[ANSTHRLD] dcumentation for a name

Tim McDaniel tmcd at panix.com
Fri Jun 27 15:44:17 PDT 2008

On Fri, 27 Jun 2008, Jennifer Couch <okwldflwr at gmail.com> wrote:
> how much documentation should I have?

It might make it more concrete for you to read the Scottish Names 101
article and then tell us what name you were thinking about, or if you
don't have a complete name, what name elements.

Heather Rose Jones,
"How to Document a Name (to within an inch of its life)"
I found it to be a great help, but it might overwhelm the novice and
may focus too much on the mechanics and style.  Let me try to

You're trying to prove a statement, being in the SCA case "This is a
period-style name.  (Or at least it's compatible with SCA rules.)".
"How much documentation should I have?" is like asking "The boss wants
a report on whether we should or should not buy a software product.
How much information should I provide?" or "How much information do I
have to provide the judge to get out of the traffic ticket?"

There's no answer better than "enough evidence to prove your point as
much as you can", however much or little that is.

You need to consider
- each name element.  What is its role (given name, father's name,
   nickname, place name, toponym)?  What exact spellings are known?
   From what dates and what languages?
- construction, how the name elements are strung together -- is it
   plausible for some period time and place, and linguistic framework?

Sometimes they're easy.  "Diot Coke" appears verbatim in an English
document of 1379

More often, you have to find out what information you have and reason
from it.  It may be that you find name elements dated to such-and-so
languages at such-and-so times, and you have to justify the
construction.  Or maybe you have to justify name elements themselves.

You may have to interpolate: "To estimate a value between two known
values". ("I can find a trailing -ll spelling in 1411, and the middle
vowel being -e- instead of -a- in 1388").  You may have to
extrapolate: "draw from specific cases for more general cases".
("I can find period place-names Oxford, Swinford and Hartford, so it's
plausible to deduce <large hooved animal>ford like Sheepford").  But
these require thought and may be taken too far.  (E.g., if the "ll" is
in a Welsh spelling and "e" is in a French context: those writing
systems are way different and they didn't generally switch in the
middle of a name.  Oxford, Swinford and Hartford make plausible <large
hooved animal>ford, but not Frogford or Castleford.)

For example (making up dates because I don't have sources to hand),

- name elements:

   - Daniel: dated in this spelling to 1297, and stated to be a
     person's name, from a source that's known to be reliable in its
     spellings and dates (E. G. Withycombe, _The Oxford Dictionary of
     English Christian Names_, under the name Daniel)

   - Lincoln: dated in this spelling to 1422, and stated to be a city
     in England, from a source that's known to be reliable in its
     spellings and dates (Reaney and Wilson, _A Dictionary of English
     Surnames_, under the name Lincoln)

- English from roughly 1100 on had one of its name construction
   pattern being "<person's name> de <place name>" -- though the big
   gap in my reasoning is that I don't have a source for that other
   than "I've heard it a lot".

So, assuming that English didn't change too much between 1297 and
1422, and assuming that the elements are English (rather than, say,
Latin forms), "Daniel de Lincoln" is plausible as an English
period-style name.

Danihel Lindocolina
Tim McDaniel, tmcd at panix.com

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