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Off the Record: How to tell your Sveine from your Sweeney

Kevin Sweeney, left Terry Sveine, right

Well, that didn’t take long.

No sooner had Terry Sveine been sworn in as the new Mayor of New Ulm than my wife ran into a friend at the store, who congratulated her on my new honor.

“What honor?” my wife asked.

“Isn’t he the new mayor?” the friend asked.

My wife had to explain that the new mayor is that other guy whose last name is pronounced exactly the same as mine, but who is no relation.

It’s been happening to me ever since I moved to New Ulm and found out there’s a guy named Terry Sveine, whose name is pronounced “Swee-nee,” just like mine. For years, people have been mistaking us for relatives. I’ve been asked if I’m one of George Sveine’s kids. Terry’s sister, Karen Jensen, worked here as an ad rep for many years, and once in a while someone would call and ask for her by her maiden name, Karen Sveine, and our receptionist would think they said “Kevin Sweeney,” and send the call to me.

All in all, it hasn’t been more than a minor annoyance, but now that Terry is the Mayor of New Ulm, I think I should explain some of the differences between us, so that people who want to throw bricks through either one of our windows can get the right Sweeney, or Sveine, as the case may be.

So, to start with, here are pictures of Terry and me. As you can see, his hair is much thinner on top than mine. I have more hair on my face than he does. I wear glasses, he doesn’t. Both of us are extremely handsome men, as you can see.

Some other differences between us:

Terry is a native-born, life-long New Ulmite, while I am an “Auslander.” I grew up in St. Paul, and worked at newspapers in LeSueur and Albert Lea before coming here.

Terry can often be seen riding a bicycle to get around town. I am a card-carrying sedentary person.

Terry is known to wear shoes with no socks. I always wear socks.

Terry’s last name is Norwegian. Mine is Irish. I told him once we may be related if we go back to when the Vikings came pillaging and looting in Ireland, and decided to stay. (The city of Dublin was originally a Viking settlement, you know.)

The original Gaelic version of Sweeney is Suibhne, which means “pleasant” or “well-disposed.” The old Norse name Sveinn, from which I assume Sveine is derived, means “boy” or “servant.”

One thing we do have in common, we both have grandsons named Finn.

I should mention, this is not the first time I have run into a case of mistaken identity in New Ulm. Several years ago there was a CPA working in the Biebl-Ranweiler office named Duane Thompson, who was a dead ringer for me — and I for him, I suppose. He had people come up to him to comment on something I had written in the paper. I had someone once ask me how the house Duane was building up on Jonathan Drive was coming along.

People kept telling me I had a twin brother in town. We finally met at a Chamber of Commerce function. This man came up to me and said, “You must be the ugliest guy in town.” It was Duane. Sure enough, the resemblance was uncanny. We were even wearing the same style trench coat. I don’t know which of us was the evil twin.

Anyway, now you know the differences between myself and Terry Sveine. I know he will make a wonderful mayor, but if you have any problems with the job he’s doing, don’t come complaining to me. It’s that other Sveine.

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