The Benefit of Self-Education

Jack’s surname was Shit. That’s right, Jack Shit. It was a silly name. He had thought many times of changing it.


His wife, Margot, who kept her maiden name, was more ambivalent. Margot was an amateur historian and appreciated the things that connect us with the past – museums, libraries, family lineages. She loved Jack and sympathised over all the shit that he copped for being called Shit but she urged him to learn a bit about his family history before taking the drastic step of a name change.

Jack knew nothing of his family history. He’d always had a difficult relationship with his parents. They didn’t talk much. His father was a sullen, bitter man but Jack never worked out why. So the suggestion that he look into the Shit family history piqued his interest.

He conducted some internet searches and soon his detective work began to pay off. The first surprise was that the family’s surname had not always been Shit. Jack’s paternal great grandfather was a man named Augustus Shitzinpantz. Augustus had migrated to Australia with his family in 1909. In 1915 he changed his name to Shit because he thought Shitzinpantz sounded too German.

Ironically, Shitzinpantz was not a German name. It was Polish. Augustus grew up in the small village of Smrgk. In 1897 he married his childhood sweetheart, Agatha Smellsliketeenspirit. By all accounts it was a very happy wedding day. Both families rejoiced that the names of Shitzinpantz and Smellsliketeenspirit would be united forever.

Jack was intrigued and delved further. It turned out that there was heroism in the family. Many a Shitzinpantz had gone to war. The most impressive was Augustus’s father, Petr Shitzinpantz, a Polish nationalist who had fought the Russians in the January uprising of 1863. As a guerrilla, he never received any official commendation, but legend has it that local villagers gratefully presented him with a new suit of clothes.

Margot was pleased to see Jack develop a fervent interest, and even a little pride, in his family history. So she was surprised when he announced one morning that he intended to go into the city that day to change his name by deed poll. When he returned in the evening, he seemed in a particularly good mood.

‘You didn’t change your name?’ ventured Margot.

‘I sure did,’ replied Jack, smiling broadly.

‘And what did you change it to?’

‘See for yourself.’ Jack opened his briefcase and retrieved a scroll, which he laid flat on the table for Margot’s inspection. The document declared that Jack Shit would henceforth be known as Jack Shitzinpantz.

Margot was so pleased that she decided to renounce her maiden name and take Jack’s new surname as her own. After all, Margot Fuzzwhacker was a pretty silly name.