15 Unique German Illnesses.

An enjoyable list from Arika Okrent; alongside the usual suspects like Ostalgie (nostalgia for the old way of life in East Germany) and Weltschmerz (you probably know what Weltschmerz is), there are such piquant entries as Kevinismus (“a strange propensity to give their kids wholly un-German, American-sounding names like Justin, Mandy, Dennis, Cindy, and Kevin”) and Ichschmerz (“like Weltschmerz, but it is dissatisfaction with the self rather than the world”). A few others:

3. KREISLAUFZUSAMMENBRUCH

Kreislaufzusammenbruch, or “circulatory collapse,” sounds deathly serious, but it’s used quite commonly in Germany to mean something like “feeling woozy” or “I don’t think I can come into work today.”

4. HÖRSTURZ

Hörsturz refers to a sudden loss of hearing, which in Germany is apparently frequently caused by stress. Strangely, while every German knows at least 5 people who have had a bout of Hörsturz, it is practically unheard of anywhere else.

7. PUTZFIMMEL

Putzen means “to clean” and Fimmel is a mania or obsession. Putzfimmel is an obsession with cleaning. It is not unheard of outside of Germany, but elsewhere it is less culturally embedded and less fun to say.

I expect my Germanophone readers to tell me some of them are invented, others exaggerated, and yet others misinterpreted, but it gave me a chuckle on a day spent reading about the Holocaust and worrying about the weather, so I thought I’d pass it on.

Speaking of the weather, I don’t know if there’s a word Schneeweh, but we’re promised at least a couple of feet of snow in the next two days and power lines may come down, so if I don’t post, you’ll know what’s happening. Please join me in hoping no trees fall near our house!

Comments

  1. Kevinismus isn’t limited to American names. There are a lot of Katjas, Anjas and Tatjanas of purely German origin and without any apparent connection to Russia.

  2. If you get snowed in, here’s hoping that you got some reading material lying around the house.

  3. In Japanese there is the very common term 潔癖性 keppeki-shō, which Google Translate gives as ‘neat freak’, although it’s actually an extreme obsession with cleanliness. According to Wikipedia, the equivalent English terms are mysophobia, verminophobia, germophobia, germaphobia, bacillophobia, and bacteriophobia.

    German Wikipedia says:

    Als Mysophobie (Ansteckungsphobie) wird eine krankhafte und übersteigerte Angst vor Kontakt mit Schmutz oder der Ansteckung durch Bakterien, Viren etc. bezeichnet. Die Angst kann sich auf real existierende Verunreinigungen beziehen, aber auch ausschließlich in der Fantasie der Betroffenen existieren. Die Folge ist ein extremes Meidungsverhalten sowie im Allgemeinen ein Waschzwang bzw. Putzzwang. Unter diesem Namen ist diese Phobie auch in der Umgangssprache bekannt.

    So I guess Putzzwang is a little different from Putzfimmel.

  4. Fimmel is a mildly disparaging term. Someone who has a Putzfimmel is forever cleaning house (and the speaker finds that annoying). Putzzwang refers to a pathology—a form of obsessive-compulsive behavior.

  5. I’ve seen this list and I am sure they are wrong about Hörsturz (sudden hearing loss). There’s also the problem of ‘does the language have a word for it’, where the German use of compound words means they often do. But I enjoyed reading the list too.
    I also like the term ‘-muffel’ meaning someone who isn’t very good at or interested in something, as heard from a colleague in ‘Mein Mann ist ein Bergmuffel’ – he doesn’t like going up mountains. So in my case I am probably a Putzmuffel.
    Kreislaufkollaps is the more common term. And I’m not sure if we have a word for Kevinismus in English, but we certainly have the phenomenon. Although a lot of those names are taken from the USA, so perhaps I’d better stop here (a friend gave his son the middle name Dustin, which his grandmother confuses with Dustbin).

  6. Stefan Holm says:

    Neither do we have a word for ’kevinismus’ but we ought to have. Here’s a list of the 10 most popular boys’ names in Sweden in 2014: Lucas, William, Oscar, Oliver, Hugo, Charlie, Liam, Alexander, Axel, Elias, Filip, Viktor, Vincent, Leo, Ludvig. Not one of them is of Norse origin. (Axel is a Scandinavian form but the origin is Hebrew Avshalom/Absalon).

    In 2010, after the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, as word of the year in Sweden was chosen inaskad, ‘ashbound’, a model of ‘insnöad’, snowbound. It meant that you were stuck at an airport for days waiting for the skies to clear up. Maybe Hat and John today know what it could be like.

  7. @ Stefan Holm:
    Here’s a list of the 10 most popular boys’ names in Sweden in 2014: Lucas, William, Oscar, Oliver, Hugo, Charlie, Liam, Alexander, Axel, Elias, Filip, Viktor, Vincent, Leo, Ludvig. Not one of them is of Norse origin.

    Well, you can do the same exercise with, e.g., English boys’ names: Oliver, Jack, Charlie, Harry, Oscar, Thomas, Jacob, Ethan, Noah, James (from this site: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a25008171/top-baby-boy-names-2013)
    Only one of those is of plausibly Anglo-Saxon origin (“Harry”).

    I’d say the Swedish case is just a variant on the longstanding Western/Central European tendency to have a mixture of French, German, Roman, Greek, and Hebrew origins for personal names. Kevinismus, on the other hand, is supposed to refer to a recent fad for names all seeming to come from the same foreign culture (e.g., American).

  8. Stefan Holm says:

    Well, a Swedish Wikipedia article on the origin of names says that Oscar is from Macpherson’s Ossian and a Celtic name (i.e. at least from the British isles). But the Celts in turn ‘probably’ borrowed it from ON Ásgeirr, ‘God’s spear’ the article claims.

  9. If you get snowed in, here’s hoping that you got some reading material lying around the house.

    Thanks, that gave me a chuckle! As you can see, so far so good — only a few inches have fallen, and though it’s windy, there are no tree-felling gusts. So far. Closing the entire state (no one is allowed to drive except for emergency vehicles) may have been an overreaction, but it means my stepson and his wife get to stay home with the grandkids (and the latter get to play in the snow).

  10. The great Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann was (probably) manic depressive and something of a hypochondriac to boot. One of the things he complained of with some frequency was Magenkatarrh, which I take to be similar to what people sometimes call “stomach flu” — i.e. intestinal upset of no clear origin. My dictionary translates katarrh only as catarrh, but perhaps it has, or had, a broader meaning in German.

  11. “Kevin” seems to be an archetypally American name for many nonnative and native speakers of English? Irish English speakers naturally don’t consider it American, but the screenwriters of “Lincoln” did so to a fault. I have previously heard it volunteered by French speakers in the same disparaging context as Kevinismus.

  12. Stefan Holm says:

    David L

    German ’Magenkatarrh’ is ’magkatarr’ in Swedish or ’gastrit’ and the proper English term for this common inflammatory disease in your digestion system is gastritis, described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastritis

  13. Stefan Holm: thanks. A bit more googling indicates that ‘stomach flu’ is usually taken to mean some kind of gastroenteritis, which differs from gastritis only in that it involves inflammation of the small intestine as well as the stomach, but for the same grab-bag of possible reasons. So I think all the things can be classed in the group of ailments that includes tummy upsets, the collywobbles, and so on.

  14. Only one of those is of plausibly Anglo-Saxon origin (“Harry”).

    Well, sort of. Its form indicates that it passed through French Henri rather than being a direct cognate of Heinrich.

  15. Isn’t Harry from Arrius?

  16. Or maybe Harold.

  17. There’s a regular panel in “Private Eye” called “Schottenfreude – German Words for the Human Condition” by benschott.com along the same lines. This weeks – Pfefferpfenningfuchser – Eeking out the last drops of an expensive product. Whether its funny or even possible German, I’ve no idea.

  18. Hat: if as a result of Canadian-style weather your grandkids get to play in the snow, then really, you have an obligation to make sure they do it right:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjtvmgqlu6Y

  19. That snow fort is impressive!

  20. Dorian and his mother and grandfather (me) just came in from playing in the NYC snow. A snow fort wasn’t practical, but we had a pretty good snowball fight into which a passerby intervened. He got me, then I pitched him one low and inside, and ducked his followup. He then went on his way, saying the incident had made his day.

    Dorian also made an urban snow angel, which is done by leaning on a snow-covered car and fanning his arms. He cleared off a bunch of other cars as well, and finally we came in. He’s soaking in a warm bath even as I write.

  21. The name Kevin appears to have quite different connotations either side of the pond.

    In America a Kevin seems to be seen as adventurous and interesting.

    Meanwhile in Britain the name tends to bring to mind the Harry Enfield “Kevin the Teenager” character, or possibly even Kevin the Gerbil from Roland Rat…

  22. Hmm. I am not aware of the name “Kevin” having a connotation of adventurousness or of being interesting in the US. (Standard AmE speaker, fwiw and/or ftr.)

    I don’t think the name connotes much of anything, really, but if I had to pick something that it connotes, I would say “thoroughly middle class”. Which, very broadly speaking, is kind of the opposite of “adventurous”. Though I have no doubt that there are, have been, and will be, many very interesting and adventurous Kevins.

  23. I agree with my fellow Steve — I certainly wouldn’t have thought of “Kevin” as being adventurous or particularly interesting. I don’t think I have any associations with the name other than Kevin McReynolds of the New York Mets (1986-1991).

  24. Another American here who has no particular associations with Kevin (except as a name occasionally mixed up with Keith).

  25. Jonathan D says:

    I was living in London when Kevin Rudd became the Australian prime minister, and one of my British firends remarked that it was “very Australian” to have a prime minister named Kevin. As an Australian, I didn’t (and still don’t) quite understand what he meant. Perhaps the fact that it doesn’t seem a remarkable name to me is the point.

  26. In the UK ‘Kevin’ is an archetypal lower working class name. That was the point.
    It is not really conceivable that a man could have a successful politcal career in the UK with the name Kevin.
    A popular comedy show about working class lives was called ‘Kevin and Tracey’.

  27. Kevin is Barbie’s boyfriend.

    That’s the only thing non-English-speaking world knows about the name. (well,apart from Kevin Costner movies)

  28. David Marjanović says:

    In 2010, after the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, as word of the year in Sweden was chosen inaskad, ‘ashbound’, a model of ‘insnöad’, snowbound. It meant that you were stuck at an airport for days waiting for the skies to clear up.

    Snowed in? German has eingeschneit for that; but eingeäschert means “incinerated”. 🙂

    This weeks – Pfefferpfenningfuchser – Eeking out the last drops of an expensive product. Whether its funny or even possible German, I’ve no idea.

    I haven’t encountered it, but it looks possible; Pfenni(n)gfuchser is real, and is a probably obsolete term for someone very stingy, who spends his pennies one by one. (I don’t know any verb *fuchsen or any association of foxes with stinginess, but in both fields my knowledge of intra-German diversity is rather lacking.)

    =================================

    The article says about Kevinismus:

    Studies of the Kevinismus phenomenon attribute these effects to a combination of teachers’ prejudices toward the names, and the lower social status of parents who choose names like Kevin.

    Yep, it’s very much a lower-class phenomenon. And the word for this lower class, Unterschicht “lower layer”, has made it to lurkmore.ru, where I’ve seen it transcribed унтершихьт.

    That said, I’m working next to a Mandy now in a rather august institution.

    Also, an important name in Kevinismus is Jacqueline, usually given by parents who have no clue how to pronounce French. Various English-style approximations are attempted instead. While I’m already rambling at a quarter past 2 am, I’ll mention that I’m reminded of the opposite situation which held 100 years ago: sometime around the beginning of last century, a “combination” of undershirt and petticoat was marketed under the English word combination, which ended up pronounced as an attempt to approximate a nonexistent French *combinège.

    Further:

    Föhn is the name for a specific wind that cools air as it draws up one side of a mountain, and then warms it as it compresses coming down the other side.

    The trick is that it draws up in Italy and/or Slovenia, and falls down on the German-speaking side; and it warms up twice as much as it cooled down on the other side, which means you suddenly get room temperature outdoors in late winter in Innsbruck. And yes, it causes headaches in people who are sensitive to air pressure. Still, the term Föhnkrankheit is completely new to me.

    Fernweh usually refers to the dire need for a warm beach, but it includes the urge to boldly go where no man has gone before. (Updated to “noone” in the Next Generation, but they encounter aliens everywhere they boldly go…)

    Haven’t heard of Zeitkrankheit or indeed Ichschmerz, but they make sense.

    Haven’t encountered Lebensmüdigkeit as a noun; the usage is instead as given in the example. Haven’t encountered Werthersfieber, but did know that Die Leiden des jungen Werther(s) – not “sorrows”, BTW, but outright “sufferings” – sparked a suicide epidemic among well-read young men when it came out.

  29. SFReader: Barbie’s boyfriend is Ken (from Kenneth), a different Gaelic name.

    David M: My mother’s French (indeed, ultra-French) name Marianne was always pronounced German-wise. I first heard of the foehn effect when studying adiabatic heating and cooling: it was the first example.

  30. Google Translate gives Lebensmüdigkeit as the German translation of ennui de vivre.

  31. I was very disappointed to find no substantial search results for “Duschmerz”.

    “Fernweh” reminded me of “Wanderlust” and looking at Wikipedia I see the claim that the former has in fact largely replaced the latter. Symbolically speaking it looks like the longing for the journey itself has been replaced by the desire to simply be at the destination (or perhaps even just to not be where one currently is, with no further preference indicated).

  32. Among the reasons the European middle class finds to deride the urban poor are the naming of their children and their enthusiasm for American popular culture. This may blur the distinction, and spread the opprobrium, between names considered lower-class and those considered American.

  33. Re: “Wanderlust” – the thing is that wandern has an old-fashioned image; it’s what your grandparents did. Nowadays, you go hiken.

  34. And yes, (a Föhn) causes headaches in people who are sensitive to air pressure.

    It’s not the change in air pressure that causes the headache; it’s the paucity of negative ions in the atmosphere. A hot shower makes the headache disappear in minutes.

  35. Chris McG says:

    It’s not the change in air pressure that causes the headache; it’s the paucity of negative ions in the atmosphere. A hot shower makes the headache disappear in minutes.

    Even for sufferers of intracranial hypertension?

  36. n what Zadie Smith novel does the narrator’s brother amuse her by joining an Islamic militant organization in London whose acronym is KEVIN?

  37. Kevin is Barbie’s boyfriend.

    That’s the only thing non-English-speaking world knows about the name. (well,apart from Kevin Costner movies)

    As John Cowan points out, if the non-English-speaking world thinks this, it thinks wrong.

    Also, an important name in Kevinismus is Jacqueline, usually given by parents who have no clue how to pronounce French.

    Reminds me of the fad among Dylan Thomas fans who had no clue how to pronounce Irish for naming their daughters Caitlin (should be cat’-LEEN = Cathleen, Katherine), leading to generations of gritted teeth among people who do know how to pronounce Irish.

  38. Jongseong Park says:

    For me, the name Kevin brings to mind the main character from the Home Alone films. I wonder if there was some sort of spike in the popularity of this name globally around the release of those films.

  39. David:

    Fuchsen is ‘vex, peeve, madden, annoy, nettle (informal)’, according to various German-English dictionaries. Here are some examples I dug up:

    Die Schikane und die Kurve im Steilhang fuchsen noch ein bisschen, da ist noch mehr drinnen.

    Einige Wochen fuchst Kellermeyer an dem System herum.

    Mit dem zweiten Platz sind wir nicht unzufrieden, obwohl uns natürlich ein bisschen fuchst, dass wir den einen Punkt für die Pole-Position knapp verpasst haben.

    Es scheint ihn gefuchst zu haben, dass die späteren Entwicklungen der Raumfahrt ohne ihn stattgefunden haben.

    Als erstes fuchste den guten Roger Hodgson, der als nächstes auftreten sollte, das Keyboard und flinke Hände versuchten alles, die Show weitergehen zulassen, während […] ein Ansager dem nun schon längere Zeit gespannt wartenden Publikum noch eine weitere halbe Stunde Wartezeit androhte.

    Fuchser is a known name, although Dr. Google doesn’t find anyone bearing it in German-speaking lands. Plenty of Americans, though, and immigration records point to Switzerland and Germany (not Austria) as the point of origin. I found the following on a heraldic site s.v. Fuchser:

    Konrad Fuchser 1395 Asperg Krämerzunftmeister Hederich 1288 Montélimart Messerschmied u. Ratmann Sabellus 1425 Haselünne Lehen Jäger–Übername. Ableitung von fuchsen gleich plagen, quälen kommt nicht in Frage, da diese Bedeutung nicht vor dem 17. Jahrhundert bezeugt ist. Fuchser Seit dem ausgehenden XIII Jahrhundert, ab Karl IV. (1346-1378), haben die Kaiser Wappen verliehen, ohne die Begünstigten in den Adelsstand zu erheben. Im XV Jahrhundert haben sie den Pfalzgrafen mit der Wappenvergabe betraut, der seitdem auch Bürgerfamilien Wappen gewährte.

  40. Jongseong Park says:

    Or main character, rather. I wish I could edit my comments.

  41. Even for sufferers of intracranial hypertension?

    Can’t speak to that. Nor to one of the world’s biggest maladies, recto-cranial inversion.

    I do know that a hot shower works for me. Google [ chinook ions -salmon ] for a wealth of information, including a 1981 NYT article discussing the phenomenon.

  42. Or main character, rather. I wish I could edit my comments.

    Fortunately, I am always happy to edit when asked, and I have fixed it up for you.

  43. In Austria, I was told Kevinismus started with the movie Home Alone because the kid’s name is Kevin and it was super popular here. Since then, it’s become a trend to name kids American sounding names. I found this odd because as an American, I didn’t associate Kevin with anything in particular.

    My favorite Austrianism is Muskelverkühlung (in Germany I assume it would be something like Muskelerkaltung). It’s where your muscles catch a cold. It can happen from drafts, but I’ve heard it most often in reference to getting sore back muscles after being sweaty from some sort of sport or exercise and not drying off before going out into the fresh air. I’ve been told it can cause mild fevers as well.

    I also thought the

  44. Zelený drak says:

    From what I know the name Kevin (and other very American names) are both in Germany and France a sign of very low class. I actually remember seeing some article some time ago showing that boys with the name Kevin are the least likely to pass the high school exam (the baccalaureat) in France.

  45. Zelený drak says:

    I could not find the original article but I found this one. http://themonkeycage.org/2013/07/10/kevin-rarely-gets-tres-bien It’s the same chart that I remember but apparently it was about the grades not about passing. So apparently Sabrina, Kevin, Dylan and Jordan are the worst at having “very good” at the exam.

  46. J. W. Brewer says:

    Even as recently as my own childhood in the ’70’s, Kevin seemed (among non-Hispanic white Americans) to be an ethnically-marked name. In other words, if the kid named Kevin didn’t have an Irish-sounding surname, the odds weren’t bad that his mother’s maiden name would be identifiably Irish (Hollywoodwise, this accounts for Kevin Kline, whose mother’s maiden name was Delaney; Kevin Costner according to wikipedia has some Irish ancestry although his mother’s maiden name doesn’t scream it). But in recent decades Kevin became a quite popular boys name among black/Hispanic/Asian-American boys in the U.S., perhaps for reasons paralleling its apparent popularity in Hungary and Slovakia, among other non-Irish parts of the globe. Whether it has now lost its ethnic-signal quality even among non-Hispanic white Americans is not clear to me.

    Obv in the UK there’s a lot of overlap between “markedly ethnic-Irish” and “markedly non-U.” Although the cult rock music figure Kevin Ayers (1944-2013) was from a reasonably posh-sounding family background.

  47. There is a word for Fernweh in Icelandic: útþrá. I would have thought that útþrá is a very old word in the language but this appears not to be the case. It first appeared in print about 100 years ago, according to ritmálsskrá. Heimþrá (homesickness) is older but not that old. It seems to have appeared in the 19th century.

    And about Harry. I’ve always assumed that the name is Norse in origin, a form of Harri (which means king or chief). An uncommon name in Iceland but there are 10 in the phonebook and for some reason it’s most often chosen as a second or middle name: http://ja.is/?q2=Harri&q=Harri

  48. Stefan Holm says:

    Hat: Kevin is Barbie’s boyfriend. That’s the only thing non-English-speaking world knows about the name. (well,apart from Kevin Costner movies).

    Hey! We are some billion soccer fans on this globe. Even the younger of our kin know this brilliant performer of the (low class) people’s game as “the” Kevin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Keegan

  49. Just so we’re clear, the italicized material following “Hat:” is by SFReader, not me; I was quoting it.

  50. Stefan Holm says:

    Oh dear, sincerely sorry. I realize, that I had the first lines of your posting at the bottom of my open window and didn’t see that you were actually critizising the idea just a line below. I’ve been around enough long to know that you wouldn’t say a thing like that.

  51. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, yes, I actually wanted to mention Home Alone. Everyone has watched it twice or so.

    I was very disappointed to find no substantial search results for “Duschmerz”.

    That’s called fremdschämen, foreign/strange + shame, “to feel the shame someone else ought to be feeling”.

    Fuchsen is ‘vex, peeve, madden, annoy, nettle (informal)’

    I have indeed encountered das fuchst mich, but it’s so far from my active vocabulary I didn’t remember it last night. Happens a lot.

  52. @Alex
    Are you sure you aren’t thinking of “Gavin and Stacey”?

  53. It’ll happen a lot more as time goes on!

  54. marie-lucie says:

    mollymooly: Among the reasons the European middle class finds to deride the urban poor are the naming of their children and their enthusiasm for American popular culture. This may blur the distinction, and spread the opprobrium, between names considered lower-class and those considered American.

    With the removal of most restrictions on naming children in France, my impression is that American names are lower class while the middle to upper class counterparts are very old, even medieval names. Kévin is a French spelling pronunciation (rhyming with vin ‘wine’) of a name seen on movie screens or in the mass media but sometimes a spelling is based on hearing, as with Djézonne (based on dubbed TV series where a character is originally called “Jason”). Further up the social scale, baby boys are more likely to be named Théophile or Grégoire (which is Grégory farther down).

  55. With the removal of most restrictions on naming children in France […]

    But sadly little Nutella will have to make his or her way through life under a different name after losing a legal battle.

    Currently it is a thing for aspirational middle-class Dutch sproglings to be billed with (perceived) Scandiwegian names: there are more “Finn”s and “Bente”s than you would otherwise expect.

  56. Stefan Holm says:

    Since her parents refused to give any other name the French judge decided Nutella’s legal name to be Ella. The parents of equally rejected Fraise though reportedly promised to come back with another suggestion.

  57. I can understand the problem with Nutella, but what on earth is the problem with Fraise? It would be a beautiful name! You could name your other kid Blaise and have a rhyming pair.

  58. J. W. Brewer says:

    “Fraise” = “strawberry,” right? I learn from wikipedia that there is a granddaughter of the playwright William Saroyan named Strawberry Saroyan (born 1970), whose sister is named Cream. You can do stuff like that with your kids’ names here in the U.S., which is not all uptight and European about such things. “Strawberry” is also the given name (or at least a nickname) of a female character in the N.W.A. song “Dopeman,” which does not give a flattering portrayal (“everybody know” that she is the “neighborhood hoe”), and I’m afraid that that literary reference skunks the name for me almost as much as the hippieness does.

  59. J. W. Brewer says:

    Strawberry speaks: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/30/fashion/30VIEW.html

    “Years ago when I met an ex-boyfriend of the writer Plum Sykes and he took a liking to me, I couldn’t resist telling him, ‘You just like girls with fruit names.'”

  60. They could have collaborated on a book about juice or something, just like The Imperial Animal by Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox.

  61. Trond Engen says:

    Yesterday I sat at the lunch table with two students doing their master theses in another department of the engineering company I work for. One was named Kelvin, the other Watt.

  62. In an unnamed Midwestern university during the post-end-of-term faculty get-together, there was general hilarity when the professor of Latin announced that a student named Cicero had failed his class. But when a physics professor tried to top this by saying that he had a failing student named Gauss, only the math and science faculty laughed.

  63. Stefan Holm says:

    what on earth is the problem with Fraise?

    Apropos French satire fruit or berry names may have an infamous connotation among Francophones. I’m of course thinking of Honoré Daumier’s world famous drawings of their King, Louis-Philippe – ‘Les poires’. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Caricature_Charles_Philipon_pear.jpg

  64. I once read an interview with Robin Fox, where he emphasized that yes, it was no false rumor, he had indeed first met Lionel Tiger at the London Zoo (by the ape cages, I believe.)

  65. iakon: There are certainly anglophone Harolds who are called Harry, but the historic English name (as applied to Henry VIII of England, for example) reflects an underlying OF Herri < Henricus).

    I once referred in an ietf-languages mailing list post to “the Piranha brothers, Harry and Mike”. Harald Tveit Alvestrand (mailing list admin) replied that it was culturally incorrect in Norway to call him Harry, to which I replied that it was culturally incorrect everywhere to call Michael Everson (absolute monarch of ietf-languages) Mike.

  66. Stefan Holm says:

    All Swedish sources derive Harry from Henrik (Henry). The origin is said to be German Heinrich. First part from ‘Heim’ (home) and second part from the word seen in Eng. ‘rich’, Ger. ‘Reich’, Scand. ‘rik’, ‘rike’ with an original meaning ‘mighty, ‘ruler’ or ‘king’ (c.f. Erik/Eric/Erich = ‘always mighty’) So Harry would be ‘ruler of the house’ or the like, more or less the same as ‘husband’:
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=husband&searchmode=none

  67. All Swedish sources derive Harry from Henrik (Henry). The origin is said to be German Heinrich.

    Yes, but you need a French stop in between to explain the form.

  68. AJP Kevin O'Cóemgen says:

    There’s a Prince Harry in Britain whose real name apparently is Henry, and Henry VIII was known as Hal or Harry.

    Kevin Bacon is from an upper-middle background; his father is Ed Bacon the urban designer who wrote The Design of Cities, a classic work. There’s another fairly well-known Yale-trained city planner named Kevin Lynch as well as a famous Irish-American architect with that name. Kevin Spacey’s dad was a ‘technical writer and data consultant’ according to Wiki — I dunno what that means but I’m pretty sure it’s not working class. My dentist for many years in New York was a Kevin. In short, I don’t know of any Kevins who come from a modest background; the ones I know are all richer than I am and I’m not no working class boy neither. And as JW says, there is, or was, Kevin Ayres. There’s nothing wrong with Kevin as a boy’s name. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just plain wrong. It’s an Irish name, and that’s how it got to the United States and Australia, but in case no one’s noticed Irish immigrants are no longer bottom of the heap. Saint Kevin (498 – 3 June 618) is an Irish saint who was known as the founder and first abbot of Glendalough in County Wicklow, Ireland. According to Wiki his family was noble.

  69. AJP Kevin O'Caoimhín says:

    I see that Wiki’s claiming St Kevin lived to be 120 (498-618).

  70. There’s nothing wrong with Kevin as a boy’s name.

    But that’s just the thing, AJP. Only a Brit would think to make that point, and if you made it to a Yank or Ozite, they would just stare at you blankly, as if you were “fanatically shouting that the sun will rise tomorrow” (Robert Pirsig)

  71. Saint Kevin (498 – 3 June 618) is an Irish saint who was known as the founder and first abbot of Glendalough in County Wicklow, Ireland.
    I assume that’s the Saint referred to in this ballad?

  72. AJP Crown says:

    Only a Brit would think to make that point, and if you made it to a Yank or Ozite, they would just stare at you blankly, as if you were “fanatically shouting that the sun will rise tomorrow”

    John, do you mean ‘Kevin’ specifically or the idea of names being class-linked?

  73. The name “Kevin” specifically. There are plenty of names in the U.S. with class/race associations, but “Kevin” just isn’t one of them.

  74. AJP Crown says:

    I misunderstood then. I thought people were saying Kev was disrespected in the USA. Although it’s not just Brit, hence the word Kevinismus.

    Ah, St Kevin by The Dubliners.

    We forgot Kevin Coyne.

  75. The term ‘Kevinismus’ has no direct connection to the American origin of many of these names. It’s a proverbal illness said to cause the typical intellectual underachievement of a certain class of boys who tend to be recognisable by certain characteristic first names. Of course the same disease also affects girls – for these it’s referred to as ‘Chantalismus’.

    ‘Kevin’ is a particularly good example for the phenomenon, since this name was little known in Germany before the film ‘Home Alone’ reached German cinemas under the title ‘Kevin – allein zu Haus’ in the same year in which Kevin Costner achieved international fame. As a result, ‘Kevin’ suddenly became the most popular boys’ name in Germany.

    I recently encountered three boys in two parallel classes of a German school whose last names happened to follow the pattern [1 syllable]-mann. Two of them have the first name ‘Justin’, but the first name of one of them is ‘Dustin’. I guess this is because he is the only one whose last name is actually ‘Hoffmann’, so ‘Justin’ was considered too blatant even by Kevinism sufferers.

    Other names of this kind include Ken and Rocco for boys and Shakira, Charlize, Loreley, Lillifee (a pink children’s book princess) for girls. They all have in common that no sane person would choose them except in the extremely unlikely case that one wants to flatter an extremely rich aunt or uncle who, by some bizarre coincidence, happens to have received the same name before it became associated with just one person.

  76. Shakira, Charlize, Loreley, Lillifee

    And yet the associations of Loreley/Lorelei in the U.S., insofar as it has any, are entirely German! “Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten …”

  77. David Marjanović says:

    And yet the associations of Loreley/Lorelei in the U.S., insofar as it has any, are entirely German!

    The difference is that some US parents inflict that name on real people. Over here that didn’t use to be the case at all; there was that one supernatural figure in that one poem who bore the name, and nobody else. As a name for Puny Humans it’s entirely new, as new as Kevin if not more so.

  78. I see there is another Hans here. It is a frequent name in Germany… Herzlich Willkommen!

  79. David Marjanović says:

    It is a frequent name in Germany…

    Yes, but only among people over 50, if not 60. Younger people named Johannes are only abbreviated to Hannes, if at all.

    20 years ago, in Vienna, I had two classmates called Johannes. One remained a full-length Johannes at all times, the other usurped the historical nickname for the extinct name Josef and was, well, Joschi with [o] and short [ʃ] (evidently from Hungarian József, which has -[oːʒ]-).

  80. Stefan Holm says:

    only among people over 50, if not 60.

    The same goes for Hans in Sweden. But I’ve noticed a peculiar phenomenon when looking at the lists over today’s most popular names given to boys as well as girls. They are often names very common in my grandparents’ generation, born a hundred years ago. Could it be, that parents are unwilling to give their children names of people who are very old but that these names experience a revival when the former carriers of them are no longer around?

    If so we in some 40 years could once again expect to see many a little Hänschen und Gretchen in die roten Beeren gehen.

  81. Yes, I saw a description of that phenomenon recently, but I can’t remember where.

  82. I was forgetting Lorelei Lee.

  83. Could it be, that parents are unwilling to give their children names of people who are very old but that these names experience a revival when the former carriers of them are no longer around?

    Hence the recent resurgence of Dagwood, Woodward et al. as American boys’ names.

  84. gwenllian says:

    Yep, it’s a well-known phenomenon among name aficionados. But it only happens with some names. Mildred’s never coming back.

  85. I vaguely recall (but can’t google) a throwaway line from MASH in which the suggestion is made that if something happens to Colonel Potter in Korea his wife should take up with Hawkeye, but this is rebutted with “Yeah, but then she’d be Mildred Pierce.

  86. Yes, but only among people over 50, if not 60.
    I’m feeling old now. 😉 (Almost fifty, but not yet!).

    Younger people named Johannes are only abbreviated to Hannes, if at all.
    Don’t forget that it’s not only a shortening of Johannes, but a given name in its own right. And at least in my generation, I know a quite a lot of people where it’s part of a hyphenated given name (I’m a case in point – my full name is Hans-Werner).

  87. (Forgot to Close html tag. I am getting old.)

  88. Fixed (I’m getting old too, but I can still manage the edit box).

  89. In Denmark, it’s not just how you spell it. Turning all prejudices up to 11:

    Kevin /ˈkɛv.ɪn/ is neutral and very rare, and usually indicates at least one parent born in an English-speaking country.

    Kevin /’kʰe:ˌʋin/ is not rare enough, and usually indicates at least one parent who failed grade nine. Has replaced Benny (and Allan before that) as the go-to name to evoke the image of a boy whose bright future was behind him when he started kindergarten.

  90. David Marjanović says:

    Symptoms of Chantalismus that are probably more common than Chantal: Jennifer, Jessica. I don’t know why I failed to think of those earlier.

  91. J. W. Brewer says:

    Kevinismus update: perhaps as a reaction, Kevin has fallen so out of favor in England/Wales that only 7 baby boys were given that name in calendar 2013, per this story. But in the US, 2013 saw the addition of 5.892 newborn Kevins to the population.

    I was amusing myself yesterday by listening to Irish-origin music devoid of tin whistles or nostalgic appeals to drunken Americans, one fine specimen of which is the Undertones’ 1980 single “My Perfect Cousin” (reached #9 on the UK charts), in which the cousin in question is named Kevin, which was apparently the real name of a real cousin of two members of the band (the O’Neill brothers). But the Undertones were from Derry and perhaps Kevin remains healthier in that bit of the U.K. than in England/Wales. (Although note that there’s a “Cousin Kevin” on the Who’s “Tommy” LP w/o any obvious Irish backstory.)

  92. It occurs to me that the name is as old as ogams: COIMAGNI.

  93. Thanks for reminding me of the Undertones; I’m listening to “Teenage Kicks” now. (It occurs to me it would be even better if it were a little faster; they should have spent more time listening to the Ramones.)

  94. J. W. Brewer says:

    It’s all relative. By around ’81 the bands at the cutting edge of hardcore punk in the U.S. were almost all playing at tempos that made the Ramones sound stately if not sluggish, although after that things started to diverge/disperse and some people even started working on the innovative concept of playing at different speeds for different songs (or sometimes even within the same song).

  95. Right, but “Teenage Kicks” was written in 1977 when loud fast ruled.

  96. J. W. Brewer says:

    There are more internet resources than I would have supposed that organize songs by beats-per-minute (including one list of punk songs ranked in that fashion for the benefit of joggers trying to put together a mix tape or digital equivalent that fits the pace they’re trying to run at). So Teenage Kicks (136 bpm) is comparable to I Just Wanna Have Something to Do (137) or I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (134), but most of the early Ramones canon does seem to be markedly quicker than that, e.g. Blitzkrieg Bop is 176. On the other hand, the Pistols really weren’t that fast – Anarchy in the U.K. is at 134 and Pretty Vacant at 145.

    In the New Yorker, of all places I find the no-doubt-rigorously-factchecked sentence “Bad Brains crystallized the movement with a 1980 single called “Pay to Cum,” which buzzed along for ninety seconds at about three hundred beats per minute—nearly twice the tempo of an average song by the New York punk band the Ramones, who had previously been considered plenty fast.” That was the exact song (I probably didn’t hear it myself until ’81 or maybe even early ’82) that I would use to illustrate the point I’d made earlier. First you had a “wow, I didn’t know it was humanly possible to play that fast — I’ve never heard anything like that in my life” reaction, but then a year or so later you were aware of a couple dozen bands that all played that fast. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive etc.

  97. So Teenage Kicks (136 bpm) is comparable to I Just Wanna Have Something to Do (137) or I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (134), but most of the early Ramones canon does seem to be markedly quicker than that, e.g. Blitzkrieg Bop is 176. On the other hand, the Pistols really weren’t that fast – Anarchy in the U.K. is at 134 and Pretty Vacant at 145.

    Wow, the things I learn around here! And yes, I had the same reaction to the “Pay to Cum” reference in the New Yorker.

  98. per incuriam says:

    But the Undertones were from Derry and perhaps Kevin remains healthier in that bit of the U.K.
    Derry is in Ireland, Londonderry in the UK.
    In the same vein, since the Undertones were of Irish rather than British heritage (with names like Feargal, for example, in contrast to the Gordons, Alistairs etc. of SLF), Kevin was just a regular boy’s name without any of the connotations it may have acquired elsewhere.
    “Cousin Kevin” on the Who’s “Tommy” LP w/o any obvious Irish backstory
    According to John Entwistle this song was based on a boy who lived across the street from him as a child growing up in South Acton, a strongly Irish area at that time.

  99. Derry is in Ireland, Londonderry in the UK.

    They are the same place. So we can say that Derry is on the island of Ireland, but it is not part of the republic of Ireland. Whether you call it Derry or Londonderry depends on your political opinions and whether you are constrained to use official names.

  100. J. W. Brewer says:

    FWIW I would generally call it Londonderry by default, but since the guys in the band were from the ethnocultural community that tends to use the other name I used that one in the particular context of referring to them. I do not promise to adhere to this principle consistently in the future.

  101. I call it Derry because I spent some crucial years in the company of a friend who insisted on it; I have no strong relevant political opinions of my own, but old habits are hard to break (and I have a fondness for unofficial names anyway — you’ll never catch me referring to “Avenue of the Americas”).

  102. That just shows you’re a real New Yorker (once and always). That silly name’s been in place for sixty years now, and nobody says it.

  103. J. W. Brewer says:

    Regardless of who may have lived across the street from the young Entwhistle, my assumption is that in the relevant generational cohort (i.e. born during WW2), the title character of Tommy could plausibly have both a cousin named Kevin and an uncle named Ernie without either of those names being distractingly “ethnic” or otherwise marked as putting Tommy or his extended family outside the mainstream of English society. How many Kevins there were in that generation in England, and how many were (to those sensitive to such things) obviously part of the ethnic-Irish minority rather than the generic-ethnic-English majority is not clear to me.

  104. That just shows you’re a real New Yorker (once and always). That silly name’s been in place for sixty years now, and nobody says it.
    And Washington, D.C. was officially done with for how many years? Still everybody calls it that way.

  105. Washington, D.C.

    That’s still the official name of the city.

  106. J.C., there is no such city.

  107. Eli Nelson says:

    @D.O. :
    It’s true that “District” seems to be used far more often, but at the bottom of this page I can clearly see links to “Citywide News” and “Citywide Calendar”, which to me imply the existence of a city for these to refer to.

    http://dc.gov

  108. Eli Nelson says:

    On the same topic though, I just did some research and learned there is no such city as Tokyo, and the City of London is the smallest city in England.

  109. Mongolian Constitution says that there can be only one city in the country – the capital city Ulan-Bator.

    The rest have official status of rural districts or provinces.

    Curiously, Erdenet (pop: 90 thousand), the second largest city in Mongolia, is officially known either as Orkhon province or Bayan-Undur rural district of Orkhon province.

    This strange practice is followed with names of every second city in Mongolia – Choibalsan (officially Kherlen rural district), Khovd (Jargalant rural district), Tsetserleg (Erdenebulgan rural district), Altai (Yesonbulagrural district), etc.

  110. It’s interesting that the Mauerkrankheit, the Wall syndrome, is not mentioned in the list. Has it disappeared together with the Wall? Dr Mueller-Hegemann first described its clinical symptoms.

  111. per incuriam says:

    They are the same place
    Yes, I assumed that was generally understood.

    Those who actually live there call it Derry, by and large.

    Derry City, the city’s soccer club, plays in the Republic’s league.

    the relevant generational cohort (i.e. born during WW2), the title character of Tommy could plausibly have both a cousin named Kevin
    Yes, in the ranking of baby names for England&Wales for 1944, when Entwistle was born, Kevin is already as high as 67th, perhaps suggesting that the name was no longer confined to the Irish community. Then again, Mohammed was at No 87.

  112. It’s true that there is no legal distinction between the city of Washington and the District of Columbia, which share a single government, and the same is true of Canberra and the A.C.T. But to say that Washington and Canberra are not cities is the equivalent of saying that Nashville, Louisville, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans, and Honolulu are not cities either because they have unified city and county governments. For that matter, Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, Vienna, and Seoul are states/provinces of their countries, but no less cities for that. Still more extreme is Virginia, where all 38 cities are considered on the same level as counties: are we to say that Virginia has no cities?

    Though the City of London is the smallest city in England, St. David’s is the smallest city in the U.K. In sober fact it is a village (population 1,841; I have no figures on its area), though because of its cathedral its city status, lost in 1888, was restored in 1994.

  113. J.W. Brewer says:

    This thread seems to have gotten weird because people are treating three fallacies as if they are or might be true. Fallacy A: a toponym is not real unless its referent is a separately-incorporated entity for local governmental purposes. Fallacy B: a toponym is not real unless it matches the “official” name of the incorporated-entity-for-local-governmental-purposes that occupies the same territory as its referent. Fallacy C: words like “city” or “town” or “village” have no meaning in the English language separate from the technical meanings assigned to them (which vary quite a lot from place to place) in some relevant jurisdiction for local governmental purposes. In the U.S., even the government-its-own-damn-self does not adhere to these fallacies (except possibly for C). The federal government keeps track of toponyms (for inhabited places, leaving aside how it keeps track of names of rivers, mountains etc.) in two primary contexts: data collection and mail delivery. In the first context, the census bureau has long kept track of what are currently called “Census-Designated Places,” meaning communities with genuine existence as social/geographical facts that happen not to be separately incorporated as cities/towns/villages/boroughs/what-have-you under the relevant jurisdiction’s laws. In the second context, the post office has long had its own toponym scheme for practical purposes and feels no need to match up those names to the official names or boundaries of separately-incorporated political entities. “Washington, D.C.” exists insofar as it is a place you can address mail to and be reasonably confident it will be delivered where you intended. In lots of places, the post-office-recognized boundaries of X-ville do not track the political boundaries of the incorporated city/village/whatever of X-ville – they may be smaller, they may be larger. In fact, in parts of the New York suburbs (and elsewhere), there are places where the post-office-recognized boundaries of X-ville are larger than the political boundaries of X-ville and whether a house you might be considering buying is within the former but not the latter may be highly relevant to e.g. what your tax situation may be and what schools your kids will be eligible to attend. In New York City, the entire borough/county of Queens is divided into a number of smaller locales that function as city/town equivalents for post office addressing purposes, none of which have any current political existence (although some of them did, perhaps with somewhat different boundaries, prior to 1898). But that doesn’t mean that the post-office toponyms are false and the political-subdivision toponyms true. It just means natural language is complicated and many words, including proper names, have multiple meanings and you need to understand context.

  114. David Marjanović says:

    DER BÜRGERMEISTER
    UND LANDESHAUPTMANN
    VON WIEN

    – letterhead of “the mayor and governor of Vienna”.

  115. IST KEEN

    —Kevin Kevinist

  116. David Marjanović says:

    The dictionary publisher Langenscheidt holds an annual contest for the best “youth word” of the year. Most of the submissions are probably made up to make fun of clueless adults… anyway, this year, Langenscheidt removed the frontrunner from the list after the voting had already begun. It allegedly means “the dumbest of all” and is… *drum roll*… Alpha-Kevin.

  117. David Marjanović says:

    In lots of places, the post-office-recognized boundaries of X-ville do not track the political boundaries of the incorporated city/village/whatever of X-ville – they may be smaller, they may be larger. In fact, in parts of the New York suburbs (and elsewhere), there are places where the post-office-recognized boundaries of X-ville are larger than the political boundaries of X-ville and whether a house you might be considering buying is within the former but not the latter may be highly relevant to e.g. what your tax situation may be and what schools your kids will be eligible to attend.

    This is one of those things that leave outsiders really wondering why there hasn’t been a revolution in the US in such a long time.

    And I thought cities merrily spreading across county boundaries that are never adjusted was bad enough (apparently this is common in some states).

  118. The kind of “revolutions” you need for that kind of rationalization are typified by Cromwell, Napoleon, and Bismarck. No thanks. If we in the U.S. must suffer a man on horseback, let him push compulsory metrication or something that’s actually useful.

  119. David Marjanović says:

    I mean “how do people put up with this nonsensical, cumbersome state of affairs?”

  120. Well, to begin with, rationalizing U.S. state boundaries would literally be more difficult than rationalizing international ones. To move a parcel of land from State A to State B would require laws to be passed by both states. Then, as an interstate compact, it must pass both houses of Congress (but need not be signed by the President). In practice, the locals would have to be in favor as well, and if they have a council of some sort, it would have to approve. (When borders are riverine, they do not move when the river does.)

    Most intrastate border changes take the form of cities annexing neighboring rural or suburban areas, which typically don’t want to become part of The City. In 1898, New York City annexed the Bronx, the western part of Nassau County (now Queens), and Staten Island, but Brooklyn was a separate city and had to merge by mutual acts of the local legislatures, because New York State does not permit cities to unilaterally annex other cities. In order to block further expansion of New York City, all of its immediate neighbors have obtained city status as well.

    For smaller subdivisions, it’s beggar-thy-neighbor at work. The entity losing the land would also lose actual or potential tax income. Think the Holy Roman Empire, but with a strong enough Emperor to prevent local wars; the Toledo War between Michigan Territory and Ohio over the site of the city of Toledo was bloodless (a few shots were fired in the air by opposing militia units). The U.S. arbitrated, giving the Toledo strip to Ohio and the Upper Peninsula to Michigan. Michiganders thought this was a raw deal at the time, but the natural resources discovered later in the U.P. more than compensated Michigan for the loss.

    The Town of Killington, Vermont keeps trying to detach itself from its state and join New Hampshire even though it is some 40 km from the border. Killington thinks it would receive more favorable tax treatment from N.H., though this is debatable. N.H. has passed a law expressing their willingness to form an interstate compact, though they are not committed to do so; Vermont on the contrary tried (but failed) to require Killington to pay for State assets in the Town’s territory if they do leave. The matter has been quiescent for ten years.

  121. David Marjanović says:

    rationalizing U.S. state boundaries

    Sure, but I wasn’t talking about those. I was talking about the examples above: the postal system ignoring official city boundaries and using its own, and city boundaries cutting across county boundaries.

  122. The Postal Service, as a federal institution, can use whatever geographical organization makes sense to it, disregarding existing state organization. In practice they work with it most of the time, but if it is more efficient to deliver (some) Podunk mail from Squeedunk (generic American names for small places), then (some) Podunk buildings will have Squeedunk addresses, even though Squeedunk is in a different political unit. State boundaries are less likely to be crossed than other types.

    As for cities, cities and counties are equally creations of state legislatures, which can grant city charters in ways that have nothing to do with the county system, and counties have no recourse. Historically the New England states arose as federations of Towns (both urban and rural) and counties came later: Connecticut has recently abolished its county-level political system altogether, and its counties are now purely “geographical expressions”.

  123. European: Why don’t you imitate our system of top-down uniformity?

    American: Why do you think we left?

  124. What system of top-down what? Some European countries may be trying hard for internal uniformity, but try moving from one to another and you’ll see.

    Also for the postal district example it is exactly the same in Denmark, and I suppose in Sweden as well: post codes, and before that the ‘postal city’, depends entirely on how the now privatized postal service pleases to lay out its delivery routes, without reference to any borders defined by other entities. (They have been known to pay attention to public outrage, though).

  125. David Marjanović says:

    European: Why don’t you imitate our system of top-down uniformity?

    That’s actually the opposite of:

    The Postal Service, as a federal institution, can use whatever geographical organization makes sense to it, disregarding existing state organization.

  126. Well, they don’t seem to me to be opposites, and at any rate my remark was intended about as seriously as your call for revolution.

    It certainly does create complications. When I worked for the Cabell County Library in Huntington, WV, I often had to process card applications from new arrivals in the city, and I sometimes had to tell them that in spite of their Huntington postal address, they didn’t live in the city limits and/or in Cabell County. I was often met by various mixtures of incredulity at this situation and, I thought, resistance to being corrected by the help.

Speak Your Mind

*