Playing linguistic detective: Where is Accon?

Yesterday one of our editors went on an interesting little sleuthing trip concerning the place name Accon. We tweeted it while it happened, but thought it would be fun to also write it up here!

Historical onomastic research is filled with little sleuthing problems. Mostly, they are “what are the etymological roots of this name?” or “are these two spellings variants of each other?”, but sometimes we also get to do a bit of placename sleuthing.

For each citation in the DMNES, we record the most detailed geographical information that we can concerning where the document in question is from. Usually this means recording city + country, although sometimes the best we can do is just country. Because country boundaries change over time, we use contemporary boundaries for our geographical assignations. (So a city that was once in, say, Savoy, but is now in modern-day France will be listed as “France”.)

For charters, the city of issue is generally given — in Latin. So the first sleuthing puzzle always is “what is the vernacular form of this place name?” A lot are quite transparent, e.g., Parisius for Paris. Some of them are easy if you know your history, e.g., Aquisgrana for Aachen, or your linguistics, e.g., Aurelianum for Orléans. Others you might have to look up, but are obvious when you do (as happened to our head editor the other day when she realized Confluentia = Coblenz). There are three very useful sites that we use when identifying Latin placenames with vernacular forms are:

Sometimes in addition to a Latin form in the text, the editor might have provided the “modern”-day vernacular in their editorial header for the charter. This is great! Except when “modern” isn’t modern. A lot of the chartularia we work from are from the 19th C, and especially in German, the modern forms of the place names are not the same as the 19th C ones. Again, some are easy to identify, especially with other indicators, such as Nymwegen = Nijmegen. Often an easy way to find the current modern vernacular form is to put the 19th C form into wikipedia (or even googlemaps!) and see what it spits out — though the results shouldn’t be trusted blindly — you’ve got to use the other contextual clues as well.

All of this leads up to our recent little sleuthing puzzle, namely, a document from Accon. If you plug “Accon” into wikipedia, you get suggested the French city Accons. This is definitely not the right Accon. This is because the charter has to do with the Teutonic Order, so German rather than French, and was written by one “frater Thomas de ordine Predicatorum dei gratia patriarcha Ierosolimitanus”, also noted by the editor as “bischof von Accon”.

So! Let’s look at lists of patriarchs of Jerusalem, and see if we can find a Thomas from 1277. Lo and behold, what does Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem give us but: “Thomas Agni of Cosenza (1271–1277)”. That’s our guy! And, when Jerusalem was lost in 1187, the seat of the patriarchy moved to Acre.

Ahah! Acre! What is Acre called in (modern) German? Akkon. Shift the consonant around a bit, and you get Accon.

So not only did we solve our little mystery, we also now have our first names from a document written in the Holy Land for the DMNES.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mystery Monday: Gignosa/Ginnosa

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 from 12th C France, and was one that, before we wrote this post, was utterly opaque to us:
Ginnosa
Researching it for this post, though, led us to two more examples. One is a woman named “Barisia, cognomento Ginnosa”, wife of Rainald cognomento Barbatus, who gave money to a monastery in 1139, and another is a Gignosa, one of three daughters of Petrus Simonis (the entire family has lovely names; his wife is Helisabeth, Gignosa’s sisters are Laurentia and Aldeburgis, and their brother is Aimericus), who made a donation around 1120.

Two other relevant pieces of information that we turned up: First is the Greek word ιννος or γιννος ‘mule’, found in Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. The other is the occurrence of the word ginnosa in 13th-century Provencal literature, in the Romance of Flamenca, and in the Cort D’Amor. So! Do we have any southern French scholars amongst our readers? Do you recognise this word? Know what it means? Know what its root might be? Please share in the comments!

2 Comments

Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

Mystery Monday: Faburn/Faburr

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 found in late 13th C Italy (Bergamo, to be precise), and we have two instances of it, each in a different spelling.

Faburn

Now, Faburn and Faburr are not within the range of the usual sorts of spelling variants that you see — changing \n\ for \r\ doesn’t follow ordinary linguistic rules. However, in certain medieval scripts, r and n can be easily misread for each other. So there is a good chance that the editor of the edition we used for this source misread one of the instances — or even that the scribe who originally copied the manuscript misread one of the instances! Of the two forms, Faburn strikes us as more likely to be the non-corrupted form, which is why we have selected it as our header spelling. That being said, we don’t actually have any idea what the etymological origin of the name might be, which makes our choice of Faburn over Faburr purely guesswork. We’d love to have some more data one way or the other — other examples of the name, thought about its etymology, etc. Please share in the comments if you have anything to add!

1 Comment

Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

Mystery Monday: Enderquina

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 one of those names that sounds like it comes straight out of a fantasy novel, but in fact comes straight out of 12th century Spain:

Enderquina

This is quite an interesting name, because we don’t have any other feminine name (and this is out of a data set of over 15400 feminine names!) that starts with Ender-. Our handful of masculine examples are all Low German forms of Andrew, which is quite an unlikely explanation in this context.

So we put it to you, dear readers: What are your thoughts? Have any suggestions about the origin of this name? Any other examples of the name? Any other feminine names beginning with Ender-?

1 Comment

Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

Mystery Monday: Demordeus

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 name from a 15th C Latin record:
Demordeus
The fascinating thing about this name is that there is a straightforward analysis of the name as Latin demor + deus, which would be in keeping with other Italian phrase names involving deus ‘God’, such as Amadeus, Homoedeus, and Salvodeus. But what is demor? It’s 1st person singular, present indicative passive of demo “cut away, remove, withdraw, strip off, subtract, take away from”. That would make the name meaning “I am removed from God” — which is a very peculiar thing to name a child!

So we’re putting this name out there: What do others think? Have you an alternative reading of the name? Or independent evidence that would support such a negative etymology? Please share in the comments!

4 Comments

Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

Mystery Monday: Chiquart

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 found in Old and Middle French and is a strange example of a name that we don’t have any Latin instances of! It’s probably of Germanic origin, with the deuterotheme being derived from Old English heard, Old Saxon hard, Old High German hart ‘strong, hard’. But that being said, we have no idea what the prototheme could be. Do you have any thoughts? Please share in the comments!

Chiquart

Also, while not entirely relevant to the onomastic question, we did find a cool titbit about a historical Chiquart: one “Maistre Chiquart” as cook to the Duke of Savoy, and author of a cookbook, Du fait de cuisine.

8 Comments

Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday

Mystery Monday: Bulrebecca

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 a curious feminine name from Latvia. We’ve rather punted on the standardized/normalized form: We have no idea whether the name does in fact include rebecca, etymologically, or whether this is a false friend.

Bulrebecca

The context makes it clear that this is a feminine name, which is why we think rebecca may be a player in the analysis here, but another alternative is that the -(e)ke ending is simply the standard Low German diminutive suffix. In which case, the root name would be something like Bulreb(e) — which, we have to confess, is entirely opaque to us.

Have any thoughts on what this name might be? Please share in the comments!

3 Comments

Filed under crowd-sourcing, dictionary entries, mystery monday