Mystery Monday: All the A-names

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

And…we’re back to the beginning of the alphabet again! One of the most interesting things about doing large-scale, cross-temporal and -cultural data collection as we’re doing for the Dictionary is seeing certain types of trends. It probably isn’t surprising to find out that we have very few entries in K-, Q-, X-, Y-, and Z-, as these letters are systemically less common across Europe (blame Latinisation for the comparative lack of ‘k’ in western Europe, as all the Greek kappas were converted into ‘c’s). Many people have probably also encountered the phenomenon whereby it seems like, modernly, there are disproportionately many names beginning with “A”. One explanation for this seeming phenomenon that is often offered is that expecting parents start at the beginning of the baby name book, and work their way through until they find a name they like, which is why we have so many Alexas and Alexandras and Amelias and Amalias and Abigails and Avas and Ashleys and Amandas and Amys.

But while there may be a lot of truth to that explanation, it isn’t the only confounding factor. There simple were a lot more names beginning with “A” than other letters, historically. (Only B-, S-, T-, and W- come anywhere close.) So it’s good when we come back around to the beginning of the alphabet, because the truth is, we have a lot of unidentified A-names. In fact, we thought that this week it would be fun to give a snapshot of the internal version of the Dictionary, with all the “A” entries both published, to be published, and unpublished. Maybe there’ll be a particular name in the list that our readers would be interested in knowing more about, and we can make that next week’s mystery name.

In the meantime, we have so many A- names, we can’t even get them all in one screen shot, or even two!
A-names


Now, not all of the names in yellow are true “mystery” names. Some of the entries are duplicates (with slightly different choice of header spelling), and simply need to be combined (for instances, we suspect that Ascherich and Ascrich are variants). Some of them are diminutives of other names, where the relationship hasn’t yet been identified. Some may turn out not to be given names, but rather place names or bynames mistakenly identified as given names. But when we say things like “we have 2317 entries published, and 3811 entries unpublished”, this gives you a sense of the data that we haven’t that isn’t. yet available, but will — hopefully, eventually — be.

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Mystery Monday: Ziro

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

Today’s name is an Italian masculine diminutive from 14th C Friulia. At least — we’re pretty sure it’s a diminutive, because of the suffix -lin(o). But our hypothesis of the root name is merely that: A hypothesis. We’d love to get confirmation one way or another whether Ziro is the correct root name, and would love to see an example of the radiconym.

Ziro

If you’ve got any other examples of this name, or a different hypothesis for the root name, please share in the comments!

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Publication announcement: “Names Shakespeare Didn’t Invent: Imogen, Olivia, and Viola Revisited”

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new paper by a member of our team. Our editor-in-chief Dr. Sara L. Uckelman’s paper “Names Shakespeare Didn’t Invent: Imogen, Olivia, and Viola Revisited” is now available online from Names. Here’s the abstract:

Just as Shakespeare’s plays left their indelible stamp on the English language, so too did his names influence the naming pool in England at the beginning of the 17th century and beyond, and certain popular modern names are often described as inventions of Shakespeare. In this article, we revisit three names which are often listed as coinages of Shakespeare’s and show that this received wisdom, though oft-repeated, is in fact incorrect. The three names are Imogen, the heroine of Cymbeline; and Olivia and Viola, the heroines of Twelfth Night. All three of these names pre-date Shakespeare’s use. Further, we show in two of the three cases that it is plausible that Shakespeare was familiar with this earlier usage. We conclude by briefly discussing why these names are commonly mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare’s imagination, and the weaker, but not mistaken, claims which may underlie these attributions.

This paper shows the benefit of a large-scale cross-cultural data like the Dictionary collects and publishes; it is easy to be mislead by the data when you focus only on a single culture, resulting in the drawing of incorrect conclusions. When the net is cast wider, then we can obtain a more accurate picture about which names Shakespeare actually coined, which he merely introduced into England, and which were already in use in England before him, but were, perhaps, popularised by his use of them.

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Mystery Monday: Yal

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

One of the drawbacks of working from printed editions of manuscripts is that sometimes, when faced with an unidentifiable name, there is no easy way of telling whether the editor — who was problem themself not an onomastic expert — got the transcription right. Was there an overlooked abbreviation mark? A misread letter? If the name was transcribed correctly, what are the odds that the original scribe made a mistake, either copying another manuscript which contained a name they didn’t recognise, or writing down an unfamiliar name? There are so many ways in which things can go wrong.

Today’s name is one where we don’t hold out much ope of ever identifying it. It’s a name recorded in Wales in a Latin document in the mid 13th C, and while the gender and case of the name can be confidently identified from context, the name itself could prove to be forever a mystery, given that English scribes are not renowned for their ability to accurately render Welsh names.

Yal

But on the off chance that someone recognises the name, and can help us with its etymological roots, we’re asking here. If you have any suggestions, please share in the comments!

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Outage update + Mystery Monday: Wurgitan

Every Monday we will post an entry that hasn’t yet been published with a view towards harnessing the collective onomastic power of the internet. If you have any thoughts about the name’s origin, other variants it might be related to, other examples of its use, etc., please share them in the comments! If you wish to browse other Mystery Monday names, there is an index.

But first! A huge shout-out to our technical guru, Dr. Joel Uckelman, who got the site back up and running again Saturday evening. What should have been a simple server upgrade turned into a whole row of dominoes collapsing; first, it turned out that our original hosting service was not equipped to handle the upgrade, and the first we knew of this was when we tried rebooting the machine and it wouldn’t. We switched providers, he set up an entirely new virtual machine and server, only time find that when he tried to restore all the data via rsync, the connection kept getting dropped after 10-15 seconds, making it completely impossible to rebuild the site. After a couple of rounds with customer service, which regularly got escalated up to the next level, it became clear that (a) it was a network issue on their end, not our end and (b) they weren’t interested in doing the legwork to find out what the issue was and fix it. So, bye-bye hoster 2, on to hoster 3. He set up a new virtual machine Friday night, and thankfully by the end of Saturday we were able to have the entire site restored. If you’ve ever benefited from the DMNES and would like a way to say thanks, feel free to buy him a beer or a coffee if you’re ever in the area. The hard work of the editorial team would be nothing without the technical infrastructure to make the data available to the world.

Today’s Mystery Monday name is from the Redon cartularies, a dithematic Breton name where we’ve identified the prototheme but not the deuterotheme:

Wurgitan

Our resources for Breton names are, unfortunately, rather limited; so if an element or name doesn’t appear in what we have, we’re generally pretty much at a loss. If any of you, dear readers, have better Breton resources than we do, we’d love to know what you have to say about this name! Please share in the comments.

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DMNES outage: longer the planned

Unfortunately, what should’ve been an easily fixed upgrade problem has snowballed and we’re trouble shooting with the company that is hosting the virtual machine that runs the website concerning a networking problem that is preventing us from being able to restore from backup. It’s not clear whether they’ll be able to figure out what the networking problem is, or whether we’ll have to switch to a different hosting company.

We hope it won’t be too much longer before we’re back up!

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DMNES temporarily down

After a server upgrade this afternoon, the machine that runs that DMNES website didn’t reboot. We’re troubleshooting now and when the site is back up and running we’ll announce this on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for your patience!

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