Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015 - 1 comment

Casa de “Son of the One With the Big Moustache”

A friend and I have a longstanding habit of texting each other amusing last names we come across when we’re out and about.  

Last names in Turkey are a fairly recent affair - after the founding of the Republic in 1923, Atatürk declared that everyone must choose one by a specified date.  So “Mehmet who lives behind the mosque” might have become Mehmet Yılmaz (Yılmaz means “Doesn’t Fear”) or Mehmet Şimşek (Şimşek means “Lightning.”)  Many people’s names reflected their occupation, like Kahveci (“The Coffee Seller”) or that of their father, like Yağcıoğlu (“Son of the Guy Who Sells Oil.”)  Others, like that of our Prime Minister, Davutoğlu, are the Turkish equivalent of “Johnson” or “Anderson.”  (His means “Son of David.”)  Still others chose names that reflected a characteristic for which they wanted to be known, such as Eşsiz (“Without Equal”) or Altınyürek (“Heart of Gold”).

Then there are the ones that sound a little...odd.  The ones that make you wonder if someone’s ancestor actually chose that name for himself or if he was out of town when they came by to register names and his neighbour decided to play a joke on him.   Those are the textworthy ones.  Some of our funnier finds are Parmaksız (“Fingerless”), Kocabıyıkoğlu (“Son of the One With the Big Moustache”) and - this one is my doctor’s name - Özkarakaş, which means “Essence of the Dark Eyebrow.”

Rambling through Istanbul’s older neighbourhoods is a great way to discover some good last names.  Many of the old apartment buildings were originally inhabited by a single family, with mom and dad on one floor and, as they got married, various kids and grandkids on the others.  Buildings were generally named after the family that owned them, or sometimes the city they originally came from.  I love the fun “fonts” of the various hand-painted signs over the entryways, and have decided to start a collection of my favourite finds.  Goodness knows it won’t be long before they’re torn down and replaced with thirty-storey “office-residence” buildings and shopping malls.  Gotta capture them before they’re gone, and a whole era of İstanbullu life with them.

This set are from the Moda and Yeldeğirmeni neighbourhoods in Kadıköy on İstanbul’s Asian side.  Note the evil eye on the first one and the stickers for water company subscription numbers and a locksmith's phone number so helpfully plastered on a few of the doors!  

"Good Day"

"Mr. Nazmi"

"Be Lucky"


"Amber-worker".  This one is spelled the old Ottoman way and
pre-dates the Republic and, therefore, the surname law.

"Aydın" means "bright" or "enlightened/educated."

"Son of the Captain/Lieutenant"

"The Men"


"Full Moon"

"Çankaya" literally means "Bell Rock", but it usually refers to the district of
Ankara (the capital) where the Presidential palace and all the embassies are.

Um...hard to translate.  I just like the script.  :)


The apartment name CANSEN "Can-Sen" is a mixed word made out of Life-You, meaning you are my life.