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Published: Monday, August 22, 2011, 8:45 a.m.

Aptonym: Dan Langstaff, bailiff

  • Daniel G. Langstaff, a bailiff for Snohomish County District Court in Lynnwood.

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Daniel G. Langstaff, a bailiff for Snohomish County District Court in Lynnwood.

Q: How did your name direct your career path?
A: It didn't really. My dad and granddad were stone masons in Eastern Washington, the Grand Coulee Dam, and I grew up carrying hod for them, that's someone who hauls the brick and rock. And after spending several years in welding shops, I decided I had been banged up and burned enough that I wanted to do something different. A friend of mine said, "Why don't you become a corrections officer?" and I'm like, "A what?" Then about a year later, I was.
One day my family and I were doing some genealogical research, and I came across a website that said "Langstaff" and "Longstaff" were nicknames given to court staff in England around the year 1000 to those who held a staff of authority in the royal court. Its meaning was bailiff or sheriff.
Apparently Langstaff was a nickname given to those who held those occupations. I thought it was a fun coincidence, but it really had no bearing on my career path.
Q: Would you change your name if you could, and why or why not?
A: I wouldn't. It's unique, not that common of a name.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A: If I had it to do over again, though I'm heading for retirement in eight to 10 years, I would have pursued the legal profession. Just with my experience that I have now with the court system, I would have gotten more involved in drug court. But now that I'm in corrections, I try and keep a good-natured attitude, keep inmates in the right spirit, though keeping a professional distance. I'm dealing with the public constantly, maintaining security within the courthouse, and I try to have a little humor when I work.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A: If I tell them. I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't have done the research.
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and job? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A: My aunt has traced us back to Yorkshire, England, to the year 1036 where there's another Langstaff documented as someone who was nicknamed because they held a spear or a banner, as some kind of court official.
When I was talking to my aunt, she reminded me that we're from the Yorkshire area and if we were connected to the bailiffs and sheriff's office, can you guess who was probably chasing Robin Hood around?
Story tags » Human Interest

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