Byfuglien. When I learned that you pronounce this “Bufflin,” I wondered if it was a Welsh name. Welsh names have crazy spelling contradictions like that, with silent letters and syllables like some kind of spy code. This is consistent with at least one moment in long ago history when the Welsh provided a number of mercenaries for the Normans. Those mercenaries left their homes to lend a hand with an invasion. They resettled in the invaded land only to be incorporated into that culture under a new, simpler name. Eventually they were called native to that place, their old names lost with the particulars of their origins. But Byfuglien is not Welsh, it is Norwegian. I am not surprised. I am terrible at “placing” names.
I do not know how the Norwegians got on with the Normans. But they do have a fascinating name history. It may not be unique among Scandinavian cultures. The surnames in old Norwegian culture were a combination of local identifiers (“Bakken” would mean someone lived in a place called Bakken) and paternal names. The last part is not so original except that daughters and sons did not have the same name and daughters did not take their husbands’ names. So a man would be called “Jon’s son” but his sister would be called “Jon’s daughter” and his wife might be called “Ander’s daughter.” As a result many people had a few names: one first name, one father’s name, and one place name. Logically, a person’s name would change if they moved, but not if they married.
That changed when they came to the US, or much of it did. As with so many, Norwegian names were simplified and made consistent with the Western European system of naming. So they are a people with a history shaded, not unlike the Welsh mercenaries of the Norman times.
But the name “Byfuglien” still doesn’t have “son” or “datr” in it. And I can’t find it in any list of surnames with an identifiable geographic origin. It does appear in one place as the third name of someone involved in a St. Olaf’s Day celebration. That looked like a Norwegian site. So maybe it refers to a place. Not being able to find out more is irksome.
Since so many reporters have to ask silly questions why doesn’t someone ask Dustin Byfuglien about the meaning of his name? He might know and it would be interesting. It would be better than “how important is it for you to do what you set out to do in a game?” This is essentially the question players get asked a lot. “How important is it to get in front of the goal crease?” I am waiting for someone to answer “not very, I just like the view, and chatting with the goalies,” or “the A/C works better down there.”
Questions like “what does your name mean?” border on celeb trivia like favorite ice cream flavor. The NHL is a little leery of going down that road. Also, most Americans do not know what their names mean so it might be embarrasing. I don’t know how much celeb trivia is good for a sports franchise. Oh, wait, yes I do: LOTS. If you are selling tickets you better be prepared to treat your performers like they are on stage, not just in an arena. I don’t personally care what kind of music anyone listens to, and I really did not need to know that at least one player shoots ducks, or ever did so, for sport. Yeah yeah, a lot of perfectly nice people shoot things. I don’t want to hear it. YUCK!
I do want to know what “Byfuglien” means. All those silent syllables make me think there is a lot of unaccounted for space in there. I don’t think it means “spy” from Byf, or Glien. I do not think Byfuglien would make a good spy. It is difficult to be sneaky when you are very large. But it is easier to keep secrets in a larger space than in a small one. Byfuglien’s hockey career is as spacious as he is. He is not a flashy newcomer. He has pursued his place in the NHL with determination and focus for a long time, in hockey years. He goes where he needs to go. In the last game, that was not so much in front of Nabby. That is good. I am tired of seeing big players in front of Nabby. Since Byfuglien scored away from the goal crease, perhaps he will not be so attached to that spot in the future. Perhaps. Maybe he just hasn’t gotten there yet, has been detained on the way. Or maybe the Shark Tank has uniquely well-dispersed A/C.
The Finnish name “Niemi” is far less inscrutable. It means “cape,” as in a protuberant land mass near a lake or the sea. That was easy. May the player be so simple to solve.