My name analyzed


My first name in its complete glory is "Apostolos". In Greek, it means "apostle" (messenger), as the twelve characters in the Bible, but it was not chosen for religious reasons. Instead, as the male-centered Greek tradition goes, I (the first male child) was given the name of my dad's dad. (Nope, the first female child is not named after the mom's mom - it's the dad's mom again, or, worse, a female form of the name of the dad's dad.) Since there was no religious significance, there was no problem butchering the name and finding a better one.

"Tremendous Tentacled Tongue Teaser Toli"

In Greek, "Toli" is a very common short form of "Apostolos". Other derivative forms include The truth is that I detested "Toli" because But "Toli" was short and convenient, as I was involved in sports very early on. That is, in volleyball, the spikers just couldn't shout "Apostolos" to attract my attention; especially for American speakers, "Apostolos" takes longer to utter than the volleyball takes to fall on the ground.

Shameful name theft

One fine day, a friend sent me a URL by email. I followed the link, and lo-and-behold, there stood Flying Rats Toli, which turns out to be the name of a team playing kapucha toli, a traditional Native American game. Needless to say that it's a contact sport (and I'm sure the Greek readers will appreciate the auditory similarity of kapucha to a certain Greek word).

If that wasn't enough, my officemate suggested trying the URL, which brought me to TOLI International, a vinyl flooring manufacturer of such fine products as Toli Hi-Tec, Toli Mature, and Toli Sovereign. And, one cannot fail to mention the amazing, powerful Toli Clean 'n' Strip, a command I always obey. This is their logo:

South of the US border, the Reggae variant of my name is Toli-man, which is explosive enough to be the name of a volcano in Guatemala. I've heard from at least one other Toli who was named after that place.

And, finally, not to be a child left behind of the most important benefit of the Internet, another bright man, Joe Tolitano, opened the virtual doors to his Toli-guide. Hint: no, it doesn't help you find a Toli in your neighborhood... True to be said, though, that site is a pretty accurate reflection of my thoughts through most of my early adult life.


In Greek, the proper response to "What is your name?" is "Tolis" (if your name is not "Tolis", just stay silent). This final "s" is dropped due to conjugation when people address me directly, e.g. "Toli, you are scum." But when people talk about me, rather than to me, then "Tolis" is used, as in "Tolis is scum."

Unlike Japanese or other languages, this duality does not signify politeness - it's just correct grammar. So, as grammar rules are different in English, I now introduce myself as "Toli" since that's what my ears expect to hear when people talk to me. And after all, I don't care what name they use when they talk about me in my absence (unless it's some derogatory term).

By the way, when I first came to the States in 1989, due to inertia I guess, I introduced myself as "Tolis". And this is why some of my email accounts have "tolis" as username. (If I could change it, I would - believe me, it has caused a lot of confusion.) Enlightenment came while playing volleyball, and people would shout "Tolis, set this way"... I would casually ignore them!


"Lerios" is a very rare Greek last name; truly Greek last names number at least 20 letters (e.g. "Papakonstantinakopoulos"). The reason for my name's rarity is that the name is an artificial one. Here is how it came into existence.

The name of my lineage had been "Leromenos" for generations. Unfortunately, "leromenos" means "dirty", in Greek. And while my forefathers deserved a name like that (they were in the messy olive oil transportation business), my grandfather thought it was bad for his own polished leather business (and I think he was right). So he wanted to change our last name to "Le Rois" which sounds more upper-classy as (i) it sounds French, and (ii) it sounds the same as "le roi", which means "the king," in French. But then every other Greek would make fun of all the descendants of my grandfather. So he settled for "Lerios" which means "somebody coming from Leros" (Leros is a Greek island). But I don't think any of the Lerios' has ever set foot on Leros. Incidentally, the Leromenoses of the olive oil generation were in business with a partner, and so the firm name was "Leromenos and Ligdas"... quite a catchy name if you speak Greek, because "ligda" means "slime". And, no, this is not just a joke.

In the States, unlike in Greece, there are a bunch of people named "Lerios". In the records of the California AAA alone, there are six individuals who have stolen my name: some are Greek, some are not. In Athens, Greece, albeit the rarity of "Lerios", there is one other family with the same name (so says the phone book). One of their male offspring is named "Nicholaos" just like my dad. The downside of this coincidence is that the other Nicholaos Lerios is a crook of some caliber and therefore we have often been visited by policemen with warrants, who were looking for the other Nicholaos Lerios.

© 2003 Apostolos Lerios