Every Saturday, we will revisit one of our Mystery Monday names that we have solved. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed their knowledge and expertise, whether commenting here or on twitter or via email. You’ve all helped solve a mystery!
Today’s name is Bulrebecca, and it highlights one of the difficulties we face when going through medieval documents, and that’s: How do you identify a given name as a given name? When faced with a bunch of words, there are a number of clues one can use to identify what kind of a word it is (noun, verb; Latin, German, English; given name, not a name) — clues from semantics, syntax, morphology, grammar, context, etc. Because personal names don’t function in the same way that significative nouns and adjectives do, we often have fewer clues, which means that even if you can confidently identify a word as part of a name, it’s not always clear whether it’s a given name or part of a byname.
In the case of this particular name, we were mislead by the superficial similarity between -rebeke and the personal name Rebecca, and thus originally identified Bulrebeke as a given name (the context not making it clear which it was). However, the origin of this mysterious name is solved by noting that it’s actually a place name, not a personal name. Alas, this means we’ll remove this record from our database (flagging up why, of course, so that the information isn’t lost forever!) and you’ll see no entry for Bulrebeke or Bulrebecca in future editions of the Dictionary.