Proud Irish name takes on new meaning

November 17, 2013 

The young clerk at the hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn., asked me three times.

"Your last name is really Mackin?"

"Yep. Terry Mackin."

"Mr. Mack--in?"


Her grin and eyes grew wider.

After the third time, I caught on to her joking but respectful tone.

"Mackin. That's a fun name," she said, in a slight Southern drawl. She was college age. About my daughter's age.

I laughed along. "Mr. Mack-in," she said again. "Not a nickname?"

"Real name. Irish," I said, and then asked what my last name meant although I knew the answer. I had been traveling all day. Weary. Dockers. Sweater vest. Cardinals ballcap. Puma sneakers.

"You're confident ... you know," she said. We laughed. We both knew that wasn't the case.

True story. That was a few weeks ago. About a decade ago, I first learned that my last name of proud Irish ancestry is also slang. According to the, mackin' means, "to make moves on, show your game, try to get with the person."

Go ahead.

Look it up.

Mackin' , in slang, is also defined as "to hit on, or to flirt. Girls flirt. Guys mack."

Example: "Look at that guy mackin' on those girls. ..."

You can stop laughing now.

Over the years, I had experienced similar reactions to the young hotel clerk's in Tennessee. Usually at the cosmetics counter. Christmas time. The young clerk reads my name on my credit card.

"You're Mr. Mackin," she says.

"Hello there," I say in my 50-year-old, white-guy, cool voice. I am who I am. Suburban. Usually shop at Kohl's. Absolutely nothing streetwise about me except I live and drive on one.

I have no idea why, when or how my last name ever became slang.

I'm from the generation that thinks saying "cool" is cool.

We feel pretty hip, you know, texting acronyms like "lol" and "k."

The key slang word here is "mack" and when used as a present tense verb, and abbreviated, it becomes mackin'.

There are many ways you could turn my last name into a slang verb and it would be accurate. A few examples:

Mackin, in home repair, could be slang for putting a hole in the wall while carrying the ladder up the basement steps. "He just mackin'd that job. Let's go buy some glue and paint."

Mackin, in golf, could mean a drive out of bounds, penalty stroke, two chips, three putts, for an eight on your scorecard. "Give me another mackin."

Mackin, in food, could refer to my favorite lunch -- a cheeseburger, chili and a vanilla ice cream cone. "He mackin'd that meal."

Mackin, in shopping, could mean never pay full price. If it's not on sale, don't buy it. "Wow Three bags of cookies for a buck. That was a real mackin'."

Mackin, in newspaper column writing, could mean writing a column about absolutely nothing but occasionally making a reader like you think it's really about something. "She mackin'd that column. Read it all. Not sure what it was about, though."

But mackin', in slang, means to "make moves on?"

Sorry, but I'm still laughing.

I'm proud of my last name because it's who I am, and it represents my family.

I don't take the slang reference with any disrespect because, obviously, it's not intendedtoward me or my family.

My one wish: I wish I would have known about "mackin'" in slang when my late Dad was alive. He would have strutted with pride. Swore the slang term was named after him when he a young guy in the Navy or hanging out in clubs on both sides of the Mississippi River.

All before he met Mom, of course. She would have rolled her eyes as Dad remembered stories, or made them up, about his old girlfriends.

Dad was a Frank Sinatra fan.

At times, I think he thought he was as suave as Ol' Blue Eyes.

Dad would have had fun with mackin' slang.

Like his legacy, we would have chuckled with him because we knew there was very little mackin' in the little man named Mackin.

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