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  • Writer's pictureDiane Mague Stanley

Oh, Magoo, you've done it again!

Updated: Feb 18, 2018

Week 6 is all about your “favorite name.” There are many that could fall into this category for me, but I don’t think I’ve any way around my maiden name of “Mague.” I alternately suffered and enjoyed that name for 29 years. Firstly, you gotta love it because it’s impossible for anyone but family to pronounce. Through time I learned all the variants, so I would never miss my name being called for something important: May'-gue (accent on the first syllable), Mc Gue, Maaayg one syllable with a long “a” and rhyming with the "Hague", Mague one syllable and rhyming with "Prague," and the perennial favorite ... “Magoo.” [1]

How many times was I asked growing up if my father was Mr. Magoo? The then-popular, bumbling and nearsighted cartoon character, always getting into unlikely scrapes because of his poor eyesight and poor judgment. Yet he always emerged intact shaking his head saying “Oh, Magoo, you’ve gone it again!” (My self-image was not helped in seventh grade when I got eyeglasses … the only one in the family to need them). The correct pronunciation, by the way, is “Ma” with a short “a” and “gue” with a hard “g” and long “u,” rhyming with “queue” and accent on the second syllable.

The irony of the Mague name is that it is unlikely to be our real surname at all.

Our earliest Mague ancestor was a child of uncertain parentage in New England named Thomas Mague (~1813 – 1899). As an adult Thomas told his children several versions of his origin story, but the only thing that seems certain is that he did not grow up with his birth family and was adopted out through channels that remained a mystery to him and to us all. How did he get the surname Mague in the first place? I see three possibilities: 1) that it was the name he “came with” into his adopted world, 2) he was given the name as part of a new identity through adoption, or 3) he took the name later in life by his own choosing. While I will never be certain, the second option seems the most probable to me. Here’s why:

The Mague name is very singular. Phonetic spelling variants would probably lean toward the common “Mc” variants. If someone verbalized his name (eg. “This boy is named Thomas Mague.”), I think the writer would record Thomas M-c-G-u-e, or Thomas M-c-C-u-e, or Thomas M-c-H-u-g-h, not M-A-G-U-E. The spelling of Mague is a very specific and illogical. I also cannot imagine Thomas a choosing the “Mague” variant spelling for himself, unless he knew someone named Mague.

I think it’s much more likely that he was adopted by a “real” Mague family and given their name. Though the surname did not appear in the U.S. before about 1810 and remains an unusual name to this day, there was a Mague family in the Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire area. They were from Ireland and Catholic. I suspect Thomas Mague was taken in by one of these Magues and adopted their name. He was trained as a baker, was educated, and later ran his own bakery. Not bad for an orphan. Clearly, someone had invested in his capability and future, and it was probably a Mague.

DNA is also helpful. The only Mague DNA matches I have are known descendants of my Thomas Mague. If I belonged to the “real” Mague clan I would expect at least a few distant Mague matches, or maybe a smidgeon of Irish ethnicity. None, zilch, zero. I can only conclude that my real surname is out there somewhere in my matches, bumbling around.


[1] According to Urban Dictionary: magoo ( : accessed 8 February 2018) a Magoo is someone who is overly wholesome, excessively cheerful, and a goody-two-shoes in an excruciatingly irritating manner.

© 2016-2018 Diane Mague Stanley ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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