Will Stephenson at The Believer:
To President William Howard Taft, the most notable casualty of the Titanic was a person named Archibald Butt. “He was like a member of my family,” Taft said in his eulogy, “and I feel his loss as if he had been a younger brother.” Reading this, I feel a tinge of competitiveness with Taft, because Butt was a member of my family—he was my great-grandfather’s cousin. In the hallway bathroom of my childhood home, we had a framed Butt family crest he’d purchased and mailed home from Europe: a lion holding a broken spear. It always got a laugh, the solemnity of the image relative to the apparent stupidity of the surname: Butt. It seemed obviously ironic, like a poster you’d buy at a gas station.
My great-grandfather was Jeremiah Butt, who ran a Schlitz beer outpost in southern Georgia and died at a Lutheran conference in Nashville when my father was four. A heart attack, while he was eating breakfast.