TWO NAMES.

I just ran across the information that the novelist Irwin Shaw was born, in New York to Russian-Jewish parents, Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff. This immediately struck me as an odd name, and sure enough, it does not seem to exist otherwise: a normal transliteration gets no Google hits, and the Cyrillic equivalent Шамфоров gets only a few references to Shaw. Is it just an incredibly obscure name, or is it an Ellis Island deformation of some name I’m not thinking of?
Also, this morning my wife showed me a reference to an actress named Q’Orianka Kilcher. Needless to say, I was intrigued; my first guess was that it was either self-invented or Klingon, but shame on me—it turns out “her mother is descent from the Huachipaeri and Quechua tribes of South America,” and the name is Quechua for ‘golden eagle.’ I checked my Quechua phrasebook (not yet entered in my catalog because it’s in the second row—there are even more books piled on the backs of the shelves than are visible), and sure enough, the vocabulary has “gold—qori.” But wait: q is a “guttural fricative similar to the ‘ch’ in Scottish ‘loch,’” and q’ is “Quechua ‘q’ with glottal stop.” So is there a typo in the vocabulary? Because presumably her parents wouldn’t have added the apostrophe just for the hell of it. But since they did, I feel obliged to point out that it’s not like Irish O’, and the following letter should not be capitalized, as IMDb and the newspaper had it; online sources are split, so I’m guessing she spells it Q’orianka and it gets changed by editors or computer programs. But who knows how she says it? (Ms. Kilcher, if you’re reading this, please leave a comment!)

Comments

  1. ‘Shaw’ is normally a British Isles name either from Old English Scog “forest”, Irish O’Shaughnessy or a Scottish Gaelic name of uncertain origin possibly MacSheathanaich. The name was common among Protestant Scotch-Irish settlers in the United States. I’ve also heard of some Chrokees who have this last name probably because they were in close contact with Scotch-Irish settlers.
    I located some internet information on Q’oriana Kilcher. Her first name apparently means “Golden Eagle” in Quechua. I’m surprised she’s not listed on the Boy & Girl actors of Europe website but here are some pics of her from another web site:
    http://www.myrandomwebsite.com/people/qoriankakilcher/

  2. You might try checking at http://www.jewishgen.org, the Jewish Genealogical Society’s website.
    And: Shamforoff could, I think, also be Shamvorov in Russian (or Ukrainian, or….)

  3. I wonder if it might not be a corruption of Shamporov or Shamborov which both get a few google hits. It seems plausible anyway.

  4. “Shaw” also has a second life, so to speak, as an adopted name – an example being bandleader Artie Shaw, born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky.

  5. And another example being Irwin Shaw.

  6. At first glance “Shamforov” strongly reminds me of the french author S.R.N. de Chamfort (known in Russia, I think, mostly for his Maximes et pensées). http://www.rusfam.ru doesn’t mention Chamforov or any similar form. The sound /f/ isn’t typical for Russian words and names; usually it is a sign of foreign etymology.

  7. Michael Farris says:

    “Gold” is quri in my Aymara dictionary, which makes me think (for some historical reasons I can expound on if anyone is interested) that the sound isn’t glottalized in any variety of Quechua. The apostrophe (usually indicating a glottalized stop in Andean languages) was simply added to make the name look more exotic.
    ( q in Aymara is a “post velar” stop, somewhat like the sound romanized as q in Arabic)
    I’m reminded of an essay I read a long time ago (in Spanish) about hispanic students somewhere in California who took Spanish class in high school. They all already spoke Spanish to some degree but didn’t know how to read and write. When some of them discovered that acute accents were used in writing their names in Spanish, they were enchanted and started using them all the time (a process made especially satisfying by the disapproval of some of their Anglo teachers). Those whose names didn’t use the accents were jealous and wanted to get in on the act ….

  8. Thanks! But now I’m annoyed with Ms. Kilcher for using a vanity apostrophe and wasting several of my precious neurons that could have been devoted to something productive, like Pelignian.

  9. Qoriana is the cousin of the pop singer Jewel, and their fathers are Germans. The exoticism is probably of the poppy type.

  10. The Kilcher family were Alaskan homesteaders and hippies. Their family tree includes many uncommon names including
    Jewel Kilcher
    Atz Kilcher
    Mossy Kilcher and
    As I recall they even had a Sunshine Kilcher.

  11. Hi, can I have Q’orianka’s email address? I know her, cause we were friends when we were 6 years old. We lived at Hawaii then. I’ve written many letters to her, but she never answered. So please can I’ve her email? Thank you!

  12. I was wondering if I could get Q’orianka Kilcher’s Email address. I would appreciate it if I could contact her to congradulate her in her great achivements. Also I’d like see if she was going to the 57th Navajo Festival.
    I read her artical in the “National Museum of the American Indian” Winter 2005 issue she seems like she’s a great person to get to know. I am an Eastern War Dancer in teen division and also 15. Please let me have her Email adress, thank you!

  13. I was WONDERING if Qoriana was related to Jewel! I saw her on the today show this morning, they mentioned she was part S. American Indian, part Alaskan, & part Swiss, & I figured it had to be the Alaska Kilcher family. My father was friends with her grandfather. My ex-husband grew up neighbor with her Aunt, Moss, in Rainbow, AK. (Her real name is Maurice, I think “Moss” is just a nickname.)

  14. I was WONDERING if Qoriana was related to Jewel! I saw her on the today show this morning, they mentioned she was part S. American Indian, part Alaskan, & part Swiss, & I figured it had to be the Alaska Kilcher family. My father was friends with her grandfather. My ex-husband grew up neighbor with her Aunt, Moss, in Rainbow, AK. (Her real name is Maurice, I think “Moss” is just a nickname.)

  15. Hope you’re all doing great. Well, I just wanted to mention that Q’Orianka’s father is not German, he’s Peruvian, a Quechua/Huachipaeri Indian. She has a large family here and comes visiting whenever she can, along with her mother. She’s very proud of her Indian heritage, which is great ^_^. Regards from Lima, Peru.

  16. Q’orianka Kilcher was born in Germany. Her father is a peruvian indian whose native language is Quechua. The correct form to pronounce Q’orianka is pronouncin the “Q” as the “H” in “hot”. Q’orianka is very proud of her peruvian ancestors and is trully the first indian actress/ actor of peruvian origin to succed in Hollywood . (Considering that Benjamin Bratt is peruvian also).

  17. I forgot to tell you that as an example the quechua name for Cusco ( the famous touristic city in Peru, from where you can access Machu Picchu) is Q’osco (similar to Q’orianka). Cusco was the spanish denomitation for Q’osco.

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