Names, Meanings, and the Web
tmcd at crl.com
Mon Dec 30 23:08:33 PST 1996
Cleaning out the e-mailbox ...
On Fri, 25 Oct 1996, Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com> wrote:
> I've been looking at my copy of Geirr Bassi Haraldsson's name book,
> and the one glaring problem I have with it is that the given names
> do not have meanings given, although the nicknames section does.
I rather like Baron Talan Gwynek's<scott at math.csuohio.edu> comments on
I'd also be a little wary of books purporting to give the
'meanings' of given names. What distinguishes a name from a
common noun is largely the fact that it has no intrinsic meaning:
'Margaret' means 'that girl next door', not 'pearl', though it is
derived from a Greek word for 'pearl'. The Old English name
'Wigberht' denoted simply the persons who bore it, though it was
derived from stems that also gave rise to everyday vocabulary
words meaning 'war, strife, contest' and 'bright'. The White
House would still be the White House if it were painted green.
And so on.
> I've been considering researching and putting together a list of the
> meanings of the names anyway (having been asked several times in the
> last month to decipher meanings in Old Norse names). Has anyone
> already done this? Daniel or other heralds, do ya'll know?
A number of (wow, what weasel wording!) name books give "meanings".
You might try Yonge or Hanks and Hodges (fuller citations on request;
it's late right now).
> If I do put together a "Norse Baby Name Book"
Um, "baby name" causes allergic reactions; it has a very high
correlation with uselessness for SCA (or any other) scholarly purpose.
I can think of only one (1) counterexample, and could find several bad
examples pretty quickly. You might not want to use such a title.
To digress on the "wariness" comment, Tangwystyl verch Morgant
Glasvryn <hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu> (Heather Rose Jones) wrote:
It is possible to evaluate the usefulness of a book for name
documentation without specialized knowledge. Here are a few
The ideal book for documentation will have dated, verbatim quotes
from historic sources. Many books, unfortunately for our purposes,
only provide modern "normalized" forms of names. The best clue is
variability of the name spelling in the text. If several spelling
variants are given with dates attached to them, then they are
_probably_ verbatim quotations. Another clue is the use of
"normalized" names of historic figures in reference to names. If
an entry for the name Eleanor makes reference to "Eleanor of
Toledo" or an entry for William mentions "William the Conqueror",
then it's a pretty safe bet that the book is not saying anything
useful about the historicity of specific versions/spellings of the
name. Whereas if an entry for Eleanor lists: Alienora 1199,
Eleanora 1205, Elianora 1303, Alianora 1428 etc.; or an entry for
William lists: Wilelmus filius Roberti 1205, William Hitchcock
1539, etc.; then you can have a high level of confidence that
these are verbatim citations from historic documents.
_Bad_ signs in a name book are things like excessive attention to
the "meaning" of given names, giving language origins by family
(e.g. "Celtic", "Teutonic") rather than by specific language
(e.g. "Irish", "Swedish"), and books that try to cover too many
different cultures in a small space. Another bad sign in a name
book is the listing of obvious surnames as given names, although
this requires a bit more background knowledge.
Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn
Daniel de Lincoln
Reply-To: tmcd at crl.com
tmcd at mcdaniel.dallas.tx.us is wrong tool. Never use this.
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