You’ll Pay For That

A man appears before a judge, requesting to change his name.
The judge asks, “What is your name now?”
The man replies, “Joe Schitz!”
The judge says, “Well, I can certainly understand you wanting to change it.  What do you want to change it to?”
“Bob!”

There are 7 kinds of English surnames.

Personal Characteristics – Like nicknames – Short, Hardy, Small, Strong
Place Names – Sutton, Bedford, Hamilton
Occupational – Weaver, Tanner, Miller
Estate Name – Windsor, Staunton
Geographical – Bridge, Brooks, Hill
Ancestral – Benson (son of Ben), Marriot (daughter of Mary)
Patronage – Hickman was Hick’s man(servant), Kilpatrick was a follower of Patrick

Back when women were allowed to stay in hospital overnight after giving birth, the wife was put in a semi-private room with a young woman married to  a Dutch-Canadian named vanderPlaats.  Without me asking, he launched into a story about his name.  He said that when the officials came around and told people that they had to have a surname, many thought that it was a joke, and gave themselves silly, stupid names.  He claimed that his name meant ‘A Big Piss.”

Either he was kidding me, or someone had kidded him.  His name comes from a family important enough to live/work next to the city square = from the place – merchants or administrators.  He was wrong, yet in a way, right.

The blame name-game went rather smoothly in Britain.  Names were assigned.  Taxes were levied.  In places like The Germanies and the Netherlands though, opportunistic greed and vindictive bureaucratic pettiness gave the appointed nominators chances to fatten their wallets and punish real or imagined wrongs.

Getting a ‘Good’ family name became dependent on wealth, power, or the good-will of the census taker.  The nobility, like the von Hess, or von Beethoven, got names that showed that they owned and taxed cities and provinces.  The very rich, like the Jewish bankers, got names like Goldman, and Silverman, to display their wealth.

For the rest of the population, names were available for sale to the highest bidder.  If you could fatten the retirement fund, or kiss the ass of, the King’s representative, names like Ehrmentraut = Honored, Reiner = Purer, Erbe = Inheritance (of the Kingdom of God) and Waltraud = Morally Strong, were available.  If you had no money, or had somehow annoyed the bureaucrat, names that meant Bookmaker/Gambler, Cheese-curd (Face), Disrespectful, and Rat-Catcher were handed out.  Being Joe Schitz might be the least of your problems.

After a couple of embarrassing episodes, I learned not to ask locals the meanings of their names.  I just bring them home, and run them through Google Translate.  Do you have, or have you run into, interesting non-English names?

10 thoughts on “You’ll Pay For That

  1. Newbloggycat says:

    Lol! Some names are pretty embarrassing. I remember when my daughter was in Primary 3 she had a classmate from India and his name is Akshit 😅And his classmates were reluctant to call his name 😂

    Like

  2. Rivergirl says:

    I went to school with a Salmon, a Korn and yes… a Whore. Spelled exactly that way. Poor girl.

    Like

    • Archon's Den says:

      I was aware of Salmon and Korn, but never heard of Whore. No research program offers any meaning, other than the obvious. It’s somewhat strange, because names were always assigned to the males of families. I guess being a single mother during the Middle Ages was tougher than today. 😯

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chitty is a hard one to say. And I remember a girl from South Africa with the last name of Topless.

    Like

  4. Daniel Digby says:

    There was a Cumi Bottoms (https://www.sysoon.com/deceased/cumi-bottoms-36/images) who lived in Florida a few years back. Google doesn’t give a translation.

    Like

    • Archon's Den says:

      Bottoms is a locational name for people who lived at ‘the bottom’ – a valley, or dale. Cumi is an Aramaic name, meaning arise, rare, and given to both males and females. 😀

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s