Different Names.

Greg Woolf had a very interesting review (LRB, 2 November 2017, pp. 25-30) of Images of Mithra by Philippa Adrych, Robert Bracey, Dominic Dalglish, Stefanie Lenk and Rachel Wood (Oxford, 2017), from which I learn that we know hardly anything about the worship of Mithra:

Earlier generations of scholars often tried to interpret the images as products of a system of belief rather like a modern religion. This has often been labelled ‘Mithraism’ although there is no ancient justification for that term. Mithraism was conceived of as a package of notions and rituals – again on the model of a modern religion – held and practised by people called ‘Mithraists’, another term with no ancient authority. […] Modern writers have not always been able to choose between finding Mithraism very strange, and seeing it as just one more variation in the rich world of ancient polytheism. […] Some Mithraisms are beguiling, others fantastic. Yet they share two weaknesses. The first is the presumption that Mithraism and Mithraists existed in the way Judaism and Jews or Christianity and Christians do today. This seems pretty unlikely given that in the Roman period almost no texts refer even to Judaism or Christianity in this way. There is no sign at all that those who worshipped Mithras did not worship many other gods as well, no sign that their beliefs about the divine were very different from those of their fellows, no sign that anyone ever made the cult of Mithras an important part of their identity.

The second weakness is that all these reconstructions have been created by lumping. Lumpers presume a basic commonality to the worship of Mithras, from place to place and century to century. Our evidence is so sparse that it’s tempting to complete a mosaic from Ostia with graffiti from Dura Europos on the Euphrates, add a scatter of Latin inscriptions and then declare that all Mithraists underwent the same series of initiations on their way to learning the same truths.

But this is the paragraph that drives me to post:

The authors of Images of Mithra are occasionally tempted to lump, but almost always end up splitting. They have good reasons for it. They have cast their net very wide, far beyond the Mediterranean to Syria and Iran, Afghanistan and northern India. The old idea that Mithraism was an invasive eastern religion is certainly wrong. Nothing like the western material appears in the god’s eastern realms, not even the slaughtering of a bull. Even his name is different: Mihr in Middle Persian, Mioro [should be Μιυρο, i.e. /mihro/ — thanks, J Pystynen!] or Miiro in Bactrian (one of the main languages of the Kushan Empire that ruled both sides of the Hindu Kush in the early centuries AD), Mitra in Sanskrit. His earliest appearances were in the Vedas and in a treaty signed between the Hittites and the Mitanni, two of the major powers that fought for control of the Near East in the second millennium BC. Images of Mithra doesn’t devote much time to his Bronze Age avatars, perhaps because we have no images of the god from that far back. Spreading the net wide takes us to places where iconography seems less central than it did in the Roman world. Our earliest Mithras is a god who guarantees pacts and treaties. This is how he appears in Zoroastrian inscriptions, too, where he is an angelic supporter of Ahura Mazda, the god of light, and so an opponent of Ahriman, the spirit of destruction.

“Even his name is different”: what a strange thing to say! Mihr, Mioro, and Mitra are simply the equivalents (perfectly regular in their respective languages) of Old Persian/Avestan Mithra; it’s like claiming there are a number of different cities called Paris, París, Párizs, Parigi, Παρίσι, etc., because they all have different names. I also don’t understand his point that “The old idea that Mithraism was an invasive eastern religion is certainly wrong,” since he goes on to say that the earliest appearances were in the east. But perhaps I’m missing something. I am, after all, not a Mithraist.

Comments

  1. I think he makes a very good point.

    Closeness of names can be misleading. Romans obviously borrowed Mithra from Persians, but we can’t assume that they borrowed anything more than just a name.

    For example, supreme god in Mongol mythology is named Hormusta-Tengri. It is quite obvious that the name is of Persian origin and yes, it’s Ahura Mazda, old Persian god of light.

    But that’s all there is. No trace of anything resembling Zoroastrianism can be detected in old Mongolian religion.

    A name was borrowed from Persian and applied to existing and completely unrelated Mongolian deity (perhaps exotic name just sounded better).

    Maybe that’s what happened to Mithra in Rome.

  2. Closeness of names can be misleading.

    Sure, and I’m not saying otherwise; his point is apparently that the fact that the names are “different” shows they don’t refer to a single entity, which is absurd. The names are, in fact, the same name, they’ve just gone through the natural sound changes of the different languages.

  3. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Sometimes, indeed, a name for something sometimes gets transferred to something else with no logic or sensible reason. Although in most of the Spanish-speaking world Pascua means Easter (as one would expect from the similarity with French Pâques), in Chile it usually means Christmas unless the context makes it clear that Easter is meant. You can say Navidad or Pascua de Navidad if you like, but normally people just say Pascua.

  4. ə de vivre says:

    Maybe their point is that the cognate names are evidence of a shared inheritance rather than borrowing, which would be supported by one name borrowed from place to place—but that might be too generous.

  5. Maybe; I just wish he’d made whatever point he was making clearer.

  6. John Cowan says:

    in Chile it usually means Christmas

    Except in Isla de Pascua ‘Easter Island’.

  7. But I expect a lot of Chileans think it’s ‘Christmas Island.’

  8. “his point is apparently that the fact that the names are “different” shows they don’t refer to a single entity, which is absurd.”

    Apparently that is his point. Look at this:

    “Mioro or Miiro in Bactrian (one of the main languages of the Kushan Empire that ruled both sides of the Hindu Kush in the early centuries AD), Mitra in Sanskrit. ”

    He is actually comparing two forms from languages 1,500 years apart and saying they can’t be the same etymon! Boggles…

    By his standard Christianity isn’t one religion then either. How much of a Coptic service would an American Evangelical recognize, or vice versa? And how Islamic would a Coptic Christian find the Evangelical’s emphasis on Scripture. So is it one religion or not, or pieces f various religions, Mr. Woolf?

  9. I mean he’s right that Mithraism isn’t a religion in the modern sense – but come on, that’s like saying Jesus and Isus and Jezus etc all refer to different people? The Virgin Mary and the Bogorodica must be two different women, i mean their names are completely unrelated.

    Mithraism is cool because out of the myriad mystery cults from around its time it’s literally the only one that’s still known by name, but the unfortunate side effect of that is that it’s constantly pressganged into arguments about Christianity and/or Jesus Christ himself, that even I as an atheist find kind of offensive. The outline of the argument is that both Mithra and Jesus are instances of a “dying and rising god myth” which sounds superficially plausible until you realize they stretch the definitions so much that Persephone is cited as an example of such a deity. I think this is supposed to prove that Jesus didn’t exist, since Mithra and Persephone etc also didn’t.

  10. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    The point about east and west seems to be that although the earliest sightings of a god by (a form of) that name are in the east, they don’t include the things which are central to later western practices, including the images of Mithras slaughtering a bull which are at the centre of western Mithraic temples. Roman Mithraism seems to be a Roman (re)invention given an older eastern name, not a set of practices which spread in from the east.

    Whether there was a genuine point in the original about distinct forms of the name in east and west – which is what I think he’s trying to get at – is not really apparent from this account!

  11. The point about east and west seems to be that although the earliest sightings of a god by (a form of) that name are in the east, they don’t include the things which are central to later western practices, including the images of Mithras slaughtering a bull which are at the centre of western Mithraic temples. Roman Mithraism seems to be a Roman (re)invention given an older eastern name, not a set of practices which spread in from the east.

    That’s well put, and what he should have said in the first place. But he was probably in a deadline rush.

  12. David Eddyshaw says:

    Woolf’s maunderings about names are ill-informed, but he is (perhaps accidentally) right about the tendency to project our own concepts of “religion” into other times and places. The idea that “religions” necessarily have doctrines or have anything in particular to do with ethics is already problematic when you consider the relatively familiar world of classical paganism, let alone anything more exotic.

    Of course, you could limit the use of the term “religion” itself to systems which do fit the bill (which might indeed clarify matters), but you would then have to accept that in most cultures and most times people haven’t actually practiced any “religion” at all. (This is entirely distinct from agnosticism and atheism, which define themselves via the same sort of mental categories as our concept of religion, and are accordingly just as culture-bound.)

    People everywhere do things which we interpret as rituals and prayer and the “outward forms” of “religion”; but you could with better reason say that our very particular notion of religion has hijacked this universal human behaviour and given it a particular far-from-universal twist.

    I’m thinking particularly of the term “animism”, which looks like the name of a religion, and is quite often supposed to be one, but is actually used as a label for a vast disparate range of ways of looking at the world and attempting to interact with it.

  13. John Cowan says:

    But I expect a lot of Chileans think it’s ‘Christmas Island.’

    Which of course is Kiritimati (ti in Kiribati orthography is /s(i)/) , 6000 km away: roughly speaking, fly toward Tahiti and then keep going. It’s the largest island in the Republic of Kiribati and probably the largest coral atoll by land area in the world: about 400 km² of land and about the same of lagoon. There are much larger atolls, particularly in the Maldives, but they are almost all lagoon.

  14. Woolf’s maunderings about names are ill-informed, but he is (perhaps accidentally) right about the tendency to project our own concepts of “religion” into other times and places.

    No, he’s absolutely right about most of what he says (as far as I can judge); that’s why I was surprised to come across the weirdness about names. But (as we know) people are weird about language.

  15. Which of course is Kiritimati

    Unless, of course, it’s Christmas Island.

  16. (Speaking of different names.)

  17. David Eddyshaw says:

    Which gives me the excuse to mention that the only disease I can think of of which is officially named after the patient and not the doctor (contrary to medical union rules) is Christmas Disease.

  18. As seen here in 2004:

    My favorite anecdote from my own professional career is when I had to use all my powers of persuasion to change a proposed Spanish translation of Christmas disease as “enfermedad de Navidad.” (The disease was named for Stephen Christmas, who suffered from it.)

  19. I mean the counterpoint is that it “reads” that way in English too, as a reference to the holiday rather than a person with the unlikely (unusual?) name Christmas. And also frankly I am in awe of LH for knowing that tidbit about hemophilia B to begin with.

  20. Trust me, I didn’t know it to begin with — when you do medical editing (as I was doing back then), you learn a lot of medical trivia!

  21. “Woolf’s maunderings about names are merely ill-informed, but he is (perhaps accidentally) right about the tendency to project our own concepts of “religion” into other times and places. ”

    That certainly happens in these times between religions already, and certainly within religions. I suppose it bears repeating or something but it doesn’t really illuminate anything. After there are as many religions as there are practitioners just by the nature of belief and practice.

  22. So David’s comment about diseases being named after doctors (rather than patients) scanned false to me since Lou Gehrig’s disease immediately came to mind , but turns out that’s basically the only real counterexample. Also in the running but not really: Munchhausen (which barely qualifies under the loosest possible definition of “patient”); Fregoli (not a patient in any sense); and Tommy John surgery (not a disease i suppose but close enough, and definitely named after the sufferer).

    I’m not a medical professional but if long you’re fine with giving diseases nondescriptive names, I really don’t see why the doctor’s name is a better or more appropriate choice than the patient’s name.

  23. David Eddyshaw says:

    Lou Gehrig’s disease immediately came to mind

    … which is why I said “officially.”

    I think it only really comes to mind for Americans, in fact, but I agree it’s well-known (and a good bit more tractable than “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.”)

    And “Christmas Disease”, to be fair, probably doesn’t readily come to mind to anybody apart from medics and those unfortunate enough to actually suffer from it.

    it doesn’t really illuminate anything

    That’s what all the rest of the comment was intended to do. But don’t worry, it’s OK. I like it here in the dark …

  24. John Cowan says:

    Christmas Island, N.S., is also named after a person. They get about 15,000 postcards and packages per year to be unwrapped, postmarked CHRISTMAS ISLAND, and then sent on to the destinations noted on the card or inner wrapper. This is about ten times normal.

  25. You did say “officially” but I’m not sure what that means in this case, it’s not like there’s a UN agency regulating disease naming.

    On reflection, Lou Gehrig’s disease is probably the worst of all worlds for a disease name – it’s not descriptive, and its namesake is basically unknown to most of the general public apart from the disease. I mostly remember him as the guy whose record was beaten by Cal Ripken.

    Also, to quote the Sopranos, ” you ever think what a coincidence it is that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease?”

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    @nemanja:

    There are in fact very real practical problems with naming diseases after patients, quite apart from medical megalomania (the True Cause):

    (a) new descriptions of diseases get published in medical journals, where it would hardly ever be appropriate to breach confidentiality by naming the patients

    (b) hardly any new useful disease identifications rest on an account of just one case

    Sadly, eponyms in general are discouraged these days. Reminds me of a story (true, I think, but with names changed to protect the innocent); the scene is a viva voce final exam at medical school in the classical format, two examiners, one candidate:

    Candidate: This is a case of Edelstein’s Syndrome.
    Examiner A: Quite right. Very good. By the way, do you happen to know who Edelstein was?
    Candidate (panicking): A nineteenth-century Austrian pathologist. [Generally a good bet.]
    Examiner A (to Examiner B): Are you really a nineteenth-century Austrian pathologist?

  27. David Marjanović says:

    People everywhere

    The Pirahã excepted, as so often.

    There are much larger atolls, particularly in the Maldives, but they are almost all lagoon.

    Soon all atolls will be all lagoon.

    Lou Gehrig’s disease

    Mercilessly called ALS or amyotrophe Lateralsklerose in German; nobody over here, myself included, has any idea who that fellow was.

  28. Mioro or Miiro in Bactrian

    As transliterated, not transcribed. Bactrian uses ‹ο› (omicron) as a dummy vowel tacked on the end of every word (which usually end in consonants). Also, ˣMioro has a typo: this should be Μιυρο, where ‹υ› stands for /h/ (imaginatively enough).

  29. @nemanja: Off the top of my head, we also know of the classical Eleusinian Mysteries, Dionysian Mysteries, and Mysteries of Isis. (I remember that the last of these is noteworthy for being attested in The Golden Ass by an author who seems to have been an initiate.) What is somewhat different about the Mithraic Mysteries is that they were not associated with a deity who was widely worshipped in a prominent and documented way even outside the mystery cult.

  30. The disease was named for Stephen Christmas

    На северо-западе США в штате Вашингтон находится действующий вулкан — гора Святой Елены. Она имела красивую конусообразную форму. Ее вершина, покрытая снегом, возвышалась над лесистыми глубокими оврагами, рекой и озером с кристально чистой водой, лежащим к северу от вулкана. Гора Святой Елены считалась самой красивой среди окружавших ее пиков. Однако утром 18 мая 1980 г. произошло крупное извержение, которое до неузнаваемости изменило местный ландшафт.

    https://geographyofrussia.com/gora-svyatoj-eleny/

    Vancouver named the mountain for British diplomat Alleyne Fitzherbert, 1st Baron St Helens on October 20, 1792, as it came into view when the Discovery passed into the mouth of the Columbia River.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_St._Helens#Exploration_by_Europeans

  31. PlasticPaddy says:

    The peerage Was created for him and at the time the mountain was named, it existed only as an Irish peerage. See
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/FitzHerbert_baronets

  32. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    My favorite anecdote from my own professional career is when I had to use all my powers of persuasion to change a proposed Spanish translation of Christmas disease as “enfermedad de Navidad.” (The disease was named for Stephen Christmas, who suffered from it.)

    I used to know a Stephen Christmas (he was married to my niece for some years), but he didn’t suffer from Christmas disease.

  33. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Examiner A: Quite right. Very good. By the way, do you happen to know who Edelstein was?
    Candidate (panicking): A nineteenth-century Austrian pathologist. [Generally a good bet.]
    Examiner A (to Examiner B): Are you really a nineteenth-century Austrian pathologist?

    I once had a test for incipient Alzheimer (not that I thought I had it, but I thought it was a good idea to check), and after a set of standard questions, what is the date today (no idea, don’t care)? who is President (Nicolas Sarkozy)? etc., he asked what was Alzheimers’ first name. Needless to say I didn’t know, but the doctor said don’t worry, nobody does. However, I know now, so if I’m asked the question again I’ll say Alois.

  34. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Except in Isla de Pascua ‘Easter Island’.

    That name is still in common use, but it’s slowly giving way to Rapa Nui. Once in a souvenir shop in Valparaíso I came across a leaflet (in a sort of English) referring to Takes Nui. It took me a while to realize that the translator had treated “rapa” as a Spanish word.

  35. After 1922 street nameplates in the Irish Free State became bilingual. The first for Pope’s Quay in Cork assumed it was named after His Holiness rather than Thomas Pope’s widow (first name unrecorded).

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    a set of standard questions

    The “prime minister” question throughout the period up to the 1980’s used to elicit from the mildly confused the standard answer “Winston Churchill”; about that time, he ceded the title of “memorable prime minister” to another.

    Completely true account from 1982, set in a Royal Free Hospital neurosurgery ward:

    Q: What’s your name?
    A: [correct]
    Q: Where are you just now?
    A: Home in bed.
    Q: What year is it?
    A: 1954.
    Q: Who is the Prime Minister?
    A: That bloody woman Thatcher.

  37. Richard Hershberger says:

    @nemanja: “its namesake is basically unknown to most of the general public apart from the disease.”

    Eh? Sure, “most of the general public” is pretty broad, but Lou Gehrig would be a famous ballplayer today even if he had lived to a ripe old age, comparable to, say, Mickey Mantle. Yes, only a limited portion of the public know who Mantle was, but the portion who does is not small. To put it another way, the disease is informally named for him because he was famous in his own right, not the other way around.

  38. AJP Crown says:

    the only disease I can think of of which is officially named after the patient and not the doctor

    Then there’s Lyme disease, first diagnosed (1975) in Old Lyme, Connecticut, which is itself named after Lyme Regis in Dorset. Also Pontiac fever (not the car but Pontiac, Michigan) and Legionnaires’ disease, named for the American Legion members, the patients who first contracted it. And the unofficial name Viking(s) disease which occurs in the hands, especially of Norwegians but also (slightly) mine, and I merely live there.

  39. John Cowan says:

    That bloody woman Thatcher

    Back in the late 90s, Gale was asked after surgery, among other questions: “Who’s the mayor?” and was unable to answer. When she told me about this afterwards, I said “Rudy Giuliani”, and she replied along the lines of “Oh, yes, him. Who cares?” Not everyone’s a TV, news, or mainstream-politics junkie.

  40. David Marjanović says:

    “the former Rudy Giuliani – he used to be Rudy Giuliani, didn’t he?”
    – Stephen Colbert

  41. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    in Old Lyme, Connecticut, which is itself named after Lyme Regis in Dorset

    Shouldn’t it be New Lyme in that case?

  42. or Lyme Populi?

  43. It always seems hard for me to believe that Lyme disease was only identified in the 1970s, and the spirochete was not isolated until 1981. It was only a few years later (1987 or 1988) that I may have had recurring tick fever, caused by a closely related species. The woods around our house, where I spent a lot of time, were rife with ticks. And symptomatically, the progression of the fever was exactly what you would expect (four occurrences, separated by a couple weeks each time).

    So my father wanted to get my blood tested for the relevant pathogen. However, the first two samples he sent out, the labs tested for Lyme disease instead. He eventually found somebody at a federal lab two states away who would actually test for Borellia hermsii, but by that time it had been so long since I had suffered a recurrence that it was unclear that the negative result that came back meant anything at all.

    Reading up on the disease just now, it appears that there are now several different spirochetes that are recognized as causing recurring fever (just as there are known to be several responsible for Lyme disease). So the meaningfulness of that negative antibody test is even more dubious.

    I also learned that recurring tick fever has a 5% fatality rate, even with treatment. However, I assume this is not typical for healthy young people. I certainly did not feel like I was in danger of dying, however bad my flu-like symptoms were. (In contrast, when I was a teenager, I was hospitalized with a fever of 105°F, which I knew was a sign of a life-threatening illness. Aside from my father and my regular physician, there were eight doctors who came in to see me during my hospital stay, but they never figured out what I had. My father told me that this was actually a good sign, at least in one respect. When I asked him for a frank estimate of my chance of dying, he said that fifteen-year-olds in otherwise excellent health did not just die of unexplained fevers. The things that really could have killed me, like appendicitis, meningitis, or lupus, had been ruled out.)

  44. AJP Crown says:

    Lyme Regis is pretty old, unlike Bognor, and has a seemingly tiny harbour that ‘as recently at 1780 was larger than the port of Liverpool,’ so Liverpool must have been microscopic until quite recently.

    I like this bit:

    Lyme Regis is twinned with St George in Bermuda, the link being one of the town’s most famous sons, Admiral Sir George Somers (1554 – 1610). Sir George was an Elizabethan seafarer, MP, military leader and founder of Bermuda (The Somers Isles), England’s first Crown Colony. He was also instrumental in ensuring the survival of the Virginian colony of Jamestown by sailing to their rescue from Bermuda (where he had been shipwrecked) with fresh food and supplies. He returned to Bermuda to collect more supplies but fell ill and died in 1610. His heart was buried in Bermuda but his body, pickled in a barrel, was landed on the Cobb at Lyme Regis in 1618. A volley of muskets and cannon saluted his last journey to Whitchurch Canonicorum where his body is buried. It is widely believed that Shakespeare wrote “The Tempest” in tribute to Sir George Somers.

    Of Whitchurch Canonicorum it says,
    Canonicorum ‘of the canons’ is a reference to the fact that the benefice paid tithes to both Salisbury and Bath & Wells. I can’t find any other [Name here] Canonicorum. I don’t think it’s adequate explanation.

    Another admiral I was reading about today in Dame Veronica Wedgwood’s Thirty Years’ War that I keep in the bathroom to re-read from time to time, was called Tromp. He was a Dutchman who despatched the entire Spanish navy, all 77 ships, in 1639 at the Battle of the Downs off the south coast of England (the hollow giant collapsed never to rise again). Why didn’t we learn this at school? We got Nelson & Trafalgar and Drake & the Armada but this is the first I’ve heard of Tromp or the Battle of the Downs. I’m beginning to suspect that even in England we were taught a one-sided version of History.

  45. How many parishes paid tithes to two dioceses?

    In Ireland many townlands paid small and great tithes to different parishes. Richard Griffith arbitrarily assigned them to the great-tithe parish. Parliament retroactively allowed this to avoid consequences.

  46. AJP Crown says:

    Interesting. In retrospect it sounds iniquitous. I’m also wondering why there aren’t more places called Canonicorum. Perhaps there are in Ireland.

  47. I’ll bet if there were they got reanalyzed to refer to Conchobar.

  48. Stu Clayton says:

    even in England we were taught a one-sided version of History

    Nothing has only one side, apart from a Klein bottle. The illusion that History has only one side is created by relating only certain parts of it, then stopping. The result is called knowledge, you can reproduce it in a test, end of history.

    It’s like riding on a bus to one stop, then getting off and feeling at home. Not everyone likes long bus rides, especially when you don’t know where you’re going and need to pee. Whatever knowledge I have at any given time I think of as a bus shelter where I wait for the next number 11.

  49. Stu Clayton says:

    Conchobar

    More dogs !

  50. Woof!

  51. @Stu: Well put!

  52. John Cowan says:

    I’ve never heard of Tromp or the Battle of the Downs

    Unsurprising. During the First Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-53, Tromp (an admiral by then) beat the Commonwealth Navy at the Goodwin Sands, then clobbered them at Dungeness, gaining control of the English Channel for the Dutch. However, the Channel was lost again after the battle of Portland (or Three Days), where the Dutch ran out of ammunition first, and decisively so (and the North Sea with it) after the battle of the Gabbard, which led to a blockade of the Netherlands.

    In the final battle of Scheveningen, Tromp was killed by a sharpshooter in the rigging of William Penn’s ship (not the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, but his father, who persuaded King Charles II to give the younger Penn the lands, which the King then named after Penn the elder). Tromp’s loss was such a blow as to cause the Dutch to sue for peace. This is not the kind of person who gets into British history schoolbooks.

    In his younger years, Tromp had been enslaved twice, once in Morocco, from which he was bought back by the English pirate who sold him there, and once in Tunis, where he was freed by the Bey after turning down an offer to join the Tunisian fleet as a skilled gunner or navigator. After Dungeness he supposedly tied a broom to his mainmast as a sign that he had swept the English from the seas, though this would have been out of character: he was not known for boasting, and anyway such a broom was usually a sign that a ship was for sale. His father probably took the surname after the name of his ship, Olifantstromp ‘Elephant’s Trunk’.

  53. Correction: In Ireland many *townlands* paid small and great tithes to different parishes.

  54. I made the change in that comment.

  55. J.W. Brewer says:

    I am rather surprised that John Cowan has not already covered it, but the colonial town of Lyme, Conn. (first settled in the 1630’s and thus pretty old by Anglophone North American standards) was subdivided over the centuries into, at a minimum, the current towns of East Lyme, Lyme, and Old Lyme — the last of which was the bit where the earliest settlers’ dwellings had been concentrated. Why they didn’t just keep the unmodified “Lyme” name for that territory and require the split-off town that now has the unmodified name to be, for example, “North Lyme” is unknown to me.

  56. John Cowan says:

    Because the neighborhood that is now Old Lyme was then South Lyme, which made them look dependent on those johnny-come-latelies in the northern part who were going to keep the unmodified name. In truth, the 1630s is old by any non-Native standards: St. Augustine, Florida (the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the continental United States, as WP is careful to specify) was founded only seventy years earlier, even if Cumana, Venezuela, goes back another fifty. Even elsewhere, the Thirty Years’ War and the Ming dynasty are hardly things of yesterday.

  57. I thought I might as well look up Connecticut’s other “old” town, Old Saybrook, and it does have an interesting story behind its name, although it’s not about the “old”.

    Saybrook was named, not after a stream in England or something as I would have thought, but after two guys named Saye and Brooke. Presumably this met with the approval of that little-known local tribe, the Mashup-tucket Pequots.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saybrook_Colony

  58. J.W. Brewer says:

    Saybrook got conveniently reanalyzed when the westerly bit of the original town split off politically and after an interim period as “West Saybrook” settled down in the early 19th century as merely “Westbrook,” which it remains today.

    Residents of Saybrook College at Yale are known by the gloriously-Latinate demonym “Saybrugians,” but I’m not sure if that is shared by residents of the town.

  59. That made me wonder what inhabitants of Bruges are called; in French it’s brugeois, in Spanish — where the city name is, delightfully, Brujas (‘witches’) — it’s brujense. Don’t know what the Dutch say.

  60. in French it’s brugeois

    and population of the city as a whole is no doubt called brugeoisie

  61. in Dutch it’s Bruggeling

  62. Bruggeling! That may be even better than Brujas.

  63. Brugge, and Brugse is the Dutch adjective.

    Deze Brugse brouwerij brouwt het beste bier.*

    *Deze I like. We could have that in English.

  64. Bruggeling zeggen dat deze Brugse brouwerij het beste bier brouwt. I think that’s roughly what I mean. It’s not as easy as I thought.

  65. fr.wikipedia says the people from the Bruges near Pau are also Brugeois, but those from the Bruges near Bordeaux are Brugeais. I think demonyms are for francophones what terms of venery are for anglophones; hours of pointless fun.

    If you need to distinguish the Occitan Brugeois from the Belgians, the former are nicknamed “lous pélacas”, ‘dog peelers’.

  66. PlasticPaddy says:

    @molly
    https://oc.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruge
    does not contain the “surnom”. I find pelaca interesting as Spanish (and Catalan?) use pelón for bald person. I thought aca was some kind of suffix like ac in place names. How did the Brugeois become “dog-peelers”?

  67. PlasticPaddy says:

    @molly
    Link was for the Brugeais, not Brugeois. The Brugeois, you say, are the dog peelers.

  68. PlasticPaddy says:

    Here are two definitions for pelacani (pl. pelacane) in Italian
    Pelacane: Quegli, che concia le pelli. Lat. pellium concinnator. Gr. βυρσοδέψης.
    pelacani s. m. [comp. di pelare e cane], ant. – 1. Conciatore di pelli. 2. fig. In senso spreg., persona volgare e di bassa condizione, o avida, spilorcia, e sim.
    I have seen leather-worker as an English translation but they may mean tanner. Note the slang meaning as a low-class or vulgar person

  69. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @PlasticPaddy: that would be pelaca < pela- (compound form of pelar < La. pilāre ‘depilate’) + ca (< La. canis ‘dog’). Think of Spanish pelagatos, pelamanillas

  70. PlasticPaddy says:

    Thanks. It was clear with the translation. Does pelaca also mean leather-worker or tanner in provençal? I was unable to find the word in online dictionaries.

  71. PlasticPaddy says:

    https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k7486f/f537.highres
    gives pelocan as a nickname for les me/gissiers (Ouvrier qui transforme les peaux en cuir fin et souple par tannage) and for certain people (including Brugeois) but does not explain the word origin more than “qui pe\le les chiens”, so that sort of answers my question. I just do not know whether this is (a) a general Romance thing or (b) was borrowed from Italian or (c) borrowed from Occitan into Italian or (d) just coincidence.

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