Newsflash– “Piety” is a real Surname!

Portrait caricatureI’d like to clear up what may be a confusion in the minds of some of my readers. I got an email awhile ago, from someone who liked my blog on Kierkegaard, asking me if “Piety” was a pen name. That’s a natural question, I suppose, especially for a Kierkegaard scholar (I’m sure John Wisdom was always being asked if “Wisdom” was his real name). “I know that word,” people probably think, “and it’s not a name!” That, in any case, was the explanation offered by my friend David Leopold when the American Academy of Religion misspelled my name. That seems plausible. Either that, or they simply didn’t know how to spell “piety” (which, if it were true, would confirm the suspicions of the folks over at the Society of Biblical Literature).

No, “Piety” is my real name. There have been Pietys in the U.S. since before the Revolutionary war. In fact, my ancestor, Thomas Piety, served under Gen. Arthur St. Clair in the American Army when George Washington was president. Arthur St. Clair was an ancestor of Jeff St. Clair, editor of the wonderful online journal Counter Punch, for which I sometimes write, so a Piety is still serving under a St. Clair.

My father, Harold Piety, was briefly the religion editor at the East St. Louis Journal. According to my mother, he used to enjoy answering the phone: “Religion, Piety speaking.”

My middle name is Gaye. I changed my name when I married the legal scholar and humorist Brian J. Foley, to “Marilyn Gaye Piety Foley,” so “Piety” is still my real name, or at least part of it. I plan to keep using it too. I think it’s a good name for a Kierkegaard scholar.

(An earlier version of this post appeared on the blog Piety on Kierkegaard.)

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