Saints and Names.

Another interesting passage from Bartlett’s endlessly interesting The Making of Europe:

In the early Middle Ages most regions of Europe had highly localized repertoires of names. It is easy, given a few personal names, to tell which region or ethnic group is being talked about. Among aristocratic Germans it is even possible to make a good guess at the family, so distinct and particular are the naming patterns. Those who moved permanently from one linguistic or cultural world to another would feel the pressure to adopt a new name, as a tactic designed to avoid outlandishness. On his arrival in Normandy in 1085, for example, the child oblate Orderic was renamed: ‘the name of Vitalis was given me in place of my English name, which sounded harsh to the Normans’. When noble ladies married into foreign royal families who spoke a different language, it was not uncommon for them to adopt a new name. The Bohemian princesses Swatawa and Markéta became, respectively, the German countess Liutgard and Dagmar, queen of Denmark. Henry I of England’s wife was ‘Matilda, who had previously been called Edith’. The tight bonding of name and ethnic or local group explains the pressure for such diplomatic renaming.

The same intense regionalism is true of saints. Their cults usually had one or two main centres, where the chief relics were situated, surrounded by a limited zone of relative cultic density where one might expect to encounter churches devoted to the saint, perhaps subsidiary relics and men named after the saint, a zone which shaded off into the zones of other adjoining local saints. If we find a town whose churches are dedicated to Saints Chad, Mary and Alcmund, we know we are in the English Midlands (the example is Shrewsbury). This regional concentration is characteristic even of the more successful cults. For example, though there were over 700 churches dedicated to St Remi, 80 per cent of them were located within 200 miles of his chief centre at Rheims. The historian Charles Higounet mapped the places named after the saints of Merovingian Aquitaine and found that they stopped abruptly at the Loire, the Rhône and the Gironde.

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries this highly compartmentalized world began to change. A circulation of names and saints through the system began. Sometimes this occurred as a result of conquest. England provides a neat example of such a change. In 1066 the country was conquered by an army of French-speakers from northern France. Within a few years that army had transformed itself into a landed aristocracy — a French-speaking aristocracy ruling an English-speaking peasantry. Not only did the two groups speak different languages, they bore different names. Although Norman and Anglo-Saxon nomenclatures were both, in origin, Germanic, the two countries had developed quite different repertories of names. English Ethelreds, Alfreds and Edwards faced Norman Williams, Henrys and Roberts. In the eleventh century the distinction is fairly watertight: a name is a virtually certain indicator of ethnic origin. In the twelfth century this situation changed. Names are, of course, among the most malleable elements of linguistic culture, offering, as they do, the repeated chance of choice; and soon, it seems, the English population of England chose to adopt the names of their conquerors. The kinds of pressure at work are shown by the story of one young boy, born in the area of Whitby around 1110, whose parents initially christened him Tostig but, ‘when his youthful companions mocked the name’, changed it to the respectably Norman William. This process began among the higher clergy and townsmen. […]

Our picture must, however, be complicated by one more factor. […] Simultaneously changes were taking place in the very pattern of naming and worship of the saints throughout Latin Christendom. Everywhere the universal saints and the dominical cult were increasing in importance. The apostolic saints, especially Peter and John, the Mother of God, and God himself, as Trinity, Holy Saviour or Corpus Christi, were eclipsing the local shrines and cults of earlier medieval Europe. In the twelfth century, for example, the churches of Wales adopted universal saints, like Mary and Peter, as additional patrons, to reinforce their obscure local saints. […] And, following in the wake of their rise to prominence, European naming patterns began to homogenize as parents, kin and priests began to choose names for children from these universal saints. The highly localized name repertoires of the early Middle Ages were replaced by a more standard pattern in which the universal saints were increasingly common.

One wishes the medieval English hadn’t been quite so fond of the name Matilda; Henry I’s mother, wife, and daughter were all named Matilda, as was his nephew Stephen’s wife and one of his son Henry’s daughters. Between the Williams and Henrys and the Matildas and Eleanors, it all becomes very confusing.

Comments

  1. “Between the Williams and Henrys and the Matildas and Eleanors, it all becomes very confusing.”

    Russian names are still just as confusing in the present day. Which Lena/Sveta/Olya/Dima/Sasha were we talking about again?

  2. January First-of-May says:

    Having a set of 5-10-20 common names that together account to a large fraction of people is typical of many cultures in many periods (and if it’s not that, it’s usually because the names directly mean something). Though the specific set changes from one time or place to another fairly easily (and in more modern times it’s usually also specific to an ethnic group).
    Modern USA is one of the few exceptions; of course people from the USA are surprised that everyone else’s names don’t work that way.

    As far as royal (and noble) name changes go, it was to an extent still the case in the 18th century (neither of the Russian empresses named Catherine had “Catherine”, or any variety of such, in their original names), and in part even in the 19th century with the newly chosen rulers of Greece who proceeded to assume Greek names (I think there’s even some 20th century examples, but aside from Mindaugas II, I can’t directly recall any).

    On the sheer amount of people named Henry in medieval English history – it is said that, at some point, someone stopped caring about the king’s name on English money, and for a while they were just all listed as Henry. This weird tradition persisted for about a century, during much of which the King of England was not in fact named Henry (one of these non-Henries was John Lackland).

  3. Sort of like how the letters VR permanently adorn the royal canopy in the House of Lords.

    I also read somewhere that Victoria wanted all future kings to have Albert prefixed to their regal name – Albert George, Albert Edward, etc. (This didn’t catch on.) And it was mentioned here somewhat recently that Norway had a long stretch of alternating kings named Christian and Frederick, until finally there came a Christian Frederick.

  4. marie-lucie says:

    Popes do not normally use their own names once they are elected. They usually adopt the name of a former pope that they want to honour for a personal reason, sometimes reaching back to several centuries. The current pope took the name of his favourite saint, but that was apparently a break with tradition.

    Official papal names are Latin ones, translated into their conventional adaptations in “vernacular” (now national) languages.

  5. J. W. Brewer says:

    I would be interested in seeing a comparative chart of these “universal-saint” names for different parts of Europe over different centuries. Even if the same stock was being universally drawn on, I expect that e.g. the ratio of Philips to Thomases (in whatever the local version of the names might be) would vary quite dramatically over space and time. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to be sure what’s universal and what’s not – there was reputedly a big uptick in Thomases at some point in medieval England that has been claimed to have had more to do with Thomas a Becket than Doubting Thomas, the circa 5th century Welsh St. David inspired subsequent namesakes at a time and place when “Old Testament” names as such were not much in use, etc.

    The “papal” naming tradition is I believe related in some sort of complicated way to the tradition of monks and nuns taking new names when they take their vows. I’m not sure how common that tradition remains in Catholic circles, and then of course there are individuals who remained better known in the wider world by their earlier names (e.g. Thomas Merton a/k/a Father Louis), not unlike married women who continue to use their maiden name for professional purposes while taking husband’s surname for other purposes. You can observe the contrast over the centuries between Popes who take new names that might be reasonably common for males in the culture of origin (Paul, Gregory, Alexander . . .), where taking a new name is still a mark of the new vocation, and those who take new names that would be unusual for a newborn boy to be given (Sixtus, Innocent, Urban . . .).

  6. J. W. Brewer says:

    Note also the interesting dynamic whereby if the stock of common names is too highly concentrated in a way that causes practical problems, disambiguation is encouraged by the growth of multiple common nicknames for the same formal name– consider the many traditional nickname possibilities in English for Mary, Margaret, and Elizabeth, and way on the boys’ side in which a William can be either Bill or Will (with parallels for Robert, Richard, etc.).

  7. My mother’s family in Lancashire had to deal with three female members having the same given name – which, oddly, isn’t even a particularly common one. From what I gather, in Spanish-speaking culture the overwhelming dominance of María among women was mitigated by combining it with other names.

  8. To add to what J. W. Brewer says, as well as variations on a formal name, there are patronymics and nicknames based on some personal characteristic. I don’t know how helpful patronymics are to the Russians. In traditional Gaelic Ireland and Scotland, not only was there a small stock of personal names but in any given area there were only a small number of surnames in common use. A person’s formal name would include two generations of patronymics, and in common usage nicknames as well.

    In Ireland the old parish records are in Latin and don’t contain such information. Patrick son of Martin son of Francis (easier if you have a genitive case) was locally known as Pat the Growler, as opposed to his cousin Big Paddy the Distiller. Unless there has been oral history preserved there’s no way to recover this information.

    Some of the English kings had nicknames to distinguish them, like Richard Coeur de Lion, Edward Longshanks, etc. And other characters were referred to as the Black Prince, William FitzEmpress, and so on.

  9. Good old Ricart Oc-e-No.

  10. marie-lucie says:

    maidhc: In Ireland …Patrick son of Martin son of Francis (easier if you have a genitive case)

    This was also the case in Acadia (French-speaking Eastern end of Canada), where families had lots of children and comparatively few names circulating through the generations, so for instance men were known as Pierre à Robert à Joseph, himself the son of Robert à Joseph à Gélas, etc (where à is a regional or substandard way of marking possession).

    Some of the English kings had nicknames to distinguish them, like Richard Coeur de Lion, Edward Longshanks, etc.

    Same in France, before the kings passed on their names, and numbers started to be used. Richard Coeur de Lion was an English king but partly of French descent and lived mostly in France, where he must have acquired the nickname before becoming King. “The Lion-Hearted” is a clumsy translation compared to “Lionheart”. On the other hand, the Black Prince was not a king, so he did not have a dynastic name.

  11. J. W. Brewer says:

    One line of my ancestry disappears into hopeless ambiguity in late 18th century Scotland (Banffshire, I think) because the parish registers show three different identically-named boys born close enough together in time and space that any one of them could have been my three-greats-grandfather, with whatever additional distinctions were used in common speech to disambiguate them as they grew up not being formally recorded. (Middle names were not yet a thing in that area at that time, apparently.) Now if they were all cousins of some sort at least the paternal lines ought to converge and thus disambiguate a few generations further up the tree, but I’m not certain that anyone has pursued that line of research.

  12. Here’s a dialog from Russian movie Летучая мышь (Die Fledermaus) in my humble translation (I also simplified it a bit). The dialog does not appear in the original and was introduced just for the amusement of Russian audience [clips are here and here]:

    [Heinrich Eisenstein, no idea why he was renamed, explains to his wife how he got into trouble]
    – When Emma and I got off the train we went straight to the hunting hut…
    – Wait, what Emma?
    – Who said “Emma”?
    – You did.
    – And why does it surprise you?
    – Sorry, Heinrich, it more than surprises me, who is this Emma?
    – A dog.
    – A dog? Where did you get it?
    – Schultz lent me.
    – And Schultz’s dog is called Emma?
    – Emma!
    – What a strange fantasy, to name a dog after your wife?
    – What do you want from Schultz, he is … a dreamer. You know, how he calls his wife? Pussy.
    – Why is that surprising?
    – Rosalinda, you amaze me, it is not surprising to you that someone calls his wife after a cat, but to call a dog after one’s wife is surprising? What’s the reason? I don’t understand. But never mind. So, I walk with … the dog, by the shortest route, walking and talking…
    – But, who is talking with whom?

    [It continues for some time with Heinrich mixing up a dog and a woman…
    Dr. Falk enters the room and after a few preliminary phrases blurts out that Schultz doesn’t have a dog. When Rosalinda inquires which one of them is lying Dr. Falk takes a turn]

    – Madame, let me explain everything, you see, exactly 20 minutes ago Schultz’s dog has died. Heinrich doesn’t know anything about it. That’s why he says, there is a dog and I say, there is no dog.
    – And why did it die?
    – Stroke. Right before my eyes. Poor Hector, I loved him so much.
    – Why Hector? Emma.
    – Emma is Schultz’s wife.
    – I know that she’s his wife, but Heinrich told me that Schultz’s dog is called Emma as well.
    – Who said it?
    – Heinrich. But you are saying, Hector.
    – I said?
    – Yes-yes-yes, you did.
    – Yes, yes. It’s very simple. The thing is Hector became Hector right before its death. And before that it was Emma.
    – How is it possible?
    – I have to explain to you that Schultz has bought his dog, Emma, well before he met his wife, Emma, and when he got married there were a lot of misunderstandings.
    – I don’t understand anything, what misunderstandings?
    – Well, it’s very easy. For example, Schultz’s is alone in his room, he is bored, he wants to call his wife, or his dog. And, naturally, he shouts: “Emma, Emma!” And what happens? The dog thinks that he is calling his wife and doesn’t move, and the wife thinks that he is calling the dog and doesn’t move! Imagine what sort of family life they have had. Schultz got tired of it and decided to rename his dog and called it Hector.
    – But Hector is a male name!
    – Yes … male, male … But what was the Schultz’s idea? If he gives the dog a female name, let’s say, Alma, what awaits him in the future? He is a difficult character, his wife may leave him, but the dog never. On the other hand, he is a young man and he can marry a second time. How can he be sure that his new wife would not be Alma as well, eh? Where is the guarantee? So he gave the dog a new male name. The dog, obviously, could not bear it and died …. Hector died, being essentially … Emma.

  13. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    If we find a town whose churches are dedicated to Saints Chad, Mary and Alcmund, we know we are in the English Midlands (the example is Shrewsbury).

    Yes, though it’s Alkmund, with a k. As soon as I read the three names I knew we were in Shrewsbury, the town where I went to school. St Mary was the high-church one, where we went for a service once a year. St Alkmund is very close to it, but “lower”, and St Chad (a rare example of a circular church) “lower” still. Maybe not as low as all that in 1809, though, as Charles Darwin was baptised there, and I don’t see his father as being very low-church. However, it’s the closest one to where he lived, so maybe that was a consideration.

    One wishes the medieval English hadn’t been quite so fond of the name Matilda; Henry I’s mother, wife, and daughter were all named Matilda,…

    Yes, in these days of Megan and Bethany, Duane and Elvis, life will be easier for the genealogists of the future. My great-greatgrandfather (one of them, anyway) was called James Cornish. He was the son of James Cornish, who was the son of James Cornish, who was the son of James Cornish. It makes it very easy to get confused.

  14. Note that as King of Norway, Christian Frederick briefly (1814-05-17 to 1814-10-10) succeeded his second cousin Frederick VI of Denmark and Norway because the personal union of Denmark and Norway was dissolved — but the Swedes had a stronger claim (or at least stronger backers), so he went back to Denmark.

    He later (1839) succeeded Frederick VI as King of Denmark, taking the name Christian VIII, and the alternation of Christians and Fredericks continued until Frederick IX was succeeded by Margrethe II — 18 kings in all over 459 years, as opposed to 12 and 300 in Norway. 50% more, and the heir apparent is another Frederick. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it 🙂

    A good hundred years later, by the way, another Danish Prince, Charles (named after his (maternal) grandfather, Charles XV of Sweden and IV of Norway) was elected king of Norway, succeeding his grand-uncle Oscar II and becoming Håkon VII after that personal union was dissolved.

  15. If we find a town whose churches are dedicated to Saints Chad, Mary and Alcmund, we know we are in the English Midlands (the example is Shrewsbury).

    And if we see churches dedicated to Saints Ia, Teath, Merteriana, Piran or Petroc, we know we are in Cornwall. When visiting those churches, I particularly enjoyed the stories of how the local saints had arrived in Cornwall. St. Ia crossed the Irish Sea on a floating leaf, and St. Piran on a millstone, for example.

  16. There is a Bengali family in Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ in which all the boys are named Abdul as the family traditional is that individual names are a sign of vanity. The boys’ reaction to this is to adopt a local name. As they live in Kilburn, a suburb of London with a large Irish population, they are known as Abdul-Mickey, Abdul-Colin, Abdul-Jimmy, Abdul-Kevin etc.

  17. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I seem to recall that in Cien años de soledad Gabriel García Márquez deliberately sowed confusion by using the same name for different characters — common enough in real life, but usually avoided in fiction.

  18. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    My friend Joseph Zitt is the last in a long line of oldest sons who alternate between Joseph ben Hirsch and Hirsch ben Joseph, adjusted to local languages.

    deliberately sowed confusion

    I would rather say that he pointed out connections between characters across time by using this device. In The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, the characters reincarnate repeatedly after their deaths (deja vu is explained as a little bit of recall of something, or especially someone, from a former life), but the author sees to it that the names of each character begin with the same consonant, to avoid confusing the reader more than absolutely necessary.

  19. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    “Deliberately sowed confusion” was probably the wrong expression. With a lesser writer it would be poor writing, but there it was obviously a literary device, and it worked as intended.

    Last week I was reading Modiano’s autobiographical book Un pedigree, in which he introduced more than one new name of a person on each page, often several, at least in the early part of the book. Again, it worked, but if a third-rate writer did it I would have put the book on one side quite soon.

  20. Squiffy-Marie von Bladet says:

    From what I gather, in Spanish-speaking culture the overwhelming dominance of María among women was mitigated by combining it with other names.

    Also other languages and – perhaps more surprisingly – genders.

  21. It may be more about the royal / princely families and their superstitions about the family protector saints (which generally follows the rules of ancestral cults) ?

    In the Imperial Russia well into XIX c., brides of the royal family had to change not just their names but also their father’s names to conform with the good-omen rules of the clan.

    (BTW Vitalis and its derivatives are also common Sephardi names, <= “Baruch” blessed if I recall it right (no time to check it this very second, and I wonder if Chaim may be the origin instead)

  22. “The Black Prince” was not called that during his lifetime. The name was a centuries-later invention, presumably needed to disambiguate him from the other Edwards in his family since he was such a major figure with no regnal number.

  23. As soon as I read the three names I knew we were in Shrewsbury, the town where I went to school.

    So does anybody still use the good old pronunciation /ˈʃroʊzbri/, or is it all /ˈʃruːzbri/ all the time by now?

  24. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Well I do, and others educated at Shrewsbury School do, but there are not too many others.

    I have read, but I don’t know if it is true, that the name of the town was once spelled Shrowsbury (or something similar) at a time when “ow” was often used to represent [uː], and later on someone decided, at a time when “ow” more often represented [oʊ] that the usual pronunciation as [ˈʃruːzbri] was “wrong” and lower-class, and that classy people should say {ˈʃroʊzbri]. I think the ordinary people of the town have never called it anything but [ˈʃruːzbri].

    I imagine the town in Massachusetts is [ˈʃruːzbri]?

  25. I have read, but I don’t know if it is true, that the name of the town was once spelled Shrowsbury (or something similar) at a time when “ow” was often used to represent [uː]

    Nope, it was Scrobbesburh > Schrosberie.

    I imagine the town in Massachusetts is [ˈʃruːzbri]?

    [ˈʃruːzberi], actually, but yes.

  26. Vital/Vidal corresponds directly with Chaim/Haim חיים : life

  27. People still call their children after local patron saints here. So, if you’re from Corfou there’s a great chance you’re called Spyridon, if you’re from Cephalonia you’re likely called Gerasimos, if you’re from Zante your name will probably be Dionysius, and if you’re from Lesvos you could be called Raphael. Of course Saint Maria, Saint George, Saint Konstantinos (and his mother Saint Helene), along with Saint John, Demetrius, Nikolaus and Catherine are by far the ones who provide the most popular names for men and women alike. In fact, it could be difficult to find a modern Greek family without at least one member bearing one of these names. For example, on May 21st, the date dedicated to Saint Konstantinos and Saint Helene, even mobile phone networks have trouble dealing with the amount of messages to people called Konstantinos, Konstantina and Helene wishing them many happy returns.

  28. marie-lucie says:

    in Cien años de soledad Gabriel García Márquez deliberately sowed confusion by using the same name for different characters

    Actually they don’t have the same name, which would be much too confusing, but different variations on the same names, which unify the members of the family but make it hard for the reader to keep them all apart. The first two brothers are Aureliano and José Arcadio, then the following generations have names like Aureliano José, José Aureliano, Arcadio José, Aureliano Segundo, and so on. No stranger to the family bears those names or combinations, and the next male to be called plain Aureliano will be the last representant of the family. At one point the first Aureliano sires something like seventeen bastard sons, all proudly bearing his own first name, but they remain apart from the family line since they each have their own mother’s last name. The women’s names are more differentiated, but there are repetitions too, like Amaranta and Amaranta Ursula.

  29. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    if you’re from Lesvos you could be called Raphael.

    Not really relevant, but I’m reminded of an article in this week’s Marianne, entitled Les Lesbiens valent bien un Nobel de la paix ! I probably wasn’t the only one (in fact I know I wasn’t, as my wife was another) to misread the second word as lesbiennes and to expect to read about something other than the generosity of the people of Lesbos towards refugees from Syria.

  30. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Why oh why did they stop giving kings those cool bynames like Lackland and le Debonair?

  31. Spot the name quiz: If you are somewhere called Ibsker on one of the smaller Danish islands, who is the patron saint of the parish church? (Or was, since the Lutheran church doesn’t hold much with saints). No wikiing.

  32. Trond Engen says:

    I know the answer. It’s a Frisian form, isn’t it?

    This reminds me of when (according to my father) there was a Scandinavian contest for the shortest name. The Norwegians were pretty confident about their candidate Jo Å, but it turned out Denmark had an Ib Ø.

  33. marie-lucie says:

    Greg: Why oh why did they stop giving kings those cool bynames like Lackland and le Debonair?

    Since people stopped knowing their kings by their personalities and learned their numbers instead.

    Débonnaire : the French word means something like ‘easy-going’.

  34. Trond Engen says:

    Following parish records in some rural Norwegian parishes, it’s all first name and patronymics with maybe as few as two or three basic male names. Which ones may vary, except that Olav (in some form) is generally one of them. Strong naming traditions give pseudo-genetic inheritance and pseudo-genetic drift in onomastics. In many situations the name of the family farm/craft/cottage was a more useful part of the person’s name than the patronymic. People often switched between using one or both.

  35. Trond Engen says:

    Christian Frederik was part of a Danish plot to twist the price from the Swedes after the Napoleonic wars. With him as king, Norway would soon have been reunited with Denmark in a personal union. Many of the heroes of the Norwegian independence were actually working for Denmark, some of them quite openly. After the movement for independence was crushed, Norwegian patriotism was monopolized by the Danophile cultural and linguistic elite. The fact that Norwegian dialects share many features with Swedish meant that activists (most famously Knud Knudsen) working for a gradual evolvement of the Dano-Norwegian language into a true Norwegian language were accused of running Sweden’s errand. This is the origin of the strange Norwegian linguistic situation. Admittedly my personal version.

  36. maybe as few as two or three basic male names

    Which even with patronymics comes out to less than ten possible names. Hence the American notion that everyone in the Scandihoovian Belt is named Jon Jonsson or Ole Oleson or Big Swede.

  37. Danish plot: Of course it was. Christian Frederick (his real name) never renounced the Danish throne — unlike Charles/Haakon 100 years later — though he might have been forced to do so by the various European powers if Norway hadn’t gone to Sweden. (I think here were plenty of grandsons of Frederick V to pick from for Denmark’s next king after Frederick VI).

    But I never knew that part about the perception of Nynorsk as aligned with Swedish rule. Explains a lot!

  38. @Trond: About as far from Frisian as you can get (in Denmark).

    In Denmark (at certain times, in certain places, I don’t remember the details), there was a strong tradition of naming the oldest son after his grandfather — so you’d get Per Jessen son of Jes Pæsen son of Per Jessen and so on. Adding the grandfather’s name was thus almost redundant, and the name of the farm was used for disambiguation instead — one source of family names when those were mandated in the early 19th.

    (This was the small farm owner class, who married late and often only had one son survive to inherit the farm. But of course that wasn’t always the oldest son, so the pattern would occasionally change. Unbroken generations of Per Pæsen or Jes Jessen could result, for instance if the second son was named after the maternal grandfather and he happened to have the same name as the father).

  39. Trond Engen says:

    he might have been forced to do so by the various European powers if Norway hadn’t gone to Sweden.

    That consideration undoubtedly informed his eventual decision to abandon the Norwegian throne and return to Denmark.

    I think here were plenty of grandsons of Frederick V to pick from

    As well as other princes, not to mention the more progressive alternative in those days, a republic. The fact that the national assembly of 1814 made the single choice least likely to result in real Norwegian independence is quite telling.

    I never knew that part about the perception of Nynorsk as aligned with Swedish rule

    Not Nynorsk. This is about gradual development and adjustment to Eastern Norwegian dialects. After a few decades Ivar Aasen and his Landsmaal (which later would become Nynorsk) provided a national alternative based in the western dialects, different enough from Swedish to be patriotically acceptable. What eventually happened was that when Nynorsk gained patriotic credibility and was feared to have the upper hand, the Dano-Norwegian elite realigned by incorporating the gradualism of Knudsen.

  40. Trond Engen says:

    John C.: Hence the American notion that everyone in the Scandihoovian Belt is named Jon Jonsson or Ole Oleson or Big Swede.

    Yes, Ole is a form of Olav. Jon is among the more popular names too. So are Per, Nils and Lars, and a number of other names scattered across the country. Most were saint’s names, but there are even a few genuine heathen names that survived and developed all up to the general revival of Norse names with 19th century patriotism.

  41. Trond Engen says:

    Lars, the Danish naming tradtition as you describe it is essentially the same as the Norwegian. Local variations within the countries are probably more important than between them. Swedish isn’t that differnet either, except from the important (but fairly recent) fashion of picking emblematic names when entering military service (and military service was immensely important under Sweden’s endless row of campaigning kings). Hence all the two-part nature-romantic Blomquists and Lindströms and Sjöbergs.

  42. Vital/Vidal corresponds directly with Chaim/Haim חיים : life

    Right, I was being really slow. Baruch has a different Romance derivative, Benis (<=Benedict ~~ Blessed). There is one of them in my own family tree.

  43. Trond Engen says:

    Sweden’s endless row of campaigning kings

    Well, not endless. Charles XIV Gustaf has been rather peaceful so far.

  44. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Tangentially OT: I’ve looked in vain the past for good publications on comparative naming customs. I’m especially interested in non-European onomastics. For instance, I saw a paper one time that mentioned a North American Indian people (I’m forgetting the details right now), where everyone’s name was three words, one of which was an animal, one of which was a shape, something like that, and the animals and shapes did not have any obvious significance (maybe selected mostly for euphony?). But that paper was about something else and just tossed in that naming tidbit as a one-off. Some cultures encourage naming after relatives or folk heroes, while others encourage each given name to be more or less unique. That sort of thing. I want the typological perspective. I’m also interested in morphosyntactic oddities of names as words in various languages.

    I’ve hardly been able to find anything. Any suggestions?

  45. @Trond, I actually used to know that part about three competing forms of Norwegian in the 19th century. But it’s hard to keep straight…

    I have no idea what other options the Norwegian national assembly had and what their likely outcomes would have been. I actually meant that the Danes would have had plenty of replacements for Christian Frederick if he had in fact renounced the Danish crown. Some well-behaved 17 year old prince who could be married to a minor English princess and designated as heir apparent, and everybody would have been happy. Except maybe for the other Danish princes, including Christian Frederick himself.

    Also it seems to be a matter of debate whether Christian Frederick, as Christian VIII of Denmark, wanted to introduce constitutional monarchy — he didn’t do it in his lifetime, in any case, but his son did it very soon after becoming king.

    rather peaceful: As one witty anti-monarchist in Sweden said, they brought in Field Marshal Bernadotte as King so they could get back Finland from the Tsar — they’ve had 200 years to do the job now, perhaps it’s time to cancel the contract.

  46. @Trond,

    were there actually any heathen heathen names in circulation? Olav and Erik/Jerker were saints as well, even though their names were Norse instead of Greek (or Hebraic through Greek), and their names didn’t derive from the Norse pantheon. (Descendant of a forebear, what kind of a name is that?)

    And it was actually fewer saints than it looks, there were some doublets: Jens/Hans from Iohannes, Nils/Klas from Nikolaos – and lots of more transparent side forms. (Though Laurentius only gave Lars, as far as I know).

  47. Trond Engen says:

    Heathen as in Norse and not beatified. Torgeir in the shapes of Terje or Tarjei or Tøger, Torleik as Tallak, Torleif as Tollef or Tellef. A lot of Thor there (Torleif is a saints name, but really obscure). But also Gunleik as Gullik, Asmund or Osmund, Aslak, Jørund or Jarand, Halvor or Hallvard (also a saints name, not as obscure as Torleif, but still), Ivar or Iver, Bjørn, Kjell or Kjetil or Kittil, etc. You’ll know several of these from Denmark, e.g. one Danish form of Asbjørn, Esben, which morphed into a Norwegian national romantic name when our national folktale collectors Asbjørnsen & Moe used it for the folktale hero Espen Askeladd.

  48. Trond Engen says:

    Charles XIV Gustaf

    XVI, that is. You can miscount a viscount but don’t minus his highness.

  49. George Gibbard says:

    I’m told that among the Garo of Meghalaya (India) and neighboring parts of Bangladesh, it’s traditionally expected that everyone’s name be unique, and if you met someone with your same name, it was traditionally expected that you should fight them for it. Now, since people have become Baptists and are educated, people use all kinds of foreign names. On the other hand there are only a few family names, if I recall correctly.

    In certain other cultures, I forget which, dead people’s names can’t be uttered, so if they were named after some common natural phenomenon, that phenomenon has to be renamed.

  50. George Gibbard says:

    The two phenomena of passing down names and taboo-avoidance of names intersect for the Kanuri of Northeastern Nigeria: “The Kanuri very often take turns using grandparent’s names on both sides of the family although some insist that boys be named from the father’s side and girls from the mother’s. However, parents may also name children after an important person or a person to whom the father owes some subordination. The Kanuri, like people in many places, avoid using the names of their own parents or parents-in-law and high status or elderly people in general. Therefore the child is given a nickname that often indicates his or her relationship to the person whose name he bears. For example, many Kanuri boys are named Abba Gana (small father) or simply Abba (father) indicating that they have been named after the father of one of their parents. The link to the grandparent is even closer if the latter has been named after his grandparent making him a person who is called Abba Gana as well.” –Ronald Cohen (1967), The Kanuri of Bornu

  51. Bartlett has a couple of nice charts showing the change from local to international names in Scotland and Mecklenburg; the descendants of Duncan I (d. 1040) go from Malcolm, Donald, and Maelmuire to Alexander, Margaret, John, and Isabel in four generations, and the descendants of Niklot of the Abodrites (d. 1160) go from Pribislaw, Wartislaw, and Prislaw to John, Margaret, Nicholas, and Henry in three. (I must say, I’m glad I’m not named Wartislaw.)

  52. I’m glad I’m not named Wartislaw
    You would have been a “restorer of glory” then. And now you are “crown”. Equitable exchange, I would say.

  53. the overwhelming dominance of María among women was mitigated by combining it with other names.

    Also other languages and – perhaps more surprisingly – genders.

    Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin had seven daughters and two sons: Marie-Louise, Marie-Pauline, Marie-Léonie, Marie-Hélène, Marie-Joseph-Louis, Marie-Joseph-Jean-Baptiste, Marie-Céline, Marie-Mélanie-Thérèse, Marie-Françoise-Thérèse. Marie-Françoise-Thérèse is Saint Thérèse de Lisieux; Louis and Marie-Azélie were recently canonized too.

    Formalisation of nicknames still happens in Ireland; some politicians’ nicknames appear on ballot papers and legislative records. Jackie Healy-Rae (Rae is his native townland) passed his name to his sons and Pat the Cope Gallagher got his from his grandfather who started “The Cope” co-op; see also Kevin “Boxer” Moran (got in a fight as a kid) and Luke “Ming” Flanagan (looks like Ming the Merciless).

  54. some politicians’ nicknames appear on ballot papers

    Jimmy Carter had to ask the Federal Elections Commission, which supervises such things, to allow him to appear with that name on the ballot rather than his legal name James Earl Carter Jr., which would merely confuse voters.

  55. This gave rise to the misconception that Jimmy is his legal name. My parents were somewhat disappointed when I showed them that he’s really a James.

  56. J. W. Brewer says:

    By coincidence I just came across this, which purports to show the distribution of saint-based toponyms across Europe, with considerable regional variation in density. (I have no idea who prepared it from what underlying sources of data, so I can’t vouch for accuracy, so caveat clickor)

    https://twitter.com/akarlin88/status/704494255440424960

  57. (Un)fortunately, we are not about to learn how Jeb Bush would have been represented in the official documents (without exclamation mark at least, that’s for sure). Anyone knows how Carter signed the laws? I’ve heard that Clinton used his full name.

  58. Jeb! appeared as “Jeb Bush” on primary ballots in New Hampshire this year; I don’t know about his gubernatorial elections back in Florida. All images of Jimmy Carter’s signature that I can find read “Jimmy Carter”, so I think that’s probably what he used.

    @J. W. Brewer: I came across that a few days ago as well. It’s quite fascinating, if valid. The naive first impression might be that it’s a Protestant-Catholic thing, but that wouldn’t explain Poland and southern Germany – and in any case, I don’t think Europe’s religious disputes were ever associated with mass place renamings. You could say it’s a Latin (and Greek) vs. the rest thing, but that wouldn’t explain Austria and Hungary (or Romania). Cornwall also seems to be a notable pocket of hagiophilia.

  59. Trond Engen says:

    When there’s an abrupt change along a recent border, like with Slovenia, it might be different datasets in different countries, but it’s also true that some languages use “Saint” with hagiographic placenames, others don’t. Scandinavian generally doesn’t, as seen in Lars’s example Ibsker. A real difference might be the time of christening. With good will, the Roman Limes can be seen through Germany and the Netherlands.

  60. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Cornwall also seems to be a notable pocket of hagiophilia

    Yes, but the Cornish saints seem mostly to be ones one has never otherwise heard of: Austell, Enoder, Neot, etc.

  61. (I must say, I’m glad I’m not named Wartislaw.)

    Two important cities in these parts commemorate people bearing this name. It was *Vorti-slavъ ‘restore-glory’ in Proto-Slavic terms. The first element yields voroti- in East Slavic, vrati- in South Slavic and Czech/Slovak, vroti- in Polish/Sorbian, and varti- (no metathesis) in some peripheral Northwest Lekhitic dialects.

    The Polish version of the name was Wrocisław, but during the Middle Ages, when the main stress was still initial (rather than penultimate, as in Modern Polish), the medial syllable was often syncopated, producing the variant Wroc(s)ław. The possessive adjective *vorti-slavjь has become the Polish name of the city of Wrocław. The Czech version of the same, Vrat(i)slav accounts for the official Latinisation Vratislavia and for German Breslau.

    Meanwhile, the Pomeranian Slavs continued using the unmetathesised name Vartislav and its pet form Varš. There were several Pomeranian dukes named Wartislaw (Pol. Warcisław); it was a popular dynastic name in the House of Griffin. Also some noble families in the Duchy of Mazovia preferred this northern variant of the name. One of the 12th/13th-century Warszes owned a fishing village on the River Vistula, called Warszewo ~ Warszowa after him (again with a common placename-forming possessive suffix). It was given town privileges about 1300 and became the capital of Poland three centuries later — today’s Warszawa (Warsaw).

  62. And of course Bratislava looks like it might come from the same source — but according to Wikipedia that name was ‘restored’ in 1919 based on a jumble of medieval references, including confusion with Wrocław, and the original [B/P]rezalauspurc underlying the German form Pressburg might contain either Predslav (the relevant prince around 900) or Braslav (his field commander).

    (Which may be common-place knowledge, but I’ve sometimes wondered if and how Pressburg and Bratislava were connected but been too lazy to look it up).

  63. Alex Fink says:

    @Greg: the last time the topic of onomastics came up on the CONLANG mailing list, Tim May linked to Clifford Geertz’s Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali with a long section on names. The bit that particularly surprised me: “personal names are, at least among the commoners (some 90 percent of the population), arbitrarily coined nonsense syllables.”

  64. The Polish version of the name was Wrocisław, but during the Middle Ages, when the main stress was still initial (rather than penultimate, as in Modern Polish), the medial syllable was often syncopated, producing the variant Wroc(s)ław. The possessive adjective *vorti-slavjь has become the Polish name of the city of Wrocław. The Czech version of the same, Vrat(i)slav accounts for the official Latinisation Vratislavia and for German Breslau.

    Wow, thanks! I had no idea my offhand jokey remark would lead to such interesting results.

  65. I recall that Clinton took his oath under the name “Bill Clinton” at all his inaugurations as governor or Arkansas, but when I assumed the presidency, it was “William Jefferson.”

  66. SFReader says:

    Re: Bratislava etymology.

    It makes more sense to derive it from Slavic word meaning “retake glory” – as in medieval Bulgarian capital Veliki Preslav or Kievan Rus city of Pereyaslav

  67. SFReader says:

    For a short time, there was a Pressburg in Russia.

    As a child, young tsar Peter the Great liked to play battles using real soldiers instead of toy ones.

    So in 1684, a toy fortress was built on Yauza river in Moscow which for some reason was named Pressburg (perhaps because it sounded exotic)

    And for several years, young tsar Peter played besieging, storming and defending fortress of Pressburg on Yauza with his
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toy_army_of_Peter_the_Great

  68. It makes more sense to derive it from Slavic word meaning “retake glory” – as in medieval Bulgarian capital Veliki Preslav or Kievan Rus city of Pereyaslav

    If there were no written history involved, sure, but there is, so we know the derivation. Lars’s explanation above is confirmed by Pospelov’s Географические названия мира:

    На месте совр. города еще до начала н. э. находился рим. лагерь Посониум (Posonium). Позже на его месте образовался словацк. город Преслав (название от личного имени). В средние века город в составе Австрии и его название превращается сначала в Бреславсбург, а затем в Пресбург (Pressburg). С образованием в 1867 г. Австро-Венгрии он получает венг. название Пожонь (Pozsony) — венг. искажение латин. Посониум. После образования в 1918 г. Чехословакии городу возвращается слав, название, которое за несколько веков превратилось в народном употреблении в Братислава (Bratislava); название от слав. двуосновного личного имени.

  69. SFReader says:

    – словацк. город Преслав (название от личного имени).

    and that’s exactly what I said!

    West/South Slavic Preslav is equivalent to East Slavic Pereyaslav and both mean “retake glory”

  70. But your “It makes more sense” implies that you’re dismissing Lars’s explanation, which gives the whole history, and note that the relevant personal name “might be either Predslav (the relevant prince around 900) or Braslav (his field commander).” You seem to be just saying “Hey, looks like Preslav, case closed.”

  71. West/South Slavic Preslav is equivalent to East Slavic Pereyaslav and both mean “retake glory”

    With some reservations. The latter is unambiguously *per-jьm- + *-slavъ, corresponding to Polish Przejęsław (we also have other documented names such as Imisław ‘take glory’, Objęsław ’embrace glory’ and Otjęsław ‘take away glory’, all with the same verb root), while the former may reflect *per-slavъ ‘super-famous’ (not unlike Περικλεής), although a syncopated variant of *perjęslavъ > *prějęslavъ > *prěslavъ is also thinkable.

    Those syncopes are responsible for a lot of etymological obscuration. *Vętje-slavъ ‘(having) greater glory’ has remained trisyllabic in East Slavic (Russ. Вячесла́в), varied between Więcesław and Więcław in Old Polish, and has become Czech Václav. Good King Wenceslas for svatý Václav hearkens back to a time when Czech still had nasal vowels. Incidentally, the saint in question, Duke Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, was the son of Vratislaus I, who is sometimes credited with founding Wrocław/Breslau.

  72. The curious thing is that a cult of St. Wenceslas should have arisen so quickly not only in Bohemia itself but in faraway England. The English Wenceslas-carol, unlike the Czech one, is mid-19C and has no authority (Northrop Frye called it a “Victorian singing commercial”), but does reflect a genuinely English concern with the saint. The melody is in fact that of an Easter carol, “Tempus adit floridum” from the Carmina Burana, though the lyrics speak of St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day, the day after Christmas).

    It’s true that the national saint of England is also from very far away, but the cult of St. George is extremely broadly based, crossing all varieties of Christianity with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East. The association of Georgia (the country) with St. George in English, French, and Russian is probably folk-etymological, but has been taken up in Georgia itself, where there are supposedly 365 churches bearing his name.

  73. It seems that martyrdom in royal families had special appeal to the English in the Middle Ages. This hagiographic tradition goes back to the legendary Kentish saints Æþelred and Æþelberht, and includes such celebrities as Edward the Martyr.

    [P.S. Perhaps not just in the Middle Ages: consider Diana.]

  74. David Marjanović says:

    “personal names are, at least among the commoners (some 90 percent of the population), arbitrarily coined nonsense syllables.”

    Oh, so it’s not just the Mormons!

    P.S. Perhaps not just in the Middle Ages: consider Diana.

    Day saved.

  75. January First-of-May says:

    Georgia the country is Грузия in Russian, no association with Saint George here. (Though I won’t be surprised if modern folk-etymologists managed to find an association with грузить “to load”.)

    On the name P(e)re(ya)slav, the town of Pereslavl(-Zalessky) a bit north-east of Moscow is fortunately known to be named for the Ukrainian town of Pereyaslavl (I sadly do not recall where exactly that is, other than “Ukraine”).

  76. By the way, may I ask what the origin of your delightful moniker “January First-of-May” is? No need to answer, of course, but I can’t help but be curious.

  77. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    Georgia the country is Грузия in Russian, no association with Saint George here.

    Aren’t Georgia and Gruzija derived from the same source? You can find mentions of the source being a Persian term gurdž~gordž (and secondarily Turkish gürc/Arabic gurz).

  78. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    If you put it in Spanish it looks almost believable as a name: Enero Primero de Mayo.

  79. January First-of-May says:

    Январь Первомайский was the original form, actually (and still in use on a few Wikia sites).

    I was trying to make up a name for my Absurdopedia account (that was back in 2007, when there was only one Absurdopedia, and it was on Wikia), and someone proposed that I use a combination of the month I was born in (January) and the closest metro station to where I then lived (Pervomayskaya). It sounded absurd enough, and relatively close to existing pseudonym traditions; and in particular I could think of nothing better.

    Then I started discussing on other sites (English Wikipedia was one, I believe), and linked back to my Absurdopedia user page under this translation.

    Then I registered on AlternateHistory.com, and again I couldn’t think of anything better, and it kind of stuck since then.

    So by now that’s pretty much the nickname I use everywhere online (except for two or three remaining places where I was already active before making up this name in 2007, several places where I use a version of my real name, one or two parallel accounts on sites where I already registered under a version of this name, and my recently created WordPress blog which is under an entirely different nickname but doesn’t really hide the connection to this one).

    On the Gruzia thing – it is fairly certain that the names Gruzia and Georgia are related. It’s the relation of the latter to the personal name George that is folk etymology (though one well embraced by the country).

  80. Thanks, I’m glad I asked!

  81. If anybody is still wondering about Ibsker, the hints are יַעֲקֹב and κυριακος and the island is in the upper right corner of a map of Denmark.

  82. St. Ib might as well be Cornish 😉

  83. Trond Engen says:

    the island is in the upper right corner of a map of Denmark

    But in the lower right corner of real world Denmark…

    It seems I was wrong about the form Ib being originally Frisian.

  84. David Marjanović says:

    There is a Gothic nickname Ibba in any case.

  85. Trond Engen says:

    Yeah. No relation. Neither is there any relation to Iberia, no matter where his remains were buried. Or composted.

  86. Ib “descended one night from the moon in a mist.” Duh.

  87. Ib: For all that I know, it might be a Frisian form too — it’s found all over Denmark. But it’s only on Bornholm that ‘Saint James’ Church’ has been condensed to one phonological word. Olsker, Pedersker [pʰɛsg̥ɐ], Poulsker, Knudsker, Klementsker, Bodilsker [bo:l-] (Saint Budolfus), even Ny-/Øster-larsker.

    (Actually, as a place name Ibsker is short for Ibskersen, standard Danish Sankt Ibs Kirkes Sogn = ‘Parish of the Church of Saint James’).

    There is a sense in which Ibsker is cognate with Santiago. One original phoneme in common.

  88. (Actually, as a place name Ibsker is short for Ibskersen, standard Danish Sankt Ibs Kirkes Sogn = ‘Parish of the Church of Saint James’).
    You Danes ought to be more careful with your language. If you go on contracting like this, you’ll be left without words in a couple of generations. (I refrain from posting the obligatory “Danish language not even understood by Danes” clip.) 😉

  89. David Marjanović says:

    You Danes ought to be more careful with your language. If you go on contracting like this, you’ll be left without words in a couple of generations.

    Oh, there are ways around this. Old Chinese *sruts (with a prefix) and *ruts (without) have ended up in Mandarin as shuài and – both still written with the same character.

  90. There is a sense in which Ibsker is cognate with Santiago. One original phoneme in common.

    Since cognacy is a statement about the history of words, not their synchronic relationship, it’s pretty common for cognates not to share any segmental material. In extreme cases, you can have cognates reduced to a floating autosegmental element. For example, Polish weź ‘take!’ (imperative) consists of the preverb w(e)z- (approx. = ‘up’) plus the merest vestige of the original verb (*(j)ьmi), realised as the palatalisation of the final consonant. Old Polish weźmi (cf. Russ. возьми) underwent gradual truncation as a result of word-final erosion: weźmi > weźḿ > weź.

  91. The obligatory “Danish language not even understood by Danes” clip is a Norwegian fake, if we’re thinking of the same one. Half the Swedes I know have tried to show me it, it gets old after a bit.

    I think the reductions in the old ‘Scanian’ dialects got stabilized long ago — but it’s true that Standard Danish is claimed to be facing a phonological ‘collapse’, with younger generations not observing many distinctions that I at least think I do, resulting in more homonomy and loss of declensional distinctions in some words.

    I am not aware of any attempts to avoid increased ambiguity, however — but I wouldn’t necessarily be: as a member of the speech community, such changes would be absorbed gradually. It’s also possible that sufficient redundancy is already present in a sort of proactive change, since for many years some of the very subtle differences have needed careful speech and noise-free environments to be heard.

    But impressionistically, the language in movies from 80 years ago doesn’t seem to be different in terms of choice of shorter or longer formulations or the like. Compared to current Standard Danish it’s a bit slower and makes use of a larger part of the vowel quadrilateral, but most of the reductions of approximants to elements of diphthongs are in place already, for instance. (Movies from 60 or 50 years ago actually seem more old-fashioned, I think because they started to use voice coaches and impose theatre diction).

  92. January First-of-May says:

    In extreme cases, you can have cognates reduced to a floating autosegmental element.

    The Russian word вынуть is often said to have no root – the remaining part of the word consists of assorted prefixes and suffixes, but the root is missing. (It is sometimes said that the root survives in the imperfective form вынимать; other analyses say it’s not there either.)
    Or, with your specific example, the infinite of возьми is взять – the only remaining common phonemes are an obvious prefix. (I believe the underlying root – whatever it is – is the same as in the previous example, incidentally.)

    On Santiago – I often get confused whether the Russian translation of the name “King James Bible” is Библия короля Якова or Библия короля Джеймса. Not many common phonemes in Яков and Джеймс either (and, at least in the Russian spelling, no common letter).

  93. J. W. Brewer says:

    Well, the Russian wikipedia article on the translation’s namesake seems to have him as Yakov, although if Russian usage is not entirely consistent. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%AF%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2_I_(%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8C_%D0%90%D0%BD%D0%B3%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%B8)

  94. Quoth WiPe, in re יַעֲקֹב > James: The development Iacobus > Iacomus is likely a result of nasalization of the o and assimilation to the following b. (In Late Latin).

    So the Late Latians just up and decide to nasalize an o for the fun of it, with no nasal segments within arms’ reach, just in this name? Color me doubtful. Tell me it’s a child speech error that got perpetuated and I’ll give you ten times the chance of being right.

    But I didn’t know the split was that early, I’ve usually seen it explained as a change internal to Italian that spread by unexplained means. (Of course recapitulating on the way the sound changes that led from Latin prevocalic /i̯/ via French to English /dʒ/).

    (Then why Iacobus becomes Jacques in French, losing the /b/, and Iacomus loses its /k/ to become Old French James — well, somebody hopefully knows a good reason, two unexplainables in a row would be frustrating).

    Fun fact: While the Spanish name Diego comes from this family as well, by reanalysis of Sant-Iago as San-Diago, San Diego in California is named after another saint of that name. (Didacus in Latin).

  95. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    Acc. Iacobum → Iacobo~ → Iacomo seems somewhat more likely, tho’ (with subsequent generalization of the -m-).

  96. True, but if that is what they meant they should say it. (The part I elided explicitly had Iacõbus > Iacombus > Iacomus, which may be a misunderstanding of something like your version).

    I’ll even accept a bit of regressive assimilation to get to Iacõbõ in the acc, if necessary, and then reanalysis to an ‘intrusive’ /m/ and generalization from that to get to Wikipedia’s Iacombus stage. Who knows, it might even be documented.

    Now I found the probable source for the Wikipedia formulation on Johnson — it says that “the” o in Iacobos got nasalized, and that turned the b into mb. If we assume they meant the second o, it fits the ‘because accusative’ explanation. (But they call the *Iacombos stage hypothetical).

  97. David Marjanović says:

    The first mention of Vienna is Vindobona. The second, a few hundred years later but still in Roman times, is Vindomina.

    San Diego in California is named after another saint of that name. (Didacus in Latin).

    Awesome! I had no idea.

  98. Diego (Pt Diogo) is probably a pre-Roman Iberian name whose connection with Iago is folk etymology; neither ie or io is regularly derivable from ia. Didachus is a Latinization of Diego, as if from Greek διδαχή. So San Diego and Sanctus Didachus are the same. On the other hand, Portuguese Tiago clearly is a misanalysis of Santiago.

  99. @JC, that’s from the Dictionary of American Family Names, right? They seem to disagree with the rest of the Internet (except for direct quotations on baby/family name sites) — even etymonline.com has the James derivation (under dago) — but it’s an Oxford publication so I’m not going to say it’s wrong. Lots of Wikipedia pages to correct if one is so minded.

    The point stands: Whether or not you believe in San Diego < Sant’ Iago, the city of San Diego is named after Saint Didachus (c. 1400-1463) who was named Diego at birth, not after Saint James the Apostle. The city’s Wikipedia page doesn’t actually say anything to contradict that, I just thought it did.

  100. I often get confused whether the Russian translation of the name “King James Bible” is Библия короля Якова or Библия короля Джеймса

    Well, the king is traditionally Яков in Russian translation, but Google search finds about equal number of pages for both bibles’ names. I wonder sometimes, whether Charles prince of Wales, if he ever succeeds to the English (ok, ok, UK) throne, is going to be renamed Карл in Russian.

  101. Ariadne says:

    I’ve always found it strange how the Hebrew name “Jacob” ended up as “James” in English, thinking that the Greek Ιάκωβος, a rather rare name used anywhere in the country, was at least much closer to the original and made sense. Recently, someone pointed out to me that there is another, mostly regional, form of the name that is connected to the Italian “Giacomo” and means just that: “James.” I’m referring to the name Γιακουμής, which I heard just the other day as a family name. So, after all it seems that, like a Mr Jacobs and a Mr Jameson, a Mr Ιακώβου and a Mr Γιακουμής could be a sort of namesakes.

  102. I wonder sometimes, whether Charles prince of Wales, if he ever succeeds to the English (ok, ok, UK) throne, is going to be renamed Карл in Russian.

    He is always called książę Karol in Poland. And we speak of Biblia króla Jakuba, never Jamesa (almost needless to say, the Old Testament Jacob and the New Testament Jameses are all called Jakub in Polish). We normally Polonise the personal names of foreign royalty whenever possible. But William and Harry are normally William and Harry here. The latter, perhaps, because many Poles don’t realise that Harry = Henry (Polish Henryk, as in Henryk VIII, dimin. Henio, Heniek). As for William, we have Wilhelm Zdobywca (the Conqueror), Wilhelm Rudy (Rufus), and Wilhelm Orański, so logically if William succeeds to the throne (and keeps his first name), he should become Wilhelm IV. Wikipedia is already preparing us for that (and also calls his brother Henryk z Walii, which the Polish press never does):

    https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_(książę_Cambridge)

    A little paradoxically, we usually Polonise Shak(e)speare’s surname as Szekspir, but even then he’s William Szekspir.

  103. January First-of-May says:

    The biblical characters named Jacob/James appear in the Russian tradition with the name Иаков – these days pronounced as it’s spelled, with three syllables (not sure what the pronunciation was when the translation was made, but probably the same – there’s one place where the rhythm of the phrase just doesn’t work with the two-syllable pronunciation).

    But of course Russian tradition is often weird in regard to Biblical names. I knew that the really old guy named Мафусаил (or sometimes Мафусал) in the Russian version is Methuselah in the English version, but I was still very surprised when I encountered a modern translation that named him Метузелах (which is apparently much closer to the original Hebrew).

  104. Among American Jews, James is now used as an Anglicized form of “Chaim.”

  105. Мафусаил

    ф [f] is the traditional Russian substitute for (Byzantine) Greek theta (pronounced [θ] in post-Classical Greek). The Russian counterparts of Agatha, Theodore, Thomas, Thaddeus, etc. have been affected in the same way. See also archaic Матфей (= Матвей) for Greek Ματθαίος. Today we have a new wave of adaptations, in which foreign th becomes Russian т [t], e.g. Агата replacing Агафья, Агафия. The old orthographic rendering of “theta”, the character ѳ, was abandoned in favor of ф (reflecting the traditional pronunciation) or т (reflecting French/German influence) in the 19th century. I think the extra syllable of Мафусаил is due to contamination with “angelic” names in -ил (Gk. -ήλ), like Гавриил (Gabriel), Михаил (Michael); the older Church Slavonic version was Маѳусалъ.

  106. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Is there a noticeable Frisian, or other Ingvaeonic, substrate throughout Denmark? Or maybe just throughout Jylland? I had really never thought about it until just now, but nothing stands more to reason.

  107. I bet it was originally Ꙗков, with iotated A. This letter was abolished by Peter the Great because the sound of Ѧ (big yus), originally [ɔ̃], had merged with it in East Slavic. Я began life as a quick way of writing Ѧ (itself originally a vertical ligature of Aм), and was standardized by Peter for all [ja] of whatever origin. With Ꙗ gone, Іа would be natural as a typographical equivalent, which would just as naturally become Иа after 1917.

    Methuselah is Μαθουσάλα in the LXX.

  108. the sound of Ѧ (big yus), originally [ɔ̃]

    It was the little yus, and its original phonemic value was /ɛ̃/. The big yus was Ѫ /ɔ̃/; it eventually merged with /u/.

  109. David Marjanović says:

    Methuselah

    Oh, that reminds me – in German he’s Methusalem. Latin accusative confused with Jerusalem???

    I bet it was originally Ꙗков, with iotated A.

    I don’t know. Is there any evidence on when [j] made its comeback to Greek? In Classical times it was completely absent, and a syllabic [i] was the only available substitute.

    Is there a noticeable Frisian, or other Ingvaeonic, substrate throughout Denmark? Or maybe just throughout Jylland?

    It appears that the whole peninsula was West-Germanic-speaking till the Angles and Jutes left. How many of them really left is anyone’s guess, though Bede said the area was completely deserted. Personally I’ve never seen any claims that a West Germanic substrate (which I’d expect to be Anglo-Frisian) has been detected in western Danish, but I’m not familiar with the literature…

  110. Sorry, I always forget whether it’s big or little yus that merged with iotated A. I do know what each of them was originally meant for, because of their shapes.

    Methusalem exists in English too, but it’s substandard.

  111. Oh, that reminds me – in German he’s Methusalem. Latin accusative confused with Jerusalem???

    I’ve been wondering the same. He’s also Mathusalem in French, Matusalemme in Italian, Matusalén in Spanish, Matusalém in Portuguese, Metusalem in Dutch, Danish and Norwegian, Methusalem in Swedish, Metuzalém in Czech, Matuzalem in Polish, and Matuzsálem in Hungarian. It does look like contamination with Jerusalem (don’t ask me why), cf. in particular Italian Gerusalemme, Spanish Jerusalén.

  112. There are runic inscriptions from Southern Jutland from the 5th century that are described as Proto-Norse, i.e., North Germanic — while 3rd century ones are called Common Germanic. But the material is very sparse, and I don’t know what characters are used to classify them.

    However, even if ‘Danes’ did arrive from Sweden around 400 CE and subjugate an earlier population in Jutland, West and North Germanic were still very similar languages at that point, and if there was a substrate effect it is probably impossible to recover now.

    Especially since the Danish dialects of Southern Jutland remained in contact with Frisian and Low German dialects for the next 1500 years — it used to be said that noone could really tell where the one ended and the other began — so I don’t know how you would go about proving that an isogloss between Jutland and the rest of North Germanic was caused by substrate effects in the 5th century and not by diffusion from Frisian 1000 years later. Even if the Jutish side is ‘more Ingvaeonic’.

  113. Methusalem exists in English too, but it’s substandard.

    The Old English form was Matusalem (with several variant spellings, nearly all of them in -m).

  114. J. W. Brewer says:

    The ancient gentleman in question is Mathusala in the Douay-Rheims (presumably following the Vulg, which presumably followed LXX), but I expect these days Anglophone Roman Catholics who use distinctive D-R versions of the names of Biblical personages are a near-vanished breed. (Elias as a variant of Elijah is certainly out there in the stock of given names for males, but I don’t know how much of that is the influence of other languages such as Spanish where that’s the standard form versus a minority tradition within English.)

  115. Well, Elias is present in the KJV New Testament, which I imagine gives it more stature in English than, say, Josue, Isaias or Jeremias.

  116. Among American Jews, James is now used as an Anglicized form of “Chaim.”

    But of course in Yiddish “Jacob” also lost the “b”, becoming Yankel.
    And in Russian diminutive it readily sheds the “b/v” too, turning into “Yasha”

  117. January First-of-May says: Having a set of 5-10-20 common names that together account to a large fraction of people is typical of many cultures in many periods.
    In ancient Rome this was so prevalent that they abbreviated the first name eg. C. IVLIVS CAESAR, M. TVLLIVS CATO. I wonder though how would a Roman address Cato in person, Marce? Tulli? or Cato?

    January First-of-May says: I think there’s even some 20th century examples, but aside from Mindaugas II, I can’t directly recall any.
    The king of the WW2 era Independent State of Croatia was to be Tomislav II – real name: Aimone, Duke of Aosta (Aimone Roberto Margherita Maria Giuseppe Torino).

    Lazar says: Victoria wanted all future kings to have Albert prefixed to their regal name – Albert George, Albert Edward, etc.
    This happened in medieval Bosnia and medieval Serbia – all kings were called Stephen something eg. Stephen Ostoja, Stephen Tvrtko. This is because Stephen means “crown”.

    Greg Pandatshang says: Why oh why did they stop giving kings those cool bynames like Lackland and le Debonair?
    For reasons of political correctness, and possibly to avoid getting jailed. Eg. The official nickname of the 1921-1934 king-dictator of Yugoslavia was “Viteški kralj Aleksandar ujedinitelj” (Chivalric King Alexander the Uniter) but if you referred to him as anything else – as some people did, the gendarmerie would be beating down on your door quick smart.

  118. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @zyxt:

    I wonder though how would a Roman address Cato in person, Marce? Tulli? or Cato?

    As both the famous Catos lived during republican time, the usual form of address would have been by praenomen + nomen gentilicium: ‘Marce Porcie’ (not ‘Tullie’; that would be Cicero’s gens). In an informal setting, if no other members of the gens were around, ‘Porcie’ would do.

    In Imperial times, when the distinguishing value of praenomina had all but diluted, the more likely form would have been nomen gentilicium + cognomen: ‘Porcie Cato’.

    A good description of the historical evolution of address forms can be found in Salway, B. (1994). What’s in a Name? A Survey of Roman Onomastic Practice from c. 700 BC to AD 700. Journal of Roman Studies, 84, 124–145.

  119. David Marjanović says:

    Well, Elias is present in the KJV New Testament

    Famously, Joseph Smith didn’t notice that the OT Elijah and the NT Elias were the same person…

    This happened in medieval Bosnia and medieval Serbia – all kings were called Stephen something eg. Stephen Ostoja, Stephen Tvrtko. This is because Stephen means “crown”.

    And also, I’m sure, to give them the name of a saint! Their other names were not very Christian at all. 🙂

    Porcie […] Tullie

    Porci, Tulli. As in the textbook example “Gai, mi fili”.

    while 3rd century ones are called Common Germanic. But the material is very sparse, and I don’t know what characters are used to classify them.

    Some can only be classified as Northwest Germanic, but others are clearly West Germanic, with missing nominative endings and all. I’ll look some things up.

  120. missing nominative endings — so harja on the Vimose comb (c. 150) is West, and hlewagastiR holtijaR on the Gallehus horn (c. 400) is North? (Not just Jutland then, Vimose is on Funen).

    Does look like an isogloss got moved there.

  121. If harja is “army”, it’s a neuter – Proto-Germanic *harjan from PIE *koryom (German das Heer). IIRC, the final /-n/ was lost very early, so its absence would not be diagnostic for deciding on whether it’s North or West Germanic.

  122. For reasons of political correctness, and possibly to avoid getting jailed.

    There’s this historical/linguistic anecdote from the time when southern Poland was part of the Austria-Hungary under Emperor Franz Josef. His Majesty was commonly dubbed stary pierdoła by some of his Polish-speaking subjects. The expression can be loosely translated as ‘the Old Fart’ if used semi-affectionately, but otherwise implies ineffectivenes and senile idiocy (‘the Old Fuckup’ vel sim.). A Polish-born lieutenant serving in the Austrian army was heard using the phrase in an officers’ club in Vienna, as he raised a toast in front of the Emperor’s portrait. He was duly court-martialled on a charge of lèse-majesté. His line of defence was that the phrase was not offensive in Polish. To resolve the ensuing controversy over its exact meaning, the military court requested an expert opinion of the Polish Academy of Learning in Cracow. Three eminent linguists, Professors Morawski, Rozwadowski and Nitsch, prepared a semantic analysis, authoritatively concluding that the proper translation was ‘a gentle old man, loved by all’, and that the phrase was used to convey filial respect.

  123. SFReader says:

    Czechs called him “Starej Procházka” which sounds much nicer (literally ‘Old Walker’).

    Nevertheless, according to “Good Soldier Švejk”, Austrian secret police arrested everyone who dared to use this nickname.

  124. @Hans, it’s harjis in Gothic, herr in ON, and I see it as PG *harjaz all over — are you sure?

  125. I find that “leasing-making” was not abolished in Scots law until 2010, despite having remained unprosecuted since the Fifteen. The chief homes of lèse-majesté nowadays are Morocco and Thailand, with prosecutions in a few other monarchies rare but possible.

  126. Not Saudi Arabia?

  127. During reign of emperor Alexander III of Russia, a soldier called Oreshkin got drunk in a tavern and started a brawl. They tried to restrain him, pointing to emperor’s portrait on the wall: “You can’t use such dirty language before His Imperial Majesty!”

    Oreshkin was pretty drunk at this point and insolently said: “I spit on your emperor!”

    He was arrested by police on a charge of lèse-majesté and the case was reported to the emperor himself.

    Alexander III’s decision:

    “Dismiss the case, release Oreshkin, remove my portraits from taverns, tell Oreshkin that I spit on him too.”

  128. >>To resolve the ensuing controversy over its exact meaning, the military court requested an expert opinion of the Polish Academy of Learning in Cracow. Three eminent linguists, Professors Morawski, Rozwadowski and Nitsch, prepared a semantic analysis, authoritatively concluding that the proper translation was ‘a gentle old man, loved by all’, and that the phrase was used to convey filial respect.

    Wow, I guess Hašek wasn’t far off from real life:

    Стоял я однажды на часах у цейхгауза. На стенке, как водится, каждый часовой что-нибудь оставлял на память: нарисует, скажем, женские части или стишок какой напишет. А я ничего не мог придумать и от скуки подписался как раз под последней надписью “Фельдфебель Шрейтер — сволочь”, фельдфебель, подлец, моментально на меня донес, так как ходил за мной по пятам и выслеживал, словно полицейский пес. По несчастной случайности, над этой надписью была другая: “На войну мы не пойдем, на нее мы все на..ем”. А дело происходило в тысяча девятьсот двенадцатом году, когда нас собирались посылать против Сербии из-за консула Прохазки. Меня моментально отправили в Терезин, в военный суд. Раз пятнадцать господа из военного суда фотографировали стену цейхгауза со всеми надписями и моей подписью в том числе. Чтобы после исследовать мой почерк, меня раз десять заставляли писать “На войну мы не пойдем, на нее мы
    все на..ем”, пятнадцать раз мне пришлось в их присутствии писать: “Фельдфебель Шрейтер– сволочь”. Наконец приехал эксперт-графолог и велел мне написать: “Двадцать девятого июня
    тысяча восемьсот девяносто седьмого года Кралов Двур изведал ужасы стихийного разлива Лабы”. “Этого мало,– сказал судебный следователь.– Нам важно это “на..ем”. Продиктуйте ему что-нибудь такое, где много “с” и “р”. Эксперт продиктовал мне: “серб, сруб, свербеж, херувим, рубин, шваль”. Судебный эксперт, видно, совсем зарапортовался и все время оглядывался назад, на
    солдата с винтовкой. Наконец он сказал, что необходимо, чтобы я три раза подряд написал: “Солнышко уже начинает припекать: наступают жаркие дни”,– это, мол, пойдет в Вену. Затем весь
    материал отправили в Вену, и наконец выяснилось, что надписи сделаны не моей рукой, а подпись действительно моя, но в этом-то я и раньше признавался. Мне присудили шесть недель за
    то, что я расписался, стоя на часах, и по той причине, что я не мог охранять вверенный мне пост в тот момент, когда расписывался на стене.

  129. @Hans, it’s harjis in Gothic, herr in ON, and I see it as PG *harjaz all over — are you sure?
    Orel agrees with you, the neuter seems to be attested only in German (including Old High German). Still, in such an early inscription I’d expect the final consonant (/z/ or “R”) would still be there, so it could be another case of the neuter variant.

  130. True — but on the other hand it seems that missing nominative endings is taken as diagnostic of West Germanic differentiation / influence, even this early. Instead of guessing, let’s wait for David to get back with the data he mentioned.

  131. @Hans, it’s harjis in Gothic, herr in ON…

    And in OE the plural of here is herġas.

  132. Majestætsfornærmelse is still on the books in Denmark, but only as an additional 100% to the maximum penalty for libel when against the monarch or the constituted head of state, and 50% against the consort, crown prince and a few others. Maximum of 8 months imprisonment if it’s ever successfully prosecuted, we don’t much cut off people’s heads these days.

  133. Criminal libel is a dead letter in common-law countries (in the U.S. it is explicitly unconstitutional), though civil suits for libel survive: very actively in England, under tight constraints in the U.S., where libels must not only be false but negligent or intentional as well, and libels of public figures must be either knowingly false or else published in reckless disregard of whether they are true or not.

  134. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, sorry, I’m busy and forgot. I might get to it tomorrow.

  135. SFReader: The Oreshkin story sounds more Alexander II than III to me.

    All: I note that WP.en describes A3 as “the penultimate Emperor of Russia, King of Poland, and Grand Prince of Finland from 13 March [O.S. 1 March] 1881 until his death on 1 November [O.S. 20 October] 1894.” Surely he didn’t become the penultimate emperor until 1917.

  136. The discussion of names has taken something of a sidetrack, but I believe it’s compulsory to reference the Pastons; in particular, John Paston, and his first son John Paston, as well as his second son, John Paston. In her excellent book Blood And Roses, Helen Castor says that this is likely down to the fact that both the godfathers – after whom the sons were usually named – were coincidentally called John, but we don’t know who John II’s godfather was, so it will remain a mystery.

  137. See also the many, many people named Heinrich Reuß.

  138. There is a slightly different anecdote about the ultimate Russian emperor. I am writing from memory, which means only the gist of the story is correct, not the details.

    Writer Alexander Kuprin was spending time in Yalta and the czar was on a nearby dacha. Kuprin, appropriately drunk, sent a telegram to Nicolas: “I hereby depose you from the throne and declare myself Emperor of all Russians”. To which he received a one-word answer: “Eat!”

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