decided to put it in the rotation....

After this blog goes live, perhaps I will send email to Gabe Kaplan and ask him if there is such a connection, though at this point it seems unlikely to me.

And I would send Rita flowers to apologize for the false pretenses if only I had a way to do so. The best I can actually do at this point is to dedicate the post to her, from that Michael KaplanDragutsky she met that night near the OSU campus all those years ago....

For Rita...


This post brought to you by 𒆸 (U+121b8, aka CUNEIFORM SIGN LAGAB)

John Cowan on 6 Jan 2008 5:10 PM:


That strikes me as a pretty dated expression.  But maybe not in your POT?

Michael S. Kaplan on 6 Jan 2008 5:38 PM:

I know people who still use it. I only use it myself among people who use it, but it just seemed to fit, here. :-)

Ambarish Sridharanarayanan on 7 Jan 2008 2:49 AM:

Well, it entered the Urban Dictionary in 2006, so it can't be all *that* dated:

John Cowan on 7 Jan 2008 4:25 PM:

Well, oooooo-kay!

John Cowan, Hiberno-Deutsch F.M.O.T. (but I come by it honestly, really -- "ich bin der Goy der stets bejaht").

Janine on 20 Jul 2009 9:28 PM:

my dr's name is michael dragustky. and nobody says "dra GOOT sky." We say "dra GUT sky."

Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Jul 2009 2:59 AM:

Well I was writing about it as it was said to me.... :-)

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referenced by

2015/05/26 It turns out Rita *did* remember me. And she forgives me....

2012/01/11 Better know an Exec part 2 (Quality time with Rich Kaplan, his wife Karmann & 13 others)

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