This is one of those occasions when I shamelessly take advantage of my bully pulpit and international audience to try and satisfy a random bit of curiosity that no one else would care about. I recently ran across a reference to Dr. Wilfred Geominy of the German Archaeological Institute in Rome and the Akademisches Kunstmuseum-Antikensammlung of the University of Bonn, and it drives me nuts that I have no idea what kind of name Geominy is or how to pronounce it (I’m tentatively [and wrongly—see update below] saying /geo’mini/ in my head). I’m hoping someone out there might be able to enlighten me on one or both issues.
A quote for AJP, from Naukratis: die Beziehungen zu Ostgriechenland, Ägypten und Zypern in archaischer Zeit by Ursula Höckmann and Detlev Kreikenbom (Bibliopolis, 2001): “W. Geominy hingegen hat den Wild Goat Style für das Bonner Frgt. ausgeschlossen.”
Update. The name turns out to be a respelling of the Swiss-French name Jomini (/ʒomini/), and a Dutch bearer of the name was kind enough to drop by the thread and suggest the anglicized pronunciation “Joe me knee.”


  1. The German name distribution charts say that it is a local name in Cleves, right on the Belgian border. So maybe it’s a Germanization of something Flemish:

  2. Thank you very much. I hadn’t heard of the Wild Goat Style. Goats were big in Greece, back then.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    Geominy does not look at all German, and a name from Flemish, a Germanic language, would not need much adaptation to sound and look more German. The city of Cleves or Kleve is in an area where national boundaries were not very well-defined in past centuries, and the local dialect (now on its way out) was closer to Dutch or Flemish than to German. Many German and Dutch families still have French names because they originate from Huguenots who had to flee France during religious persecutions 300 or so years ago and went to Protestant countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. I think that Geominy is probably a French name, in which case it could be pronounced as if spelled (in French) “Jominy”, unless the family germanized the pronuncation to what LH suggests. Of course, this is a guess, and the origin might be totally different. But Flemish or another Germanic language/dialect is most unlikely.
    Why not ask Dr Geominy?

  4. I think that Geominy is probably a French name, in which case it could be pronounced as if spelled (in French) “Jominy”
    Aha, and there is a Swiss-French name Jomini (whose most famous bearer is this guy). An excellent suggestion.
    Why not ask Dr Geominy?
    But I’m afraid of Herr Doktor Professoren!

  5. I have also run across an Italian classicist named Giomini. Looks very likely to be the same name, but the etymology and whether it would have spread north-to-south or south-to-north is not at all obvious.

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Nice find, LH! I had never heard of this man.
    I think that a Swiss-Italian Jomini family settled in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and one member or one branch of this family changed the spelling of their name to make it look more French. Initial j is ambiguous in multilingual Switzerland: the sound is “y” in Italian and German but “zh” in French. Changing final i to y would also hide the Italian origin, since many French names end in the letter y (pronounced the same as “i”).
    Depending on the timing of the change, it is also possible that a branch of the family wanted to conceal its link with the military writer, for political or personal reasons (he wrote about the art of war in neutral Switzerland!).
    In any case, the most likely pronunciation of Geominy begins with “zh”. (Perhaps a person more familiar with German academics will ask Dr G himself).

  7. marie-lucie says:

    Dr Weevil: I have also run across an Italian classicist named Giomini. Looks very likely to be the same name
    Ah, thank you Dr W. This changes things slightly but not too much.
    I think Giomini (meaning gemini ??) is probably the original name, in which case it may have come directly from Italy to French-speaking Switzeland.
    I see two alternative possibilities for adapting the name to French, the simpler one being “Jomini” (which still reveals the Italian origin), the more complex one “Geominy”. These changes may have been done by different branches of the family at different times and for different purposes.
    As to how the Geominy family went from Switzerland to the Belgian-Dutch-German area, that is another story.

  8. As soon as I saw the name, I immediately said to myself /dʒiˈɑməni/, more or less as in geography. And indeed many of its bearers who are mentioned online seem to have Englishy names like Wilfred, though others are more Germanish, like Sebastian and Dorothea.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    JC: Facebook! I had not thought about looking for more people of the same name. There is a whole slew of Geominys on facebook, mostly in Germany and the Netherlands (as far as can be determined from very casual inspection), but also also Angélique Géominy whom Google places in the Netherlands. Another Géominy is mentioned there in what seems to be a Dutch genealogy. The German professor may well be Dutch (at least in origin) and be called Géominy.
    I had not thought that the e could be an é, but that fits even better with a Frenchification of Giomini. I think you’ve got it!

  10. Excellent group work! I still am not sure how to pronounce the name in a German context, but in my mind I am now saying /ʒominiˈ/.

  11. I feel sure if Grumbly were here he’d say it’s a hard G.

  12. Where is Grumbly, anyway?

  13. marie-lucie says:

    And in a Dutch context, it could be a fricative (like the “ch” at the end of “Bach”).

  14. Trond Engen says:

    Any relation to Jiminy Cricket, also of some sort of Italian descent?

  15. Robert J. Geominy says:

    Geominy is a french / italian name. In the early 17th century it was written ” Jomini ” and when our family went with Napoleon (General Jomini was a famous War Strategist under Napoleon III ) from Switzerland , across France to the Netherlands (1865) the writing of the name Jomini changed to Geomini, Geominij and at least Geominy. to discribe the the pronouncment in english: Joe me knee .
    I hope I could help you ( with my bad english).

  16. dearieme says:

    Nonsense. It’s pronounced Arbuthnot.

  17. marie-lucie says:

    Robert J. Geominy! What a pleasure to hear from an actual member of the family.
    Here we tried to guess at the pronunciation, at some of the history, making wrong guesses along the way, so it is very nice of you to set us right and tell us something of the actual story of your name and family, which are both very interesting. Thank you!

  18. marie-lucie says:

    dearieme, I assume you made your silly joke before RJ Geominy was gracious enough to write to us.

  19. Thank you very much indeed, Robert J. Geominy! What a wonderful world it is, when I can ask such a question and get an answer from a member of the family.

  20. Crown: I feel sure if Grumbly were here he’d say it’s a hard G.
    How did you guess I would make that particular mistake ?? I feel just as exposed as what’s-his-face in that novel by Sartre – La Nausée ? I mean the guy who was plunged into existential despair when, at a café, his order was brought before he had ordered it.
    Being a character in a Sartre novel, he took this badly, thinking: other people can know us better than we know ourselves, to the extent that they can predict our behavior. There goes “free will” out the window – or something like that.
    However, the explanation was simpler. The guy had frequented the café over several weeks, and always ordered the same thing. Not many people came to the café, and the waiter had remembered what this guy ordered every time.
    In the present case, there is also a harmless explanation. Crown assumes I would favor a hard “g”, because that is the standard way to pronounce the Geo- prefix in German, as in Geographie. Having predictable pronunciation is not a cause for despair, because it is what other people expect – in fact demand.
    Modern women generally are accustomed to circumventing predictability and existential depression – they make sure not to wear the same dress and earrings together too often. Sartre’s character was a man, who probably wore the same shirt and socks for weeks at a time.
    The title “La Nausée” refers to the disgust Sartre believes we should feel when confronted with such a person.

  21. the guy who was plunged into existential despair . . . at a café
    Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a cafe working on his opus “Being and Nothingness.” He calls the waitress and asks for a cup of coffee, but without cream.
    The waitress responds: “M. Sartre, I’m sorry but we’re out of cream today. I’ll have to bring your coffee without milk.”

  22. I just enquired by telephone at the Kunstmuseum as to how Dr. Wilfred Geominy pronounces his name. The secretary said it is “zhomini”, as marie-lucie had suspected. I asked explicitly to make quite sure: it is “zh”, not “dj” as in “Joe”.
    Perhaps Mr. Robert Geominy above pronounces his name slightly differently – starting with “Joe”, as he says – but perhaps “Joe” was just the best example he could think of at a moment’s notice. God knows I myself have trouble coming up with examples to indicate pronunciation, since I can’t remember IPA symbols for more than a few seconds at a time.

  23. Paul: He calls the waitress and asks for a cup of coffee, but without cream. The waitress responds: “M. Sartre, I’m sorry but we’re out of cream today. I’ll have to bring your coffee without milk.”
    That’s quite cute, because apposite. In line with M. Sartre’s ruseful explanation [part 1, chapter 1, III] of how le néant is parasitic on l’être, we can argue that there are different kinds of “without”. “Without cream” is not the same notion as “without milk”.
    “Cream” has logical precedence (préséance logique) over “without cream”: no “without cream” without “cream”. I would go further: in the given café situation, since there is effectively no cream, the notion of “cream” is ineffective, and so is the notion of “without cream”. The waitress is perfectly within her rights here:

    Ainsi, en renversant la formule de Spinoza, nous pourrions dire que toute négation est détermination. Cela signifie que l’être est antérieur au néant et le fonde. Par quoi il faut entendre non seulement que l’être a sur le néant une préséance logique mais encore que c’est de l’être que le néant tire son efficace. C’est ce que nous exprimions en disant que le néant hante l’être. Cela signifie que l’être n’a nul besoin de néant pour se concevoir et qu’on peut inspecter sa notion exhaustivement sans y trouver la moindre trace du néant. Mais au contraire le néant qui n’est pas ne saurait avoir qu’une existence empruntée: c’est de l’être qu’il prend son être; son néant d’être ne se rencontre que dans les limites de l’être et la disparition totale de l’être ne serait pas l’avènement du règne du non-être, mais au contraire l’évanouissement concomitant du néant: il n’y a de non-être qu’à la surface de l’être.

    So when the surface of cream dries out to form a skin, it should mean nothing to you.
    Sartre is a great hand at sit-down comedy. I got a laugh a minute from reading L’être et le néant – you can’t convince me that he didn’t put that stuff in deliberately, to fop the shmocks. Very like Thomas Bernhard, dry involute humor for worldly intellectuals.

  24. We have no reason to doubt Mr Robert J. Joe-Me-Knee‘s Joe-pronunciation of his own name. For one thing, we don’t know that he’s from Germany, and for another we don’t know where he lives.
    Dinner’s on the table, Stu.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    Sartre calls the waitress … without cream/milk
    This anecdote sounds suspicious to me. Paris cafés typically have waiters, not waitresses (although this is changing). This was especially so in Sartre’s time, in the area where he lived and went to cafés.
    If you want coffee with cream, you order un café crème or just un crème. Without cream, you order un café or more specifically un café noir, not un café sans crème, since cream is not the default option. These are served in tiny cups.
    If you want un café au lait, this will be more like a latte, half and half hot coffee and hot milk, in a larger cup. A French person would normally order this as part of breakfast, for instance in an hotel, not at other times of the day.

  26. For one thing, we don’t know that he’s from Germany, and for another we don’t know where he lives.
    Oh, but we know what we know, from Mr. Geominy’s email. He is a Dutch citizen who lives in Heiden, Germany – almost due west from Münster and close to the border with the Netherlands.

  27. marie-lucie, I do appreciate now knowing how to order these things in proper French, but I suspect that Paul was merely recounting a joke.

  28. We have no reason to doubt Mr Robert J. Joe-Me-Knee’s Joe-pronunciation of his own name.
    Actually, we do—or rather, not his pronunciation but his description of it. The zh sound is marginal in English, and it is not clear how to represent it (I use “zh,” but it’s never written like that in English, it’s usually “s,” as in leisure); the closest “normal” phoneme is the “j” of Joe, which in fact alternates with it in British English in words like garage (gə-RAHZH/GAR-ij), and it makes perfect sense that someone who has not studied linguistics (which I think is a reasonably safe assumption, on the same order as assuming a random person has not studied Sumerian) and whose native language is not English would write “Joe” in an attempt to indicate the /ʒ/ (zh) sound. And now that I’m thinking about it, I should add an update to the post so that random visitors who don’t read the whole thread won’t go away with the wrong idea.

  29. marie-lucie says:

    Yes, Grumbly, but for a really good joke you need accuracy in the details!
    I did not realize Sartre’s philosophy could be so funny. I tried L’Etre et le néant years ago and did not go very far into it, I found it so convoluted and boring. Perhaps you have to read it as a self-parody? An awfully long one!
    I confess I have never read La nausée, as I have always been put off by the title.
    I think the plays are better. For one thing, you can’t drag out a play for too long.
    Huis clos is a fantastic play. It is difficult to translate the title: huis clos means literally “closed door(s)” (huis is a very old, obsolete word for “door”), but the phrase belongs to judicial vocabulary and refers to trials where the public is not admitted – usually for sex crimes. So the title of the play gives a hint that the protagonists are being tried for unsavoury crimes, not just that they can’t physically escape. But the audience expecting to see something of an actual trial is surprised to see people ushered into a seedy hotel room.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    LH: I agree with you about how Mr Geominy, a businessman, probably pronounces his name. He gave “Joe me knee” because that must be what he uses with English speakers, knowing they would have trouble with “zh”.
    Dr or Prof Geominy of the Kunstmuseum is a member of a university, where more people are expected to be familiar with other languages, so he uses the French pronunciation which is traditional in his family.
    (Thanks Grumbly for your detective work!)

  31. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM: thank you for Ninotchka! The scene is indeed very funny.

  32. m-l: The English title that comes to my mind is In Camera, which is what such a trial is called in the anglophone lands. Wikipedia says that this title has been used in certain English-language productions along with No Way Out and Dead End. But its usual English name is No Exit.
    I remembered from the early days of Safire’s column that in interwar Yugoslavia people ignorantly used to order Kaffee mit ohne ‘coffee with without’ instead of Kaffee ohne Schlag. He attributes this to Rebecca West’s 1941 memoir Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, but on investigation, in that book the phrase is used by a Serb who claims that the German petty bourgeoisie habitually order ein Weisse mit ohne, meaning white beer without raspberry syrup. Who knows where the truth lies, if anywhere? (How Sartrean!)

  33. Mit ohne” is a jokey German expression that has been around for I don’t know how long. Searching Google for “mit ohne” in quotes, you get over 3 million hits.
    It can be used in situations when someone wants to order a thing T that is generally accompanied by a thing X, but this time she wants T without X. She treats the standard accompaniment as an “extra”. For example, at many french-fry stands (Frittenbuden) customers often want their fries fries “with all the trimmings” (mit allem), meaning with mayonnaise and ketchup at the very least. If, like me, you don’t want any of that on the fries, you say “one portion hold the extras” (einmal ohne alles or, to be jokey, mit ohne alles).
    A facultative speech pattern that has become common over the last 10-20 years involves more-or-less-friendly mockery of grammatical mistakes foreigners make when speaking German, especially Turks who work in diners. You can hear a German asking another German to order him a “Döner mit alles” (should be mit allem), or “scharf mit alles“. Search Google for “mit alles” in quotes.
    Another mockery-turkery phrase is “haben Sie keine kleine ?” The situation is this: someone has just requested something inexpensive in a corner store, and wants to pay with a large bill. Since these corner stores don’t often have bills and coins sufficient to change a large banknote, a German counter clerk may say “haben Sie es nicht kleiner ?” (don’t you have it any smaller).
    For some reason Turkish counter clerks to this day believe that what they should ask is “haben Sie kein Kleingeld ?” (don’t you have any change). This itself is not the right question, and a German never says it – the issue is whether the customer is able to pay without overpaying by such a large amount, not whether the customer has any small change at all. In any case, what the Turkish clerk comes out with is “haben Sie keine kleine ?“.
    As I set out in a recent comment thread here, many Turks, for a variety of reasons, don’t give a damn how bad their German is. The turkery-mockery I just described is a kind of joshing come-back, indicating covertly that Germans do give a damn about such an attitude.

  34. Coffee with whipped cream? Beer with berry syrup? Extrapolating, I am getting the idea that good advice to any newcomer in that place and time would be “when in doubt, order mit ‘ohne’”.
    Erbsen mit ohne gets you peas without the honey. Kartoffelsuppe mit ohne in case they were planning on floating some meringue islands in the soup. Gulasch mit ohne because you don’t want a maraschino cherry on top.

  35. What’s the beef about coffee with whipped cream ? It’s essentially an uncomplicated version of cappuccino without any fancy steam apparatus.
    Of course, if you prefer dingy wee-water to which has been added a drop of low-cal whiteness reconstituted from milk powder, then you may not see any point in confederating the contrastive forces of cream and strong coffee.
    The visual ROI of combining these two substances is to achieve the color of a Capuchin monk’s hood, allowing you to call the result “cappuccino”. According to the WiPe, Kapuziner is an Austrian invention later pussified by the Italians.

  36. many Turks, for a variety of reasons, don’t give a damn how bad their German is
    Hmm. I would think immigrants would be eager to learn the language of their adopted country. After all, competence in the prestige language is one of the main tickets to a better job and social integration. Adults of course struggle with a new language, but children typically master a new language if they begin learning it before their teen years. Look to the many, many millions of immigrants to North America over the last century as an example.
    Is the phenomenon to which Stu refers in some way similar to that of black Americans, where speaking something other than the ‘prestige’ variety of English is sometimes seen as a capitulation to their former ‘masters’?
    South Asians in the UK seem to speak English very well, though of course English is widely known in their countries of origin. Do immigrants to France from Africa, mostly from countries where French is known, ‘give a damn’ about how bad their French is?

  37. SFReader says:

    –that must be what he uses with English speakers, knowing they would have trouble with “zh”.
    Reminds me this quote:
    “Nobody know my name here. Even they read the spelling of my name: Zhuang Xiao Qiao, they have no idea how saying it. When they see my name starts from “Z,” stop trying. I unpronouncable Ms. Z.”

  38. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve recently seen sociolinguistic research concluding that the “broken language” of second generation immigrants to Norway is mainly a matter of stylistic choice and varies considerably with the situation. This applies to both syntactical and phonological deviations from the surrounding dialect.

  39. marie-lucie says:

    Not every immigrant wants “a ticket to a better job and social integration”. Here in Canada I had a colleague born in Portugal, whose rural family had immigrated when he was 8 years old (probably around 1970). He told me that in high school he was the only Portuguese he knew who intended to go on to university. The other Portuguese boys laughed at his ambition: this was not what Portuguese men did! They worked at honest manual jobs. As a university professor, he concentrated his research on the Portuguese-Canadian community, which remained very low on the socio-economic scale.

  40. I eat my peas with honey,
    I’ve done it all my life;
    I know it sounds disgusting, but
    It keeps them on my knife.

  41. Stu, you have spotted a weak link in my little joke. The Schlag that’s added to coffee is probably nothing like the highly sweetened Redi-Whip that we know around here, or even the sweet home-made stuff that you might put on a piece of pumpkin pie, and I shouldn’t make fun of it.
    dingy wee-water?
    No, I like my coffee strong and straight up. Nine times out of ten when I go to Starbucks I order a double espresso. Or as they call it there a doppio, or a doppio espresso. I find that whichever of these three names I use, the cashier is likely to use one of the other two in replying, or in relaying my order to the barista.
    the color of a Capuchin monk’s hood
    I had occasion to read about wildcats on WiPe the other day, and I read that “Asiatic subspecies have spotted, isabelline coats”. Isabelline? This turns out to be a color word used in connection with mostly horses but sometimes clothing. Why “isabelline”? Probably apocryphal, but “According to a popular legend, the name comes from Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain; during the Siege of Ostend which started in July 1601, Isabella is claimed to have vowed not to change her underwear until the siege was over, expecting a quick victory for her husband Archduke Albert of Austria. Since the siege lasted over three years, finally ending in September 1604, it is claimed that the discolouration of her underwear in that interval led to the naming of the colour.”

  42. marie-lucie says:

    isabelline: In French we use the word isabelle for one of the horse colours (a nice overall light brown), for the same reason. I have heard the legend, but not the name of the alleged princess or the besieged city. The underwear in question was her chemise, a loose garment from shoulder to knee, worn under a dress. The chemise, made of linen, was washable, the dress was not.

  43. J.W. Brewer says:

    Well, Austria is not Germany, but I have told Americans planning to visit Vienna to default to “mit Schlag, bitte” for anything they order in a cafe.

  44. joseph geomini says:

    I want to react (sorry about mij bad english) to the name of Geominy. My great great great grandfather came to the Netherlands in 1812. His name was Jean Baptist Geominy. Through the years the name became Geomini. I have some very old papers where the name was spelled Jauminier. Later became it the name Jomini and after that Geominy en Geomini. Please react!!!

  45. (Moved the above comment here from another thread.)

  46. marie-lucie says:

    Joseph Geomini: I cannot email you but you can email me by clicking on my name.

  47. Trond Engen says:

    Not anymore, no. Does this work?


  48. Trond Engen says:

    That worked. The syntax of the link is simply “mailto:username@domain.suf” inside the usual “a href” frame.

    I’ll now try to write it into the website box above the comment window to see if the system can be tricked to provide a mail link to me.

  49. Trond Engen says:

    It couldnt’t. Oh well. What about in the name box?

  50. Trond Engen says:


  51. marie-lucie says:

    Trond, thank you for trying, but the second attempt did not work either. It used to work with the old format.

    Mr Geomini, sorry.

  52. Trond Engen says:

    My first attempt, a mailto-link on your name in the text, does work, doesn’t it? At least it does for me, opening an e-mail to your address when I click on it. Same here with my own name and e-mail, surely: Trond Engen. What I couldn’t do was attaching a link like that to my name above the comment.

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