by Brenda Softbrick, The Bricklyn Eagle’s culture & history correspondent
Summary of Article ➤ Why do Bricklyn residents often have “brick,” “tile,” “plate,” or simply the middle initial “B” in their names? Learn about Bricklyn naming traditions from our culture & history reporter Brenda Softbrick.
Let’s start with some basic “rules” — notice the quote marks I placed around the word “rules.” Bricklyn family names are not prescribed by law, rather they are typically based on occupational naming traditions — common in Denmark and many other countries. As such, Bricklyn’s use of occupational naming is not unusual.
There are essentially five categories of names you’ll find in Bricklyn:
- “Brick” is part of a person’s surname.
- “Tiler” is a person’s middle name.
- “Plate” is a person’s middle name.
- The letter/initial “B” comprises the person’s full middle name.
- Where the person’s full name includes none of the above.
➤ As most readers will know, brickbuilders, tilers, and plate makers are the three most common occupations in LEGO-based communities — hence “brick,” “tiler,” and “plate” are used in the naming tradition that evolved. Of course, these also refer to the three principal parts in a LEGO builder’s inventory: bricks; tiles; and plates.
I should note that if “brick” is part of someone’s last name — such as for Chamber of Commerce head, Tom Brickorti — you’ll never find “tiler,” “plate,” or the initial “B” in that person’s middle name.
Since many names were originally based on a family’s occupational heritage (e.g., “Brick” indicates the family were brickbuilders; “Tiler” indicates they were tilers; and “Plate” indicates they were plate makers) it would have been highly unlikely for a family to include members in different occupations — given the quite rigid occupational lines in place before families emigrated from Billund to Bricklyn during the years of disassociation and re-association. 🌀
“Progressive” Changes in Naming Practices
However, changes in naming practices have occurred since the 1960s.
Quite a few “progressive” families dropped the inclusion of occupational referents in their names and often substituted the middle initial “B” to stand for “Bricklynite” in their name — as is the case with Chulpin B. Spancer (and bear in mind that when you see a name that has a middle “B,” it stands for “Bricklynite,” not “Brickbuilder”).
➤ Newcomers to Bricklyn without any direct connection to the Town of Billund, Denmark, also have often adopted the naming format of simply including the middle “B” in their name.
With all that said, you’ll find that a majority of names in Bricklyn still hold to the traditional usage previously described.
It needs to be mentioned that some Bricklyn residents do not use any of the naming traditions I’ve described.
These tend to be young, more radically inclined individuals (or some older hipster types) who seek to deny any vestige of their common heritage. But even among this group, not a small number eventually seek to show solidarity with their neighbors by incorporating the “B” (for Bricklynite) letter as a middle initial.
➤ The brief re-naming ceremony is usually accompanied by a festive beer party — which this reporter believes may well be the reason why some of these individuals decide to “add the B” as their middle initial!
When It Comes to Brick Family Names
One other historical footnote that might interest some readers: only those from brickbuilder families include the “brick” appellation in their surnames. Those from tiler or plate families include those words only in their middle names. Perhaps this reflects the higher status of brickbuilders in the old Billund culture — reflecting a bit of a caste system even among the generally egalitarian Billunders.
It should be noted, however, that historical records indicate that brickbuilders, tilers, and plate makers all received the same rate of pay, modified only by an individual’s seniority and level of expertise.
➤ Whatever “name-based discrimination” there might have been, was primarily of a social, not an economic, nature.
The Debunked “Doppelgänger” Theory
Finally, let me make brief mention of the “doppelgänger” theory and its purported role in the names of some Bricklyn residents. The notion that any Bricklynites are named after their counterparts in our “twin” city of Burlington, VT, or elsewhere, has been widely debunked, discredited, denounced, and denied. As Bricklyn Eagle Editor Walt Brickman himself has stated, “any resemblance between Bricklyn and its residents, locales, or events to any persons, locales, or actual events, or locales is entirely coincidental!” ✥
Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware that both I and Brenda Softbrick, who wrote the above article, come from a line of brickbuilders.