Thursday, July 19, 2018
Politics

Donald Drumpf: A label that may be more funny than fair (w/video)

Would Donald Drumpf poll as well?

After a 22-minute segment Sunday on HBO's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, many people learned that Donald Trump's ancestors were Drumpfs, not Trumps.

"Drumpf is much less magical," Oliver noted, suggesting that Trump's opponents begin referring to him by the former family name.

Soon enough, the hashtag #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain lit up social media. And on Super Tuesday, "Donald Drumpf" was the second-most searched candidate name on Google, behind only "Donald Trump," and ahead of "Marco Rubio" and "Ted Cruz," the senators who are two of Trump's closest competitors in the race.

With Trump's sweeping victories Tuesday, we surely have not seen the last of the "Drumpf" meme. But even as his critics extend its popularity, some fairness might be in order.

Despite mistaken impressions, Trump and his recent relatives had nothing to do with the surname change.

Oliver himself was careful to refer to a "prescient ancestor." Indeed, several centuries have passed since Drumpf evolved into Trump, according to Gwenda Blair, who wrote a biography of Trump and his family. The Drumpf name appears in tax logs dating to about 1600, and the Trump name first appeared among his ancestors in Germany later that century, she said.

By the time Donald Trump's grandfather, Friedrich Trump, arrived in New York in 1885 at age 16 with a single suitcase and dreams of wealth, Trump was well-established as the family name, Blair said. In 1892, Friedrich Trump changed his name to Frederick Trump, a move toward Anglicization that was common among immigrants who hoped to accelerate their assimilation and fend off discrimination.

Immigrants in modern America, however, do not often change their names anymore. In June 2010, only about a half dozen of 500 applications for name changes in New York appeared to be Anglicizing their names, according to a New York Times analysis.

Name changes do remain popular among entertainers. For example, Jon Stewart, whose Daily Show is in some ways the parent of Oliver's HBO program, was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz. And many politicians have also undergone name changes, notably two presidents, Bill Clinton, who changed his name from William Jefferson Blythe III, and Gerald Ford, who was born Leslie Lynch King Jr.

Trump's potential opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton, long held to her maiden name of Rodham, but she now campaigns without it.

Blair said the Trump name has been particularly valuable to his brand; think of a "trump card" or a "trump hand" and you're likely to think of having the advantage in a card game.

"It's hard to imagine a more fortunate name to have in business, and particularly for someone whose only goal in life is to be a winner," Blair said.

In her book, The Trumps, she wrote, "Whether Donald Trump could have had the same success with any other name is an intriguing question."

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