Father’s Day, or reflections on “ethnic” given names

Onomastic purists often shake their weary heads at the modern trend of taking place names as given names, scoffing at names such as Brittany, Dakota, Paris, Savannah, or London. “Naming a child after a place, those aren’t real names,” they mutter to themselves (forgetting, of course, that many surnames transferred to given names such as Courtney, Lindsay, Lesley, etc., were themselves originally place names). But is such a tradition all the strange or objectionable? In today’s post, we’re going to look at a very similar tradition that can be found throughout Western Europe: names deriving from words of ethnic or geographical origin. Some of these names are still in use today, some of them so common that they are no longer immediately connected with their origin.

Danish/Denmark

  • Dan (m.) (available in the next edition) is sometimes an example of the Biblical name Dan, but when found in Scandinavia is most often from Proto-Germanic *daniz ‘Danish’.

English/England

  • Anglicus (m.) derives from a Latin word meaning ‘Angle, man from England’.
  • English (f.) (available in the next edition) is an unusual quite-literal descriptive given name found in the second half of the 16th C.

French/France

  • Francis (m.) and Frances (f.) both derive from a Latin word meaning ‘Frankish, French’.
  • The same origin gave rise to the names Frank (m.) and Franka (f.) (available in the next edition).
  • Paris (m.) and Parisa (f.) may derive either from the ancient Greek hero or the French city. (I’ve always thought the parents of one Paris de Troyes I found in Paris in 1292 had an amusing sense of humor).

German/Germany

  • Tedesco (m.) and Tedesca (f.) both derive from a Proto-Germanic word originally meaning simply ‘of the people, folk’, but which came to mean ‘of the German people’, and is the root of modern Deutsch. The related names Theudo (m.) and Theuda (f.) (both appearing in the next edition) are also derivatives of the same word.
  • Alamand (m.) and Alamanda (f.) (both to be available in the next edition) derive from the Latin name for Germany, Allemania.

Italian/Italy
Ethnic or geographical given names are fairly common in Italian (cf. Herlihy, D. (1988). “Tuscon names, 1200–1530″, Renaissance Quarterly 41 (4), 561–582).

  • Lombard (m.) (available in the next edition) derives from the region of Lombardy in northern Italy.

Scotland

  • Scott (m.) and Scotta (f.) (both to appear in the next edition) are derived from a Latin word meaning ‘man/woman’ from Scotland’.
  • Scotland itself occurs as a given name in England and France in the 11th and 12th C (see Reaney & Wilson’s Dictionary of English Surnames s.n. Scotland.)
  • Alban (m.) derives from a Latin word meaning ‘of Alba’, the ancient name of Britain/Scotland.

This is by no means an exhaustive survey of all possibilities, much less of all the names the DMNES currently has (or will shortly have), but it shows a wide variety of ethnic and geographical references which have made their way into the given name pool. Geography has proved a fruitful source for given names for centuries, making the modern pattern of names taken from cities, states, and regions thoroughly in keeping with historical naming practices.

And what do these reflections have to do with Father’s Day? The Editor-in-Chief’s father’s name is Scott, and it was finding an instance of Scot in early 12th C Scotland this morning that sparked the reflections that led to this post.

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Determination of header forms

Earlier this month, someone told us on twitter that he “would love to read more on procedure for name standardisation”. This post explores that topic.

When producing an onomastic dictionary restricted to a single language, it is relatively easy to pick the header names: If there is a standard modern form, use that, if not, use something that is consistent with standard modern forms. When dealing with data coming from a number of different cultures, this is not so easy, because the same name might have competing standard modern forms in different languages, e.g., Frederick in English, Friedrich in German, F(r)ederico in Italian, and a decision needs to be made between them.

In this situation, the choice is straightforward: The Dictionary is a work in English, even if it covers names from many languages and cultures. Thus, if a standard modern English form exists, that will be taken as the canonical name form (CNF) (aka, the header form). In cases where there are competing possibilities — e.g., Carla or Carol for the feminine form of Charles, or Casper and Jasper for the third magi’s name — the editorial team (comprised of American English speakers, British English speakers, and non-English speakers) decides the matter by vote.

In some cases, names exist modernly in languages other than English, which means that the option of taking the standard modern English form is not possible — some examples conclude Gottschalk, Ulrich, and Zdeslav. In such cases, where there is a clearly identifiable standarized form in some language that dominates other possible standardized forms, that is chosen for the CNF.

There is an exception to this, and that is how we treat dithematic German names. Many dithematic German names are still in use in Germany today, while many others have fallen out of use. It is possible to reconstruct expected modern forms of those which are no longer in use on the basis of those which are, but this results often in artificial forms which are not actually extent in any context. For example, Siegfried and Friedrich are standard modern forms of these two names, but the former appears in the Dictionary with the CNF Sigfrid. This keeps is alphabetized near its related names, Siggo, Sighard, Sigmund, Sigrad, Sigward, etc. Similar examples can be seen in looking at names beginning with Gothic þiuda, all found under Theod-.

Next we have names not fitting into any of the above categories, such as names deriving from Latin roots. For those which have not survived into a modern context, and which are found only in Latin-language documents, we use the standardized Latin form as the CNF.

Finally, there are names which are currently unidentified or otherwise problematic. For these, we take as the CNF the documentary form. There are few of those which are in the published version of the Dictionary; most of them are in the internal working version with the hopes that some day we will know more about them and can upgrade their CNF to one of the above.

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DMNES is “Feature of the Month”

We’re pleased to be the May “Feature of the Month” at Onomastics.co.uk. Check it out!

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What next?

We’ve hit our biggest milestone, but rather than sitting on our laurels, we’re already looking to the future. Here’s a brief summary of some of our plans.

We will be publishing new editions on a quarterly basis, to begin with, so the next edition is planned for July 2015. The List of Entries page will now reflect new entries to be published in the next edition. In addition to having more entries and more citations, what else are we planning for future editions?

  • Search: This is the biggest level of functionality that we don’t yet have. We will be adding search tools that search (a) header forms; (b) citations; (c) full text; (d) any combination of these; and these tools can be used with limitation functions, e.g., search only a certain gender, time period, geographic location.
  • Hebrew and Arabic scripts: Despite all of our pre-testing, we’ve discovered that the Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic scripts are showing up in reversed order. We will have this fixed by the next edition at the latest.
  • Maps: We are already in contact with a GIS specialist who will help put together maps for each entry, showing where a name was used over both time and place.
  • Requested entries: We are happy to take requests for new entries, if there is a particular name you are looking for that is not yet included. You will then be alerted when the relevant entry is published or updated in a future edition.
  • Mobile optimisation: Right now, we’ve done no optimisation for mobile browsing; our primary goal was to get a computer-browser appropriate version up and running. But while the site doesn’t look bad on the few mobiles we’ve tried, there are a few simple things we can implement to improve things.

We have other bells and whistles planned (browsable categories, timelines, toggle between sort-by-date, sort-by-name, and sort-by-country), but they will be rolled out over the longer term. We are also interested in hearing from our users: What would you find useful? what would you find interesting? What would you find necessary? Let us know, either via a comment here or via email to eic@dmnes.org.

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Dies Natales

Dr. Sara L. Uckelman, editor-in-chief, and the members of the editorial, design, and technical team are pleased to announce the publication of the first volume of the

Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources
http://dmnes.org

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“Made-Up” Names

People who study contemporary baby names often like to talk about “made-up” names, whether unusual names found in late 20th and early 21st C America or more “traditional” made up names coming from late 19th and early 20th C literature. Now, if you think about it, all names are, at the root, “made-up”. But if you want to make a distinction between names which are drawn from identifiable word or concept — for example, Bona (Latin ‘good’) or Heather (a plant word) — and names which are constructed without regard for their meaning, such as Germanic Everbern deriving from themes meaning ‘boar’ and ‘bear’, or dithematic names which are constructed on the basis of the themes of the parents’ names, for example when Aclehardus and Teudhildis have a son named Teuthardus and a daughter named Aclehildis, then you could argue that the latter are ones that are truly “made-up” in the relevant sense.

But just as there are many names which people think are medieval but in fact are modern, many names which people think are modern coinages actually have a much older history. When I came across this article, on 17 Baby Names You Didn’t Know Were “Totally Made Up”, a few days ago, I was surprised at how many of these so-called modern “made-up” names are actually not.

Wendy: The received wisdom is that J.M. Barrie coined this name for Peter Pan. In fact, a Wendy Oxford was christened in 1615 in Harston, Cambridge, England. So, not quite medieval, but far older than the 20th C.

Cedric: Like Wendy, this is commonly cited as a coinage of Sir Walter Scott for Ivanhoe. It, too, goes back to (at least) the early 17th C. Cedric Holle was christened in 1613 in Plymouth, Devon, England, and Cedric Jorye was christened in 1626 in the same city.

Miranda: This name occurs in Périgueux, France, in 1366-1367.

Amanda: This name can be found in England in 1221.

Dorian: This name can be found in Paris, France, in 1421 — where it occurs as a feminine name, rather than a masculine one.

Cora: Cora and the diminutive Corina are both found in Imola, Italy, in 1312. The name Corella, found in Valencia in 1510, may also be a diminutive of Cora.

In the comments on the article, someone offers Stella as another modern coinage; but Stella can be found in Rome in 1527.

So there’s a brief round up of names which many people think are modern, but which are actually medieval (or at least early 17th C).

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DMNES joins the Dictionary Society of North America

The DMNES is pleased to join the Dictionary Society of North America, an organization

formed in 1975 to bring together people interested in dictionary making, study, collection, and use. Our more than 400 members who live in 40 countries around the world include people working on dictionaries, academics who engage in research and writing about dictionaries, dictionary collectors, librarians, booksellers, translators, linguists, publishers, writers, collectors, journalists, and people with an avocational interest in dictionaries.

For anyone interested in lexicography of any type, we highly recommend checking out both the Society and their archive.

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