Monday, September 13, 2010


I am thinking that having a simple surname like “Title” is one of the difficulties of life. There seem to be dozens of reasons for people to get it wrong.

It may be that too many people alive today remember the famous football quarterback, Y. A. Tittle, who played for the Baltimore Colts, San Francisco 49ers, and the New York Giants, and who is pictured above. But to my knowledge, Y.A. is the only Tittle who became famous, and no one hears his name any more. But nine out of every phone calls we get, obviously from direct mailing lists, asks for Mr. or Mrs. Tittle.

I understand that some people are dyslexic and have a difficult time with letters. However, I think probably that pronouncing “Tittle” for “Title” is just sloppy reading – or perhaps it is simple stupidity. Do these people, when reading about books, think in their mind that each book has a Tittle? I think not. Title is Title.

Another problem that happens with phone calls is that I often get bawled out over the phone because I am not a Title Insurance company. Although in the Yellow Pages there is no generic entry “Title Company” and although in the white pages we are listed as Title, Jerry and Bobby, we are still as often as not thought to be a Title Insurance company. One caller, irked because we “weren’t who you represented yourself to be,” said to me before she hung up the phone, “You ought to change your name.”

The final problem, and sometimes an embarrassing one, has to do with the writing of the name “Title.” Unfortunately, often times in the haste of writing our name we are not careful to cross only the “t.” It’s easy just to make a long swipe. So I can’t blame others when a letter comes to us addressed to Mr and Mrs. Titte.

Needless to say, we are not going to change our name at this stage of the game. The name “Title” started out in Germany many years ago as “Teitelbaum.” Wikipedia says that is a germanic/yiddish name meaning “Date Palm.” Wikipedia does not talk about palm trees growing in Germany, so we have to assume the palm tree explanation really has its roots in some other place in the past. However, Jerry’s grandfather, born in the old country, was born a Teitelbaum and died a Teitelbaum. Jerry’s father was born a Teitelbaum and died a Title. Jerry has always been a Title, and while it might have been interesting to go back to one’s roots with the name, who would give up writing a short name for a long one? And probably people would find Teitelbaum as confusing as “Title.”

There is a funny story about how the name happened to be changed to Title in the first place. Jerry’s father, Julius Teitelbaum, was a pharmacist in Los Angeles. He went into partnership with a friend, Lou Finklestein, and the store was named “Finklestein and Teitelbaum Pharmacy.” Some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Coca-Cola had an advertising campaign to promote their product by offering free a sign to go on the front of a business. This sign had the iconic image of a Coke bottle at one end and the name of the business would be written on the rest of the sign. These two young entrepreneurs saw it as a good way to get free advertising. The problem arose when it was discovered that their names were too long to fit on the sign.

It was at that point and for that reason that Finklestein and Teitelbaum Pharmacy became “Fink and Title Pharmacy.” And from that time on, Julius Teitelbaum became Julius Title, although he didn’t change it legally until sometime in the 1940s. (Lou became Lou Fink, too.)

Below is a picture of “Julie” Title in front of a subsequent pharmacy located on Wilshire Boulevard next to the old Fox Wilshire theater in Los Angeles. Interestingly, there was another Julius Title active in Los Angeles at the same time as Jerry’s father. The other Julius Title was a Judge. They knew of each other but never met. Many years later Jerry had occasion to come before Judge Title to testify in a business matter. Jerry asked to speak privately with him, and they had to clarify for the record that they were not related in any way.

I am not sure that Jerry had any problems with his name until he married me. But because I find so many useless things to be exceptionally interesting, I’ve made sure that everyone knows just what a confusing name I’ve acquired. My maiden name was Dobbins, and the only thing that happened with that name was to be called an old nag. So moving up to Title was a good thing, in more ways than one.

Now you know everything there is to know about my last name, and it’s hardly more than a jot and a tittle.

1 comment:

Jill Title said...

I love this story!