Inside DMNES from the Perspective of an Intern

I can’t believe I’m at the end of my six-month internship with DMNES! On one hand, it feels like the time has flown by in an instant, but on the other hand, it seems like I’ve learned more than could possibly fit within half a year. 

I wanted to take this time to write one last blog post and share the most interesting behind-the-scenes details I’ll be taking away from my internship.

Coming into this opportunity, I knew absolutely nothing about onomastics. I had to google what the word meant before I applied to the internship. When I found out it was the study of names, I was very intrigued, but it still made the most sense for me to begin my internship in a familiar field: research. 

One research tool we use at DMNES that I had never used before is Google Trends. Trends goes back through paper records digitized by Google, allowing you to track trends from long before the internet was invented. I learned to use Trends to analyze the occurrence of various names in the parish registers available to Google’s algorithms. I knew Trends could analyze web trends, but I had no idea you could use them to analyze naming trends in the 1500s!

Google Trends analyzing the occurrences of the same name spelled different ways in the 1500-1700s

Having dipped my toes in the onomastic name pool, I was eager to learn more. My next project involved finding the etymologies of names. At DMNES, every instance of a name is recorded with a VNF file in GitHub. That means, there could be tons of different VNF files, all for the same name, if we have records of it from a lot of different sources in different places and times. (You would not believe how many VNFs we have for “John.”)

Then, each VNF is linked to a CNF, which is the most basic version of the name. Each CNF contains the etymology. My job was to look up the etymologies for CNFs that didn’t have any. For some, this was easy. I would be able to find the exact name in a dictionary with the themes spelled out.

Other times, though, I wouldn’t be able to find the exact name I was looking for, or the etymology would be in a different format than we use here at DMNES. Then, I would have to figure out the etymology based on what I know about similar names. 

For example, one name I needed to find the etymology for was “Almodi.”

The first thing I had to do was find the most basic form of the name, which turned out to be “Alimold.” Next, I needed to find the basic themes that make up the name, which turned out to be ADAL- and MUOT-. “Adalmuot” sounds nothing like “Almodi,” but it turns out that’s what “Almodi” means! All I had to do was insert the meanings for those two themes (“noble” and “courage”) into the etymology spot for “Alimold.” Since “Almodi” is linked to “Alimold,” now we know the etymology for “Almodi.” 

Coming into this, I didn’t know what “onomastics” meant, but suddenly, I was piecing together the etymologies of names I had never even heard before! At the beginning, I would have to look up and triple check every name, but by the end, I could often predict what themes would comprise a name before I even checked our sources. 

Still, I have to say that the most educational part of my internship would have to be this, right here: blogging and social media. I had never used WordPress or Twitter for academic purposes before this internship, and it was so interesting to see how you can use these tools to share research and connect with likeminded academics from around the world! 

I also learned a lot about research and writing by doing this. When I found a relevant article in college, I just analyzed it in an academic paper. When I found a relevant article in this internship, I would write up a summary for this blog that makes the academic article into something you could read on your phone during a bus ride! 

Thinking about the same information in different ways really helped me engage with the onomastics. You can’t blog about something unless you really understand it. There’s no hiding behind fancy words or long quotes. You have to know what you’re talking about.

And, I can’t believe it, but I really feel like I do! I feel confident enough to use platforms I’d never used before to share information I never knew before that I found through sources I’d never heard of before. I learned so much over the course of this internship and had an amazing time doing it. I’ll never look at names the same way again.

~Adelia (a one-theme named from theme ADAL-, meaning noble), signing off.

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